Monday November 23, 2009 5:03 am
Batman Unseen: Doug Moench and Kelley Jones Score
Batman is dead, you see, but when you’re DC Comics, the publisher of Batman, and you have a lot of companies that have paid $$$ to put his licensed image on toys and cups and action figures, you still have to publish some Batman comics with the Dark Knight Detective actually in them.
Hence, Batman: Unseen, by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones, which is sub-titled “A Lost Tale of Bruce Wayne as Batman.” That way, we all know that the story took place, but not while Batman was supposedly dead. Moench and Jones have previously collaborated on Batman And Dracula: Red Rain and Batman: Haunted Gotham and several other Batman-related products and it’s great to see them return.
The Unseen part of the title refers to Batman’s new nemesis, a variant on The Invisible Man named Nigel Glass who’s succeeded in creating a liquid that renders him, well, invisible. His transformation by Jones is horrifically beautiful. The uber-villain (the leader of the newly revived Black Mask Gang) who financed Glass’s invention wants this formula for himself, Batman wants to stop Glass, and Glass is out for vengeance against all those who harshed his crazy. One other small story detail: it appears that Bats is worried he’s losing his ability to strike fear into the hearts of men (and with good reason).
Moench (who even writes clever chapter titles) has a great handle on Batman - he’s never so dark that he’s insane and unlikable. His Batman has a clipped, no-nonsense manner about him (much like old-school Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes).
Batman’s relationship with Commissioner Gordon remains consistent and believable; two old warriors of Gotham again fighting some wacko villain. And Jones’ art gives off a slick Bernie Wrightson-ish vibe mixed in with sharp angles, imaginative layouts and a cape so pointy it’ll cut glass while it pokes your eyes out.
Batman: Unseen appears to have been in the works for some time since the dates on Kelley Jones’s spectacular covers are ‘07. And that’s okay. If it takes awhile to get a Batman story as good as this one and keep it shipping on time, then so be it. Batman: Unseen is a 5-issue mini-series that’s already up to issue #4 (issues 3 and 4 seem to have come out at lightning speed) so you might as well wait for the trade. I’m not because I’m already vested in how this thing turns out and I don’t want to wait.
If you’re looking for a good, solid Batman story this year with not a flight ring, faux Robin or lesbian Batwoman in sight, Batman: Unseen is for you.
[Artwork: an interior panel from Batman: Unseen #1 by Kelley Jones, © DC Comics, Inc.]
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