Friday, August 28, 2009

Batman: The Widening Gyre #1 (of 6)

Kevin Smith & Walter Flanagan
Kevin Smith sets his sights on the Bat-universe with his latest venture into comic books. In his mini-series Batman: The Widening Gyre, Smith tells a tale of Bruce Wayne, prior to the events of R.I.P. as he is led into a startling new adventure via his former partner Dick Grayson. The opening scene from Batman's past, featuring an attack by Nazi villains on a Jewish Temple, is excessively cheesy, and not in a good way. It's just bad, especially Robin's part in the picture. The only good part about the scene is Flanagan's art, which is really competent and well-executed in a fast, action-packed superhero comic like this one. Everything is very clear and arranged well, and the action is actually really good, which somehow isn't the case for a lot of superhero comics. This scene soon fades into the modern day, where Batman teams up with Nightwing in a battle with one of the villains from the initial scene. And then the story starts. I'm sure the Nazi characters from these two initial scenes will recur throughout the rest of the mini-series, but it took a lot of Nazis to get to the real story, which is a shame because passed the Nazi stuff, the story actually gets good. But those opening scenes are so hokey and well, dull, that I almost put this down before I got to the good stuff. But I'm glad I kept at it. My favorite Batman villain Poison Ivy has overrun Arkham Asylum with her pets. She uses a lot of her old tricks, using pheromones to try to seduce Batman, tying people up with vines, etc., but she has some new tricks up her sleeve. Leave it to Kevin Smith to have Ivy growing Super-Cannabis to drug Batman. That's just so Kevin that it amazes me. But with another twist, Batman soon realizes that the jungle that Ivy has grown isn't to take over Arkham so much as keep something out of Arkham. And that thing is The Demon, whom Ivy has been helping Jason Blood to suppress with a tonic, something that The Demon is not too pleased with. The Demon is really monstrous here, a true demon, eating people's faces off and the like. Batman seems to have met his match but for a masked figure who appears in the end to save the day with a bucket of holy water. A new guy with a devil's goat mask. A lot of twists and turns made for an interesting comic after the initial hiccups of the book. But while Flanagan's art was clear and concise during the opening scenes, it got a little murky as the book went along. I think his primary problem was that he let the art get away from him in Ivy's jungle. There was too much green - it kind of overwhelmed everything else. He then has the idea to separate the panels using vines, which was even more green and ended with pages that were just too busy to be very enjoyable. The art wasn't very clean again until The Demon came on to the scene, which was certainly the highlight of the issue. However, the panels were still arranged well beyond all that stuff that was going on. The action was still top-notch. I think both of the members of the creative team just need to pull back a little bit and not get too overzealous with their work. Sometimes less is better.

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