Taking place in the early years of Batman’s career we have a story that involves Hugo Strange weeding himself into the public eye and leveraging himself into a position that grants him access to the Gotham City Police Departments files on Batman. He uses his position to figure out Batman’s true identity.
Throughout this story, through the dialogue of Hugo Strange, we get to hear his analysis about what makes Batman tick. A lot of these theories are often correct and give insight into Batman’s psyche. The irony is that Hugo Strange is just as obsessive and at times much more unhinged than he believes the Batman to be.
The relationship between Jim Gordon and Batman is also tested here, as Jim Gordon is publicly made the head of Batman’s Task Force. While trying to continue to help Batman problems arise as his Task Force spy on Gordon and find that he has been assisting Batman.
Hugo Strange despite being unhinged is very intelligent and battles Batman psychologically. Whether it’s creating a new brutal vigilante or having an imposter dress as Batman, he discredits Batman and attacks him from all angles, constantly goading him as he does so. This creates a situation where Hugo Strange is almost untouchable as any violent action from Batman would ruin his image even further.
This is a must-read for fans of Hugo Strange. He is completely psychotic, intelligent and manipulative and this makes him a difficult opponent for Batman to Encounter.
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This collection of Batman tales focuses on Batman earlier years of crime-fighting. Each story is a separate story portraying Batman’s first run-ins with popular villains from his rogue’s gallery.
In the first tale, we see that Batman is still building his arsenal and has his first encounter with Poison Ivy. As is often the case with Poison Ivy storylines, Batman falls victim to her toxins and needs to find the cure. There isn’t a lot to this storyline and the plot is a little thin, however, we do get to see a younger, naive Ivy which is great for Poison Ivy fans as it indicates that the beautiful seductress we all know and love was at one point a little green.
The second story gives insight into Edward Nigma’s loneliness as a child which led him developing his know it all persona. This need to be recognized and praised instead of being a laughing stock allows us to see a side of the Riddler we aren’t used to. What this story illustrates brilliantly is that the Riddler can be a successful criminal and at times can outsmart Batman. However, it’s his arrogance that often leads to his downfall.
The third story takes Batman’s main weapon of fear and turns it against him. Drawing Parallels to the Wizard of Oz and Sleepy Hollow, the Scarecrow’s origin is fleshed out. We get to see why he is obsessed with fear and what led to his creation of the Scarecrow. We even see how he managed to use his skeletal frame to his advantage. Similar to the Riddlers origin, this story shows how the bullied becomes the bully.
The fourth story is, in my opinion, the weakest story of the bunch. This is the origin story of the Manbat. Professor Langstrom attempts to cure his deafness by taking a serum that he has developed. At first, the results are as expected but then things go horribly wrong. This is your stereotypical mad scientist turns himself into a monster story that has been seen over and over. It’s not a bad story but it doesn’t bring anything new to the table.
Overall this is an enjoyable collection of stories, each story is different and each one adds to Batman’s earlier years as the Dark Knight. It is certainly worth a read if you are a new reader and wish to understand some of Batman’s more popular villains.
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Batman: The Long Halloween
Batman: The Man Who Laughs
This is a very unique tale of Batman, with this story we get to creatively see what would happen to Batman if he was addicted to drugs. Despite the title of the story being called venom, the drugs in development are not named throughout the story. However as the drugs alter the user’s strength, are developed into a liquid form and the finale of the story takes place in Santa Prisca, it is safe to assume that this story illustrates the origin of the venom formula that grants Bane his superhuman strength. It also indicates that Batman contributed towards the creation of Bane in a small way.
Due to Batman’s lack of strength, he is unable to save a young girl named sissy. Annoyed by this event as well as it happening early in his career when he struggled to accept failure, he is manipulated into taking the drug to enhance his strength and prevent him from ever being too weak again. At first, the drug helps but he soon becomes more aggressive and has trouble using his mind to focus on detective work. It’s not long before Batman realizes that he has become dependant on the drugs and is asked to kill for his next fix.
One of the greatest aspects of this story is Batman’s character. His self-critique of failure and personally taking the blame for the child’s death illustrates how determined he is to save everybody in Gotham. It’s also an unreasonable goal and shows how dedicated Batman is to the cause. This is a man who genuinely doesn’t want any casualties on his watch. Later in the story, we witness his inner strength towards detoxing. This gives the reader insight into the strength and discipline of Batman. He is willing to do what is necessary for the greater good.
Some people dislike this story as it shows Batman in a more vulnerable state as well being an addict which is unlikely of Batman who has always been an incredibly disciplined character. However, Batman does make mistakes especially in the earlier years of his career but it all contributes towards him becoming a force to be reckoned with. This is a very daring story but some people who don’t want to see a weaker and vulnerable Batman may wish to skip this one.
This is another tale that takes place in Batman’s first few years of his crime-fighting career. In this instance, the Batman must go up against a child killer named Mr. Whisper who appears to have returned from the dead. Batman has to deal with the paranormal in this story, which is a little different to his usual rogue’s gallery or detective work. As the story progresses the story becomes more and more creepy.
What this story does look into are nightmares that Bruce has involving his father and the guidance that he takes from these coupled with the self-blame that he suffers from there death. This story allows us to peek into Bruce’s childhood and witness the abuse that he suffered at the hands of the stories villain Mr. Whisper. If not speaking to his father, Bruce as a child may have fell victim to Mr. Whisper which means that by the end of the story Mr. Whisper actually set up his own demise completely by accident.
The story is a good story that moves along at a steady pace. There is not a lot of depth to it but if you want to see Batman go up against the weird and macabre then this is a story for you. If you give it a miss you won’t be missing out on any crucial information about Batman.
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Batman: Four of a Kind
Batman: Haunted Knight
Taking place prior to, alongside and then finishing after the events of Batman: Year One this tale adds to the development of Batman as a character. In this story, Batman still isn’t the professional that we know today, with little additions of dialogue such as discussing adding additions to an old cave under the mansion with Alfred, we are reminded that Batman is still new at fighting crime. His detective skills come into play more in this tale than they did in Batman: Year One but they are not fully developed. He takes a little longer to put two and two together but this makes him more believable as a new crime fighter.
One of the greatest elements of this story is its mystical undertone. Batman has to deal with a case that has moments of mystery that Batman does not find the answers to and is left to ponder upon. There is also a vaguely mystical link to Bruce Wayne and bats that becomes apparent and happens before he has even conceptualized the idea of Batman. This subtly brings up the question of fate into the mix. Was Bruce Wayne always meant to take on the mantle of a bat?
One thing this story portrays greatly is how human Batman was in his early years as Batman. It is commonly known that unlike other superheroes Bruce Wayne is the mask that Batman wears but in this story he still is Bruce Wayne He still feels regret for his actions and tries to help out as Bruce Wayne just as much as Batman, indicating that there was a point in his crime-fighting life that he felt his Batman persona was more important than Bruce Wayne.
This story isn’t the best Batman story and it isn’t the worst. The villain is forgettable and is far more of a challenge to Batman than he should be but this story is about a younger Batman. It adds a lot to understanding Batman and if you want to read about Batman’s earliest days as a vigilante, it is worth the read.
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Batman: The Man Who Laughs
Batman and the Monster Men
Anybody who is a fan of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy will instantly realize upon reading this graphic novel that Batman Begins drew some inspiration from this storyline and fleshed it out even further.
This story is a retelling of Batman’s origins told by the amazing Frank Miller. Unlike Batman Begins t
his story doesn’t dig into what happened to Bruce Wayne while he lived away from Gotham City or how he trained and gained the skills that he needed to become Batman. Instead, this story shows his first year as Batman which makes for an interesting read.
This Batman, although causing his enemies to fear him makes more mistakes than we are used to. This adds a new dimension to Batman’s character illustrating that at the end of the day Batman is a man in a mask. To become the unstoppable force we all know and love he had to make mistakes and perfect his persona.
One of the more interesting elements of this story is the other characters involved in its plot. Jim Gordon who is not the commissioner yet is the driving force behind this story. We witness him moving to Gotham City and joining a corrupt police force, where his morals make him a target. He has nobody to turn to for help and has to fight for good alone in a situation where most would buckle and go against their morals.
Fans of Batman are familiar with Jim Gordon and Batman’s friendship but this story looks at the time before they could trust each other. As Batman is a vigilante, the cops hunt him down, including Jim Gordon and its through his run-ins with Batman that he starts to see this incorruptible force that gets the job done.
The story has other subplots that aren’t necessary to the story but are nice additions. Harvey Dent is introduced as the District Attorney and is indicated as one of the first people to trust and work with Batman. Selina Kyle’s origin as Catwoman is brief but is also shown to have been inspired by Batman’s actions.
All in all, this is a great Batman story, it has a great plot, great art and acts as a brilliant starting point for new readers wanting to read the Batman comics.
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Batman: Haunted Knight
Batman: The Long Halloween
Batman: Arkham Asylum