It's time once again for Ancient History! The talk of the town, the toast of tomorrow's yesterday, the time I talk to you trenchant time travelers! (time twice in one sentence? I better wrap this up) This week a Batman dies, the Batman dies, several Batmans die, that's right kids it's THE MANY DEATHS OF THE BATMAN which originally ran in the Spring of 1989!! This one is exciting because it's a no foolin' mystery, but is it a good mystery? Stay close historians, a killer is afoot!
We open to a police car tearing through Gotham, at the end of it's run the headlights hit a startling sight, the Batman, strung up to a fence... DEAD! In a stunning silent sequence (a lot of this arc is silent it's really cool) we see various villains and heroes react to the news in their own special ways, a real treat and testament to John Byrne's phenomenal talent for characterization in the late 80s. Suddenly Batmen begin appearing and dropping like flies as the ruse slowly comes into play. Eventually the news reaches the real Dark Knight, in France apparently. He jets home to investigate and eventually finds the killer is none other than *REDACTED FOR SPOILER*! Who could believe it what a twist!!!!
****Some minor spoilers may follow, but the mystery itself will remain unspoiled****
Ok so just to get it quickly out of the way I have issues with this mystery. To me a good mystery story is solvable and I HATE it when 5 pages from the end a character appears out of thin air and is the killer, which is exactly what happens here. Otherwise this arc is just phenomenal the story by John Byrne is really just excellent right up to the end, then drops the ball in my opinion. The silent sections of book allow Batman Legend Jim Aparo’s art to shine.
The art in this story by Aparo, Mike Decarlo (inks) and Adrienne Roy (colors) is phenomenal, brutal but not bloody, expressive but not cartoonish, deadly in it’s detail. Perfection. John Costanza does a fine job on letters despite the walls of text that Byrne seems to love (was he paid by the word?! ijs!) but isn’t giving much room to stretch his legs in an arc that’s maybe 60% silent besides some minor sound effect panels which is a shame because he’s a solid letterer.
A TPB is available with these issues on Amazon, it’s out of print but still fairly affordable at $15, but honestly you can probably find the single issues for cheaper if you try. At this time I see copies of the issues comprised (Batman 433-435) for as little as $1 on Ebay. Alternatively the TPB Batman the Caped Crusader vol 2 contains these issues and others for a broader look at the era MSRP $30.
Here are the covers for the 3 issue arc all 3 are by John Byrne with colors by Anthony Tollin, I’m partial to the 435 cover personally:
Don't buy this book for the mystery it just isn't there. This is a fine read but I don't think it's a good mystery. It's a decent story but I feel the end falls short.
ANCIENT HISTORY #20: Many Deaths of the Battyman
Writing - 6/106/10
Storyline - 5/105/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 8/108/10
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