Sunday, March 13, 2011

Batman: The Widening Gyre by Kevin Smith, Walter Flanagan and Art Thibert

Batman has trained many heroes, from numerous Robins to Batgirl. But on a night when he is fighting Pamela Isley, better known as Poison Ivy, he comes face to face with a new hero who helps him in fighting the demon Etrigan, who has been using Poison Ivy's blood to keep his human half, Jason Blood, at bay. But just when it seems that Etrigan may have Batman cornered and on the ropes, this new hero steps in to save Batman with a dose of boiling holy water straight to the demon's face, forcing him to flee his human host. The new hero has a wooden mask carved like a goat head, and he shows up again to help Batman against another foe, but while Jim Gordon wants to know who this hero is and if he can be trusted, Batman, and Bruce, have no idea in either case.

As he is getting home, Bruce receives a visitor at his home, Silver St. Claire, a former love of his who left him for a senator. Now that her husband is dead, she is at loose ends, and still holds a candle for her former lover, who she knows is Batman. Newly rich, she is determined to find something to hold onto that reminds her of who she used to be, and that something is Bruce Wayne, who she calls DeeDee.

Soon Bruce finds himself spending his days with Silver on her private island, and his nights in Gotham fighting crime with his unintended fan, Baphomet. Baphomet seems to be a good guy, but he reveals his identity too quickly to Batman, taking off his mask after a fight with the Toymaker. But as they fight together, and Bruce and Silver grow hotter in their romance, a series of old friends and foes confront Batman with the risks he is taking for his romance with Silver, and he wonders if he has gotten too old to go on with the crimefighting gig.

But when he takes a chance by making Baphomet his successor, and decides to leave the crimefighting biz for a life with the woman he has come to realize he loves more than life itself, is he making a mistake, and can he ever leave that life behind for a normal one, or will his past catch up with him at last?

Well, this book was kind of... disappointing. Okay, I don't want to give the ending away for anyone (I tried my darnedest not to, above), but shall we say that Kevin Smith takes some, um, liberties, with Batman's character and history in a way that many fans will find downright insulting to the character. Batman, the man who trusts NOBODY, has to learn to trust his girlfriend not to be a robot. And he does this by beating her around and checking a strand of her hair, because he thinks she is just too perfect to be real.

But she forgives him (!) for it- because she has been reading his past cases and knows how paranoid he is apparently, and he does some stuff that seems lifted right out of past Batman comics for her, like having Swamp Thing make her her own silver orchid, which can only live in Superman's Fortress of Solitude (Hmm, where have I seen that trope before- oh yeah, didn't Batman give Superman some kind of one-of-a-kind flower or plant, too? I don't recall that one turning out so well for Supes, so...) And then he accepts Baphomet's statements about himself at face value, because now Batman is supposed to trust people, right...? And he also reveals that in his first year, he peed his pants at one point... And I felt very iffy about that as well. Is this actually supposed to be Batman? Because I don't see him telling anyone about that, not even Dick Grayson... if such a thing actually happened.

For my own part, I suppose Kevin Smith was having fun with the story. And he is a comics fan, or at least he says he is, but the way he screws around with the details of Batman makes it seem less like character development and more like character derailment. I found myself dumbstruck at what he thought made up the character of Batman and how sloppy Batman is during this book in his detective work. Batman is the consummate detective. He has plans for taking out everyone, friend and foe, just because he is that crazy prepared. And this character in this book... is not the Batman fans have grown to know and love. It's like Bruce is thinking with the wrong, smaller, head, during this whole adventure, and the story isn't even over at the end, it's just beginning. But it has made me not want to read the rest because I'm not sure I could stomach it, given what has gone on in this volume.

In short, not recommended if you are serious Batman fan. Given at some point, the rest of this travesty of a story will be published, you will probably read this and be angry, from somewhat angry to very angry. I am not as into Batman as some heroes, but this volume made me shake my head and wonder what Kevin Smith was on when he wrote it. If you are a fan of Batman, you will not enjoy his character derailment in this book. Avoid.

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