Saturday, February 26, 2011

For What It’s Worth #2: The Batman Chronicles #15

The Batman Chronicles #15 was originally published in Winter 1998 and carries a cover price of $2.95. It features three stories. They are, in order, “Will to Power” by Kelley Puckett and Joe Staton & Bill Sienkiewicz, “Between Stars Above and Below” by Marco Palmieri and James A. Hodgkins, and “An Answer in the Rubble” by Greg Rucka and Roger Cruz.
Probably not worth the cover charge

Another large issue, it follows the same format as the other Batman Chronicles issue I’ve reviewed. The first story is 18 pages and the other two are 10 each.

“Will to Power” is a fun little Batman/Kyle Rayner team-up. The art by Staton and Sienkiewicz is a treat. This story is basically about Kyle going to Gotham for the first time to try and recover a necklace that some Gothamite thug stole. Of course, Batman takes umbrage at the new (well, new at the time) Green Lantern infringing on his turf. In a brief and humorous scene, Batman takes Kyle’s power ring and tells him to leave it alone. Kyle doesn’t, and in the end he earns Batman’s begrudging respect.

The second story strikes more of a contemplative tone. Taking place in the aftermath of the Cataclysm, Barbara Gordon feels like quitting her work as she ponders in the rubble of the clocktower. Somehow, she encounters the Man-Bat, they share a kind of kinship, he takes her out flying, and she rediscovers her center and decides to continue being Oracle and fighting the good fight.

I’ve never heard of either Palmieri nor Hodgkins. I can’t say that the story itself is actually good. At best, it’s competent and does what it’s supposed to do with a hokey premise. The art’s rather outstanding, though. The two page spead where the Man-Bat takes Oracle out flying over the ruined cityscape of Gotham is well-done. It’s a style that somehow reminds me of Ryan Sook and a very poor man’s Geof Darrow.

Other than the art, though, this isn’t a good story. I have to say that I’ve always found the concept of the Man-Bat rather hokey, like whoever created him thought that it would be cool to have Batman fight a man that was a bat. That’s on the same level as having Daredevil fight a literal devil, or taking Moon Knight to the moon. (Both of which have been done, but whatever.)  It’s even more absurd in this story as he takes Babs out for a night flight. I just don’t buy it at all.

“An Answer in the Rubble” was of the most interest to me when I found this in the quarter bin, as it’s written by Rucka and is a story featuring the Huntress and the Question (the Vic Sage version). This story also takes place during the No Man’s Land event and is about the Huntress working to stop corrupt soldiers from hijacking relief supplies being driven into Gotham City from Hub City (which is how the Question ties into the story). Though it’s a short story, Rucka is able to highlight the angry, vicious edge of the Huntress, which sets her apart from the rest of the Bat-family. Rucka also uses the Question in a way that’s a logical continuation of the Denny O’Neil and Denys Cowan version of the character.

Of course, Rucka would go on to one great gem of a miniseries with the Huntress and the Question later, in 2000’s Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood, probably the quintessential Huntress story. That miniseries was illustrated by Rick Burchett, and I have to say that Roger Cruz, who draws the story in this issue of Chronicles, is not even ¼ the artist that Burchett is.

I’d go so far as to say that Cruz’s art ruins Rucka’s story, completely undermining his characterization with some truly atrocious ‘90s style excess. I mean… I’ve seen worse, but this is bad.

All in all, though, we get one good all-around story, one story with weak writing and good art, and one story with good writing and terrible art.

For what it’s worth, I would have even paid 35 cents for this.

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