Tuesday, February 22, 2011

For What It's Worth #1 - The Batman Chronicles #10

Today we’re starting what we plan to be a recurring feature for This Ain’t Kansas.

As comics fans, we all know how much comic books can cost. We live in an era where there are 22 page comics that retail for $3.99. That’s a fat chunk of change for something you could, conceivably, read in seven minutes or less. Even the price of trade paperbacks is rising. Used to be you could get a 6-issue TPB for like 15 bucks and be guaranteed that waiting for the trade would save you some money. Now a 6-issue trade can run from 16 to 20 bucks. The paperback edition of Invincible Iron Man volume 5: Stark Resilient, Book 1 collects 4 issues and retails for 16 dollars. And it’s not even a complete storyarc! That’s garbage.

Face facts, true believers. Comics ain’t cheap. Not new ones, at least.

Sure, there are sites you can go to for big discounts off trade paperbacks, hardcovers, back issues, and even new issues. There are second-hand bookstores where you can find a plethora of trades, hardcovers, and even prestige format books. There’s also eBay. I’m down with obtaining cheap comics with any method available to us in today’s world.

My friends, we are always questing for deals and cheap comics. The hunt itself is often part of the fun – it’s sorta the modern-day equivalent of searching for buried treasure. And to me, digging through a ratty old long box full of quarter-priced comics is a mission I will always sign up for.

For What It’s Worth will be a series of quick reviews on random comics that we’ve found in quarter bins.

First up, The Batman Chronicles #10. Originally published in Fall 1997 with a cover price of $2.95, this comic book features three separate stories. There’s “To See the Batman” by Bob Gale and Bill Sienkiewicz, “The Madman’s Tale” by Chris Duffy and Javier Saltares, and “Odd Attachment” by Gary Frank.

I really dig this intricate cover by Phil Winslade

The first story, “To See the Batman,” is actually a prose short story by Gale with spot illustrations by Sienkiewicz. Unlike Grant Morrison’s issue-length prose story from Batman #663, Gale’s text is much more straightforward. While it feels, in a way, more quaint than any sort of post-modernist prose, it’s very readable. Gale’s story is about a high schooler who wants to impress a girl by taking a picture of Batman. It’s enjoyable enough, with an engaging plot, although there are a few passages here and there that felt a bit amateurish.

The second story isn’t so hot. Shoddy artwork doesn’t help it, either. It’s about a young up-and-coming gangster who hears a story about Batman, gets scared straight, and goes home to his mother. This could have been a short story that could have been better had it been either scarier or funnier. As it is, it’s forgettable pap.

Gary Frank’s story (he wrote and penciled it) is a mildly amusing tale of a man who tries to pay some ransom to a group of thugs, only Batman shows up to beat the snot out of them. The twist at the end of the story when the man is reunited with his loved one is silly, but it’s meant to be intentionally so. While the story lacks meat, it’s clearly a chance for Frank’s art to shine. This comic came out in 1997, so it’s more similar to his Peter David Hulk style than it is to his current style.

The short story is a lost art in comics. A few series and anthologies here and there over the past decade have brought us some fantastic work, but this issue of The Batman Chronicles doesn’t really measure up.

However, at only a quarter? This comic is definitely worth it. It’ll probably take at least a half hour to read the whole thing, so that’s definitely good value for your twenty-five cents. And it’s all the better if you happen to be a particular fan of Sienkiewicz or Frank and just have to have their obscure work in your collection.

For what it’s worth, I would have even paid 40 cents for this comic.

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