Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Review- BATMAN ILLUSTRATED BY NEAL ADAMS VOL. 3 TP

BATMAN ILLUSTRATED BY NEAL ADAMS VOL. 3 (DC, First Softcover Printing, 2013; Softcover)
Collects Batman Nos. 232, 234, 237, 243-245, 251, 255 and Power Records PR: 27, 30 (cover dates June, 1971- no cover date, 1976)
Writers: Denny O'Neil and Len Wein
Artists: Penciler/Inker- Neal Adams; Inker- Dick Giordano

Less a collection of vintage comic books and more a bastardized George Lucas Special Edition-style commission, I have mixed feelings about Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 3. On one hand, these stories are absolutely incredible, with crisp writing by Denny O'Neil and Adams' frenetic artwork. On the other hand, I am a purist who wants to see these issues as originally published...just on better paper, printed without line bleed and off color registration, and squarebound in a collected edition as God intended. Neal Adams is one of my favorite artists, as his work bursts with excitement and breathes life. The problem with this book is not whether or not could Adams “improve” this material by reinking, redrawing, and recoloring it with then-modern computer coloring, but whether or not he should...and my answer is an emphatic no.
I own the old Power Records sets. On the left is this book; on the right is the original.
As with the other volumes in this series, the stories are great reads, and if you can get past these bastardized renditions of these classic comic books then you'll have a blast reading this. The crown jewels of these stories is, of course, the introduction of Ra's Al-Ghul. The problem with this being an artist-centric collection is that the issues in the story arc that were not drawn by Neal Adams are not collected here in this book, resulting in an incomplete read. Those three issues are available in the also garishly recolored Batman: Tales Of The Demon trade paperback. I have the 2005 fourth printing, but I know for a fact that some of the earlier printings were not “improved' with then-modern, now-outdated recoloring. Ra's Al-Ghul is a fantastic enemy, being the equal and sometimes superior of Batman. Theirs is a game of cat and mouse, fought on psychological as well as physical levels. 
 
The original...
 
...and the "improved".
Another great story is Batman #255's “Moon Of The Wolf”. Always a sucker for the lupine set, seeing a Neal Adams werewolf was doubly great. Anthony Lupus was suffering from migraines, and after regular doctors couldn't find a cure for him he resorted to quacks. Professor Milo, an old Batman enemy, injects him with a wolf extract which brings his predisposition for lupinism to the fore. He holds the cure hostage and will only give it to Lupus if he kills Batman for him. Batman + Neal Adams + werewolves = awesome. I give it two thumbs up. I should have three more thumbs surgically implanted so that I could give it five thumbs up. 
The Joker stories are flipping incredible. The Joker is a psychopath here, blessed with “the divine gift of madness”. He escapes from Arkham Asylum and systematically kills off his old gang, all within the constraints of the Comics Code Authority. Just incredible. Another story worth noting features the appearance of the Rutland Halloween Parade. This Wikipedia article will do a better job than I could at explaining it. Lazy, I know, but the Christmas holiday season has me burning the candle at both ends. Cripes, I cut my candle in half so that I have four ends to burn, I've been so dang busy this month.
The original...
...the "improved". Does anybody honestly believe that this looks better?
So the artwork is great, regardless if it is redrawn or not. Adams has a great sense of panel composition, with each flowing into the next, giving my mind the illusion of movement. The modern recoloring is mostly garish but occasionally works. I will be more than happy to double dip and buy this in an authentically recolored and properly restored (read: keeping Neal Adams as far away from the restoration process as possible!) Archives line of this era of Batman. I'm certain that there are a boatload of Adams fans who would be all over such a line. There are hardcovers available of these three books, but I could not justify buying the Special Edition version of Neal Adams' Batman in a high end hardcover. It didn't seem right, so these inexpensive softcovers were right up my alley. This is highly recommended reading in spite of the substandard recoloring.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5. 
Left/original, Right/craptastic new version.
The OCD zone- There is a segment of the comic book buying population that would love to see all old comic books recolored with modern computer coloring techniques. I am not among that segment of the population. The reason why is evidenced in this very book. When I look at a collected edition of old material and see the flat four color process, I think Coloring may have been primitive, but this is authentic to how the material was originally published. When I look at this book I think Wow, this looks dated and garish by modern standards. Worse still, not only does this 2005 recoloring job look outdated but it is not authentic to the original publications. This is the ultimate lose-lose scenario. The folks who think that recoloring classic material with “modern” coloring is a good idea are the same folks who applaud George Lucas for making the original Star Wars trilogy Special Editions, replacing those “outdated” special effects with “state of the art” CGI...which are now also outdated by modern CGI standards. Folks should leave art alone.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Foreward by Neal Adams from 2003 (7 pages)
Introduction by Denny O'Neil from 2004 (5 pages)
Covers to the following, all one page each unless otherwise noted: Detective Comics #412-422, 439
Batman #235, 236, 238-241, 246
World's Finest Comics #211, 244-246, 258
The Brave And The Bold #99
Limited Collector's Edition C-25 pin-up
Power Records house ad
Limited Collector's Edition C-51, C-59 cover
Heroes Against Hunger cover
Detective Comics #600 pin-up
Saga Of Ra's Al-Ghul #4 cover (2 pages)
Batman Annual #14 cover
Robin #1 pin-up
Batman Black And White #4 pin-up
Neal Adams sketchbook (14 pages) featuring 1970s DC commercial art and storyboards for aborted Batman amusement park ride.
Linework and Color restoration rating: ? out of 5. How would I even go about rating this bastardization of such classic comic books? Let's just call this one “Your mileage may vary.”
There are a handful of botched word balloons throughout the book.
Paper rating: 4.5 out of 5. Good weight glossy coated stock paper.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. Nice thick waxlike lamination which will provide years of enjoyment when handled with reasonable care.
http://www.instocktrades.com/TP/DC/BATMAN-ILLUSTRATED-BY-NEAL-ADAMS-TP-VOL-03/APR130227




2 comments:

  1. I've been waiting for this one!
    The new issue of Comic Book Creator is out, and has a huge interview with Adams, where he addresses the alterations made in these volumes. Very illuminating stuff....He acknowledges that fan reaction to the art remastering done on the first volume was bad, and says that the folks at DC told him that they should leave the art alone on the rest of the volumes, but, and I'm paraphrasing here, Adams didn't feel like he should cater to five fans who are stuck in the past, but the 50,000 new fans who would buy and appreciate his alterations. It's a very interesting piece...Adams is certainly full of himself, if this interview is any indication. It's making me REALLY want to go buy BATMAN: ODYSSEY, which I absolutely KNOW that I will hate. Please, God, help me to not spend money on that book......
    Great review, Kris. Merry Christmas to you and your family, and here's hoping for many more reviews in 2014.

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    Replies
    1. Merry Christmas to you too, Dan!
      It does not surprise me that Adams would be full of himself. Most creative types that I have known are wired differently, and an inflated sense of ego often enables them to overcome inhibitions which allows their creativity to flow. His reasoning why he re-did his classic work is flat out wrong. If you want to makes new fans, make new stuff. Haha. $50 hardcovers are hardly entry level purchases for new/casual fans like the original release of this collection was.

      I also really want to buy Batman: Odyssey, but the reviews that I have read have all said that it is batshit crazy at best and unreadable at worst. His artwork has deteriorated a bit in his old age, which would be forgivable if the story were good...which, by all accounts, it is not. Still, I'm tempted...

      I will have many more reviews in 2014, as I can't see me stopping this blog anytime soon. Looking forward to more Crabby Reviews as well!

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