Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Mini Series: Year 100
What's not to like? Paul Pope is becoming comics answer to Stanley Kubrick. I've never gone out of my way to find his Manga stuff (which if I'm honest I ought to), but whenever I see Paul Pope on a cover of a comic book my interest peaks. For me, it's like a trademark of a very individual style and substance. For me, he's the new Frank Miller, a guy who's stuff is always interesting and worth checking out. Thing is, that he isn't as productive as my appetite demands (which is no bad thing!). Like Miller his work on the Bat is quite limited, but always very interesting. Sadly this book never gets the wide appeal I have always felt it deserves. So, if you're not sure when you see it: buy it, and experience something marvellous!
The beauty of this book is the sheer inventiveness of it all. No concept is half baked, everything is thought through, designed to make sense. We get vampire teeth, psychic investigators, a totally different approach to introducing a Robin, a different take on the batmobile. The roughness of Pope's artwork actually is perfect to the grubby dystopian world he has created. Yes, Pope scratchy lines may look messy, but so is the Gotham City that he created around the stories key protagonists. All the while, the core 'Batman' support team is de-constructed in a way which allows a totally new, fresh team all the while retaining the same characteristics of the support team that exists in modern age, continuity Batman. These characteristics are familiar, but aren't necessarily where you would expect to find them. Paul Pope is a clever geezer.
Also, Pope fully utilises the full history of the Batman lore. There are constant references to 1939. Indeed, the Batman costume owes more to the original Bob Kane look, that any recent 'looks'. There are nods to Batman Year One, DKR amongst others. There is also an assumption by Pope (and he's right) that the regular Batman reader will readily accept other men under the Batman cowl (Jean-Paul Valley and Dick Grayson, for example) and that the reader will just get on with it. Truthfully, this book really feels like a logical continuation from the Year One rebirth, and is clever enough to accept the history to incorporate it into its own as cloudy, mythical history.
The pace of the first few pages is a testament to a true master of storytelling in comics, we are immediately engaged in the chase, and before we even wonder what the hell is going on, we are dumped with information. Hell, you could even argue that Pope knew what that the reader and the 'evil government watchers' are thinking the exact same thing. When the 'evil government' see the 'Bat-Man of Gotham' footage, it is the first time, they're world has seen him, and know as little about this character than we do!
The storytelling is also brilliant. Pope expects you, an intelligent reader, is clever enough to understand the intricacies of a thoroughly engrossing plot- which makes Pope's Batman less of a caped crusader and more dark knight detective... And the plot twist is brilliantly executed. And like all great works of fiction, leaves you with questioning what happens next. This is what I like to call Clever Comics!
The genius of this series has seems to have slipped under the radar by the fanboys. What is even stranger here is that this story won the Eisner for best series in the year of it release, this is an important point as the only other Batman story to appear as a winner is DKR. However, you can regularly see a complete NM set of this story on eBay slip through at a bargainous rates. Even more interestingly, you rarely hear anyone rave about it on forum boards.
Therefore, the only reason I can muster is this: that the title itself is 'Batman: Year 100'. In an industry were 'Spiderman 2099', 'Detective Comics One Million' and other future incarnations of classic, contemporary comic book heroes tend to dilute an already cool concept (regardless how well they're done), I think that most readers were deeply suspicious of the book. In comics books there are way too many alternate takes on any big name superhero, and I have read Batman used as an old man, as a vampire, and as a robot. It's true: it is possible to be jaded by too much variation. Especially, when a lot of it was full of half-baked concepts and poorly executed world views. In short Numbers in a comic book title are usually a Bad thing.
Shame, as I think that this is a book doesn't deserve a reputation just as a critically lauded Batman that punters won't risk stumping up their hard earned cash like they would if it were DKR or Watchmen. For those people, I'll categorically state that it really is up there with DKR, Arkham Asylum and Killing Joke! Maybe this fact can be quickly changed.
So spread the word, Batman Year 100 is that Brilliant. If I was in charge of DC, I'd wine, dine, threaten, beg, and bribe Paul Pope to give me a sequel.