1/09/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: DC Comics. 159 page graphic novel. Price: $14.99 (US), $18.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4012-2645-9.
check out website: www.dccomics.com
I'm getting more impressed by writer Don Cameron the more I read his stories. With 'The Joker Reforms', the clown king ends up in a mid-American town with memory loss and becomes an honest citizen. Quite how the townfolk don't trigger he's actually the Joker purely from his appearance, although to be fair they've never seen a photograph of him, might mean they see a lot of pasty pallid-looking people. The story is quite comic and even the Batman is doing a double-take as to what is going on.
'The Adventures Of Branded Trees' is the first drawn by Jack Burnley and Ray Burnley and the reason I raise this is because this is the first time that we see Batman being given eyes. The reason why we never say his or Robin's eyes in their costumes originally was largely because of a combination of inking process and not a need for showing every last detail, especially with the number of tales that had to be turned out on a regular basis. To suddenly see Batman's eyes shows how imposing he can be with them. The Burnleys only do this to accent some scenes and it wasn't carried on with other stories. The story is also a demonstration of leaving the duo in a place where they could have ended up as loggerheads by the way. It's also interesting to point out that there is a 'Batman' comic in their reality. I'm pointing out the details more than the story here but then how many super-heroes do you know who wear the uniforms under their regular clothes on holiday but then again, when does the Batman go on holiday these days? Back in the 40s, he did it a lot.
'Here Comes Alfred' should give away what this story is about and introduces the butler to the Wayne home. Don Lawrence shows Alfred to be anything but a fool as he follows in his late father's footsteps and turns from being a thespian to being an observant butler and works out who his charges are. Unlike the Alfred of the 60s, he's a direct contrast in size in being short and tubby.
'The Batman's Biographer' has the caped pair's biggest and oldest fan, B. Boswell Browne, being fooled into giving criminals posing as reporters information as to how Batman would have solved the crime. What is interesting about this story is that there are references to earlier adventures and that hasn't been done before, let alone the fan desire to own things used by his idols.
'Adventures Of The Vitamin Vandals' written by Joe Greene has sharks fished for their livers for the war effort mysteriously stolen and the dynamic pair on holiday figure out what was going on. Some elements of this are perfect Batman material although moving the catch the way they did is a little more implausible purely from the weight that has to be lifted. I'm being a little reluctant to say how cos it's on spoiler ground but you'll see how when you read the story.
The last two tales are back in the writing hands of Bill Finger who is playing around with new villains. The first in 'The Man With Camera Eyes' focuses on stage act Oliver Hunt and his photographic memory finding himself the star role in a criminal gang with a unique way to steal things. The second with 'The Crime Clinic' has Doctor Matthew Thorne who gives prescriptions to criminals ranging from how to break into difficult premises to making house calls and knocking out guards with anaesthetic. There's a lovely twist in the tale when Thorne's criminal tendencies gets in the way of his desire to save someone's live. There is also a link at the end to see he will return so it will be interesting to see how the criminal doctor develops.
These 'Batman Chronicles' have been a great revelation in seeing how the characters have developed during the war years. The art's clarity is great and the writing is developing at a pace. If you're interested in how the Batman started, then you shouldn't miss out on these books.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA