Friday, June 26, 2015

Review- BATMAN: PREY


BATMAN: PREY (DC, First Printing, 2012; Softcover)

Collects Legends of the Dark Knight #11-15, 137-141 (cover dates September, 1990- May, 2001)

Writer: Doug Moench
Artists: Penciler- Paul Gulacy; Inkers- Terry Austin (#11-15) and Jimmy Palmiotti (#137-141)

I am a casual Batman fan, cherry picking random collections based on creative teams or the era of original issue publication. The team of Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy was too great of a draw to resist. I normally despise ret-cons, as they usually mean one of two things: One, that the character(s) involved is/are so screwed up in their current incarnation that there is no other way to tell a cohesive story about said character(s), and/or Two, that the creative team involved is so lazy and unimaginative that there is no other way that they could tell a story using an established hero or villain. Batman seems to be the victim of endless retellings and reinterpretations of his early exploits, which serve to only further muddy the waters of continuity.

That said, these were enjoyable reads. Batman has more “dark” and “mature” themes applied to him than any other mainstream superhero, and given his origins as a derivative pulp character I can go with the Noir angle, but only to a point. Moench is a fine writer and Gulacy is a fine artist. Gulacy is paired with a pair of top notch inkers in Terry Austin and Jimmy Palmiotti. The art is easy on the eyes even if the paper in this book is shit.

The arc found in the first five issues collected in this book is a reinterpretation of Batman's first encounter with Doctor Hugo Strange which occurred in Detective Comics #36 way back in 1939 (the cover date was February, 1940, but the issue would have been on the stands in the final days of the 1930s). Since everything is better when it is made darker and grittier, Hugo Strange is made even kookier than he was in his first appearance, on down to a fetish with a manikin with a Batman costume...because, you know, story.


The second arc collected here is the sequel, this time with the Scarecrow in tow. I am a sucker for the Scarecrow, as scarecrows are cool as Hell. Catwoman is also featured prominently in this arc, but the ret-con factor totally ruins this for me. Like I said before, Moench is a fine writer, but is he really so bored with these characters that all's he can do is pretend that Batman doesn't know Catwoman? We have seen so many reboots, reinterpretations and ret-cons that none of these stories mean anything now. Cue douchebag fanboy whining, where they say Who cares one whit about continuity so long as we get a good story. If that's the case then nothing shown in any story matters. Sorry kids, but continuity matters because otherwise reading any story becomes a waste of your time. It matters or it doesn't...and if it doesn't then I don't care.

I loathe how Batman's narrative is done in a semi-cursive, semi-printed fashion. It is difficult to read in the murky gray boxes, made even murkier by the shitty paper that DC passes off on people in their collected editions. This was an at times entertaining read, although the aforementioned paper and lettering issues annoyed me. DC's collected editions department remains a joke.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This being DC, there are of course omissions. They could have included the covers for the three previous trade paperback releases, but instead we get one blank page and three pages of ads for other books in the back. Marvel also advertises other books in their collections, but they do it on the inside covers of these books. DC's inside covers are blank.
Linework and Color restoration: Irrelevant, since the grade of paper used makes things a murky washed out mess of it.
Paper stock: What year is this? Why are DC fans content to accept subpar paper in their collected editions? This is some seriously crappy paper. It is worse than the paper used in the original 2001 issues and makes the computer colors look washed out and muted. This cheap paper is garbage and doesn't lower the cost of the book one bit.

DC lists their “Sustainable Forestry Initiative” in the indicia like they are environmentally responsible. Please. Your entire business model is based on killing trees. Acting like you are responsible by using the SFI logo is laughable. You sell dead trees. The blood of mother Earth is on your hands!
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Thick waxlike lamination. At least DC did that right. It was probably a mistake.

3 comments:

  1. Hey Kris, love the blog. I agree with you about the paper quality of this book, which is why I didn't pick it up, and your opinion of DC's collected editions in general. They've put out a few good ones, but Marvel is blowing them out of the water in that department.

    As for the story itself, I just wanted to point out a few things about Prey as it's one of my favorite Batman stories ever. Legends of the Dark Knight, at least most of the arcs, was meant to inhabit the world of Batman Year One when it first premiered. The narrative is in cursive because that's what Miller used. Also, from '86-'91ish, the entire DCU was in "Year One"/retcon mode- Byrne's Superman, Perez' Wonder Woman, Hawkworld, Emerald Dawn, even Mark Waid did a Year One Flash story. It was a company-wide reboot for the most part, not the decision of any individual creative team.

    Normally, I'd completely agree with you about retconning, especially origins. It's why I never really warmed up to any of Loeb/Sale's Long Halloween or other Batman stories, nor Mark Waid's Superman: Birthright, etc, and ESPECIALLY not the New 52 nonsense. But this was a story about Batman in his early years before it became the norm to do so, and I'd go easy on it. I never read the second arc so I can't speak to that one. Just my two cents.

    Keep up the great work!

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    1. Thank you for chiming in. I was unaware of the Year One "universe", as I am admittedly ignorant of much DC continuity. It does make more sense since you explained it to me, though. Nothing against Moench, whose writing I am a fan of.

      Using cursive because of Miller...just one more thing to hate him for. Kidding! He has lost his mind but I respect what he did in the 1980s and some of his '90s work.

      DC's collected edition program makes me sad, honestly. They have so much material that needs to be collected and they just let it rot. I would love for them to do an Epic-type line. Heck, those Batman Knightfall books would be an ideal size for a line. Imagine the ground that they could cover! They also need to get their Archives line out of the mothballs. Again, so much classic material waiting to be collected.

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  2. Agree on all points! Especially with regards to a DC Epic line, restarting the Archives (I'd love an All-Star Squadron Archive series), and Miller losing his mind these days. Also, I'm not sure if you're familiar with DC's Omnibuses, but they are no where near as good as Marvel's. Really thin on extras and don't even include all the material sometimes.

    If you're curious, there were other stories in LotDK which were just fantastic and very much in the same vein as Prey. Most notably Venom, Blades, Tao, and Heat (not sure if that one has been reprinted though). All these stories were released amid LotDK issues 16-52.

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