Sunday, November 8, 2009

Batman: City of Crime

After the grand 4am debut of this blog I still couldn't sleep and decided to finish Batman: City of Crime. It was written by David Lapham, of Stray Bullets fame, who also drew the covers for the run and did the layout, and penciled by Ramon Bachs.

This run on Detective Comics was in 2005/2006 and went from issues #801 to 808 stop mid arc and the finished up in #811 to 814 (there was a prologue in issue #800 that was also included in the trade). I remember this sort of clearly back the when the run was being published monthly. I started buying Detective Comics because I heard good things about Lapham and I think that at the time I had just finished reading Stray Bullets Book 1: The Age of Nihilism. As fucked up as that book was I liked it a lot. I thought that Lapham crafted a great story as fucked up as it was. I picked up the run for while and then guess what? DC had to stop in the middle of his story so that Detective Comics could tie into War Crimes. Now, mid-arc I'm without an issue for 2 months and I ended up forgetting about. Call it easily distracted or college student can only afford food or comics or I was doing class work. But, I just forgot about the run and didn't pick it up again when it started back up.

That was just a little (or a lot?) of back story. So, why did I decided to read this run? Because I have recently reread the first Stray Bullets book and read the second book Somewhere Out West, and Lapham's OGN (Original Graphic Novel) for DC's Vertigo Imprint and I wanted to read something more but something different by the man. (I haven't read Young Liars yet (From Veritog/DC) but I will, and it sucks that it's canceled.)

Having read the Stray Bullet books and Silverfish I came to the conclusion that in writing people David Lapham has no hope, in anyone or anything. Even the "good" endings are fucked. Going into this Batman run I was expecting really fucked up shit to happen, and it didn't disappoint. His outlook on people and what they can do to each other knows no bounds. Drugs, Insanity, Murder, Rape, Arson, Suicide, all this and more in Batman: City of Crime.

But I gotta say this. It's a great look at Batman in the bowls and hopelessness of shittiest parts of Gotham City, and Batman overcoming all that and still being Batman, no matter how many times he's fucked up, no matter how many times the people of the city have fucked up, and no matter how many times the city itself has tried to fuck him up. The story is set of by one event that spirals out of control and bout does it ever.

I knew that this was going to be a dark story but I had some hope (very little) that things might turn out for the good at the end, and in some ways it did and in someways it didn't. I don't want to give the ending away but it does leave you with a small sense of feeling good and at the same time a kick in the balls.

I had a few problems with the run though. One of the things was the pacing there was a mystery that was introduced in issue #802 that doesn't get resolved until the last page. That was a little annoying because even though it was Batman's drive to solve that mystery, there was a lot of other things going on that the mystery got pushed to the side and it wasn't until Batman mentioned it again that I was like, Oh yeah, that.

Also felt that to tell this particular story 12 issues was too long. As much as I liked the outside narration describing all the different scenes and people in Gotham some of it was not needed, especially to highlight the hopelessness of all the people, sometimes it just got too fucking depressing. I would have preferred two 6-issue arcs. I would have loved to seen Lapham's take on The Joker or The Riddler.

Outside of the main characters like Batman, Robin, Jim Gordon, a few villains, and Alfred, it was a little hard to tell the difference between some characters, at least for me. But at the same time there was also a good balance of showing all the kinds of different people in Gotham City. One thing that Lapham liked to show was that it doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, bad things happen to you and it's your choice to deal with the consequences of it all. The rest of the art was great because the narrative didn't get in the way of the storytelling of the drawing. Some of my favorite panels where of Batman just hanging out on top of buildings reflecting, thinking, and at the same time being more comfortable there than at a party as Bruce Wayne. Also the attention to detail in the slums part of Gotham City was well done. And I love it when writers and artists use Gotham City as a character more than as a place setting.

This book is highly recommended but with warning. Don't go into this book happy because it'll knock the smile off your face pretty fucking hard.


Max Criden said...

Sounds good, man! I really enjoyed your analysis. I read the book as it was coming out in singles years ago, but I don't think I remember it very well. I love Lapham and I like Bachs a lot, though, so maybe it's time for a re-read. How did you like Stray Bullets vol. 2?

Antonio P. Cuneo said...

I liked the 2nd volume a lot. Surprised by how much of it actually stayed with the same characters and I didn't find it as depressing or fucked as the first volume. Now if I could just get my hands on volume 3.