01/02/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Titan Books. 208 page graphic novel. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84856-668-2.
check out website: www.titanbooks.comand www.dccomics.com
'Batman: The Cult' is an album release of the 1988 mini-series. It has pedigree with writer Jim Starlin and artist Bernie Wrightson and its interesting how colourist Bill Wray gets a cover credit but considering how much atmosphere he adds, I can understand why.
Considering the more recent stories where Gotham City has become a no-go state and the criminals running riot, the situation presented here doesn't seem much different, especially as the Batman is also missing.
There is one big difference, Batman has been captured and is being slowly tortured in an effort to break his will and make him susceptible to mind-bending drugs. It works. He is then under the control of the long-lived Deacon Blackfire and his crusading army of down-and-outs as they remove the criminal elements by killing them. In some respects, it could be seen as if Blackfire is just a dirtier version of the Batman except he takes exception to everyone. Members of the city council are targeted, although some of them are revealed as corrupted and there's even an attempted assassination of Commissioner Jim Gordon.
The story is really about the Batman regaining his senses and confidence with the aid of Robin (the Jason Todd version) and initiates his own war to win back the streets of Gotham City. I think here it goes a little bit over the top, mostly because Batman and Robin resorts to using rifles. Granted that they use fast-acting tranquillisers but if it is so easy for Bruce Wayne to acquire them, why aren't the police or military armed with them? Likewise, the new Batmobile, a massive Big Foot truck seems to have gone for artistic licence than reality.
On an objective level, one would have to ask with such a situation and Batman's absence why didn't the authorities ask members of the Justice League to get involved? Come to that, Batman's own rogue's gallery must have all been safely locked up in Arkham Asylum as none of them show up neither. Well, except for a Two-Face hallucination. Then again, this is supposed to be a Batman story and the focus is on him with only a hint of the problems about him.
Reading the bumf relating to 'The Cult', I'm puzzling as to what is regarded as controversial. Is it Batman being psychologically beaten or tortured? Is it his use if guns which he normally abhors? Maybe he's not doing enough to save lives? I think it will have to be up to the individual to decide when you buy this book.
It is a strong story and you'll need a strong stomach for a lot of the implications that it presents. One also has to remember that this Batman is an earlier carnation of the character before the next Crisis change-over so probably less like his current version. Indeed, there are many similarities to Frank Miller's Dark Knight interpretation in that when the stakes are high, you get bigger and better weapons. If you want a story to chill your heart to match the current weather, then get this graphic novel.
Add SFcrowsnest.com daily news updates to your own web site or blog - just cut and paste the code below...
Stephen Hunt's novels - USA