Published on March 13th, 2012 | by Mike Harding0
Mikey’s Library Hot Picks: Bats & Vamps & Bane
This week there are three books being reviewed (I know, I’m spoiling you). The first book won an Eisner award and the second and third is one story that rocked the DC nation when it first came out.
The first book is of course American Vampire Volume 2, written by Scott Snyder, with artwork provided by Rafael Albuquerque. This book reprints issues 6-11 and brings the story closer to present day, with it being set in 1936. I reviewed the first book a long time ago and loved it. I have spent the last few months keeping a close eye out for any sign of this volume and I am very glad I waited.
The book begins with Las Vegas sheriff Cashel “Cash” McCogan (brilliant name) investigating a series of murders. Cash has only recently taken on this role after his predecessor and father was shot in the line of duty.
Cash encounters Jack Straw and Felicia Book who initially claim to be FBI officers, although later they are revealed to be members of a vampire hunter group. We also catch up with the main characters from the first story arc with American Vampire Skinner Sweet now going by the name Jim Smoke, running a brothel in Vegas. As Jim Smoke, Skinner has been antagonizing sheriff McCogan for some time.
We see Skinner’s first heir, Pearl Jones, who has moved away from Las Angeles to live in a small town called Arrowhead with her husband, who seems unaware of her vampiric nature. Pearls peaceful existence doesn’t last long when her past catches up to her.
The story is excellent and maintains the atmosphere of the first book, we have some dramatic twists, some moments that set up future tales and some nice historical references, such as the Hoover dam being called the Boulder dam as that was its original name when it was made. The most important fact for me is that in this book and the previous book, the Vampires are scary, not sparkly.
With the third book released in February 2012 it’s only a matter of time before you can read another review of this outstanding series.
The second and third books are part 1 & 2 of the 1993 Batman blockbuster Knightfall, the story was spread over the existing Batman books consisting of Batman, Detective Comics, and Shadow of the Bat. The story was written by Chuck Dixon, Jo Duffy, Alan Grant, Dennis O’Neil, Doug Moench, and was drawn by way too many people for me to mention.
The two books are entitled “Broken Bat” and “Who rules the night”. The first book chronicles the events leading up to Batman’s confrontation with the then, very new Bane (soon to feature in the upcoming Dark Knight Rises movie). Bane has been planning the downfall of Batman for some time, and in order to escalate it, he blows up part of Arkham Asylum, freeing almost all of its inmates, and unleashing Batman’s rogues gallery onto the streets ofGotham.
Prior to the onset of Knightfall Batman had been struggling both physically and mentally, although not stated as the direct cause, this book takes place shortly after the death of Superman (there are panels in which Robin is seen wearing the black armband that fans were given free with the death of Superman books). Batman has been running a gauntlet of villains and has failed to capture some of them.
When Bane releases his Rogues Gallery Batman must face Scarecrow, the Joker, Mad Hatter, Ventriloquist, Zazz, Poison Ivy, and Firefly, as well as some of the low level goons that were imprisoned in Arkham. The book also has a new hero in the form of Jean Paul Valley, a young Gotham University student who recently discovered that he had been subconsciously trained to be an assassin since childhood. Batman has taken this young man under his wing in order to train him to fight alongside him. Jean-Paul’s training gets handed over to Robin quite early on in the book, which is a sure sign of Batman’s mindset.
The book progresses well and builds tension, you really begin to wonder how Batman will be able to confront Bane and by the time he does, you know it is not going to end well.
Now the second book begins immediately after the first, and deals with the aftermath of Batman vs Bane. I won’t tell you exactly what happens (although I imagine anyone reading this knows the outcome) but the story leaves Bruce unable to don the cape and cowl. As a result of this he enlists Jean Paul Valley to take over his role as Batman (Bruce chose not to ask original Robin Dick Grayson, which caused Dick to feel some resentment to his adoptive father), who displays a more violent attitude when dealing with the Rogues Gallery. There are moments where his level of violence causes Robin to question his suitability and as the book progresses it is clear that Bruce has made a bad choice in picking Jean Paul. During this book we witness Jack Drake (Robin’s father) and Dr Shondra Kinsolving (Bruce’s doctor) being kidnapped by persons unknown
Bruce gives Jean Paul one direct order, not to confront Bane as he does not feel that Jean Paul is ready and would suffer a similar fate. Jean Paul ignores this order, and confronts Bane on two separate occasions, only surviving the first encounter due to luck.
Jean Paul goes to new extremes, going as far as redesigning the Batsuit to make it look more mechanical. By the end of the book we are left with a Batman who is clearly not stable.
Sadly there are no books available that showcase Jean Paul’s tenure in the cowl after this. The story continued for some time, with DC not ending the crossover, but instead showing various aspects of it in various books, Bruce and Alfred travel abroad to find the missing Jack Drake and Shondra Kinsolving in a story called Knightquest: The Search. Whilst Jean Paul’s portrayal of the Bat was called Knightquest: The Crusade. The story finishes with Knights End featuring a climactic showdown between Bruce and Jean Paul, but as I previously mentioned these are not available…….yet
Next week there will be more reviews, and as always please leave a comment if you agree/disagree or if you want me to review a particular book. I can also be contacted on Twitter using the name @Mikeybumchin.