There’s nothing I like better when it comes to comic books than a big old 80-page giant. These are usually chances for readers to take a break from the normal continuity of a comic universe and just enjoy a great story or in this case many stories. This Batman 80-Page Giant clusters together eight tales from a wide variety of writers and artists all connected by the theme of winter in Gotham City. The blistering cold has blanketed the darkest city in the DC Universe and it’s up to the Batman Family to keep things safe. I figure since such care was put into these eight stories I would do them justice but presenting eight small reviews for each one.
The first story is Batman and Robin in “Fire And Ice” written by Kevin Grevioux with art by Grey. The dynamic duo is out on patrol trying to keep the peace during a riot caused by a snowstorm. As Batman tries to control his new Robin, a father and son are pushed to rob a store in order to survive. The two crime fighters cross paths with the father/son team with tragic results. Well written with crisp dialogue and great pacing. Grevioux manages to pack this story with the tension between Batman and Robin as well as the desperation of the father and son. Grey’s art is beautiful and really brings to life the idea of a cold and stormy day in Gotham.
Second up is “Pure As The Driven Snow” starring good old Alfred Pennyworth in one of the most bizarre Batman stories in recent years. Writer David Tischman essentially has Alfred take pity on a teenage hooker, take her to a grand ball, then a hotel where he gives her new clothes and money to start a new life. At the end Alfred sees the young girl off and smiles to himself at his good deed. There’s humor written into this story especially when Alfred kicks the crap out of two hecklers at the grand ball in the most gentlemanly way I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t a fan of this one simply because it seemed oddly gimmicky and something outside of what Alfred is known for. Art wise Alex Konat does a passable job but nothing that really leaps off the page.
Coming in third is one of the best stories in the entire book. Titled “The Saint In The Hero Of Orphan Alley”. Oddly there are no actual superheroes in this story save for three friends who decide to become vigilante heroes in order to battle crime like their hero Batman. As the going gets tough, the dynamic between the three disintegrates due to clashing egos and ideas of common sense. The leader of the three learns a harsh lesson when he and one of his partners are forced to take on Killer Croc. Comic scribe Mike Raicht not only packs an emotional punch but reminds us how hard it is to do what Batman and Robin do each day. I also couldn’t help but think this was a little swipe at Marvel’s Kick-Ass title. The art from Clayton Henry is decent enough to help the story except for his Killer Croc, which kicks ass.
Fourth is another interesting story if not a particularly entertaining one. Titled “Veil In Reveiled” this tells the tale of a mugging victim saved by a mysterious white figure who lives in a dilapidated theater. The figure is Veil a former actress now scarred and cursed with psychic powers. Drawing on the tragic events of the mugging victims life Veil learns to open herself up to using her powers to help people. Nice tale, good moral lesson, but a boring as hell story. Writer Peter Calloway phones most of this in especially with the overly sappy dialogue. The art by Marcus To is another that captures what winter in Gotham must really be like.
Number five in our 80-Page Giant is a Catwoman centered story that’s interesting mainly because the story is really muddled and convoluted while the art is magnificent. In this tale, Catwoman is setting herself up to rob a rich socialite named The Snow Queen. Catwoman ends up helping out an old man and gets wrapped into a story that makes no sense. Any emotional impact writer Ivory Madison was trying to get across gets lost in bad plotting and silly dialogue. The one saving grace is the art by Kat Rocha & Josh Finney, which is a series of beautiful paintings. Each panel is its own masterpiece and takes a badly written story to a level that almost makes it enjoyable.
The sixth story is the worst of the bunch. Starring Poison Ivy in nine pages of wasted space and dragged down by sloppy artwork “The Wilt” is something that could’ve easily been left out of the entire issue. Ivy’s dead, or she’s not dead, or she’s reborn or…bah who cares. I hated this story so completely I had to force myself to read through it a second time but to no avail, it didn’t get any better. Artist Chris Samnee needs to either clean up his badly done shading or find another business to go into.
Thankfully story number seven is another of the top dogs of the title. Featuring Commissioner Gordon chasing after a recently escaped Mr. Freeze, this adventure titled “What Falls Below” is an attempt to humanize not just Mr. Freeze but also Commissioner Gordon. Unable to call Batman thanks to a frozen Bat Signal, Gordon tracks Freeze down which proves difficult in the storm. Meanwhile, Freeze is enjoying more freedom than he thought he’d ever get again thanks to the freezing temperatures. Out in the city without his protective gear Freeze embraces life again even trying to convince Commissioner Gordon to let him walk the streets free if he promises to return to jail when it warms up. Writer Kevin Shinick really understands the characters of Freeze and Gordon so their back and forth is perfect. As a reader I ended up actually feeling bad for Freeze and his simple request to walk the world unprotected. Artist Rafa Garres does some great work here, really bringing the panels to life and giving them a sense of seamless motion. Garres also knows his shading, which gave a deeper dimension to the story itself.
Story number eight is a hysterical five panels, one page comedy act from writer Steve Niles and artist Stephanie Buscema. The plot is simple, Batman looks for a criminal and finds him, and the art is almost like children’s art with bold colors and sharp angles. Niles managed to draw a laugh out of me in five panels, which just proves that a good writer can elicit a response in the tiniest space. All in all this Batman 80-Page Giant was a nice break from all of the havoc currently ripping through DC and I enjoyed sitting in my warm house with the cold hanging right outside my window, feet up, reading this book.
That’s what comics are all about.