Batman Year 100 (DC Comics)

batsheaderSuper-stylized artist Paul Pope puts his stamp on the Caped Crusader , echoing the slick style of the best Hong Kong gangster films.

 

 

230 pgs. FC; $19.99 softcover

(W / A: Paul Pope)

 

Batman: Year 100 follows a nominal plot in which the ageless, caped one unravels a government conspiracy involving a super-powerful chemical weapon, skirts the relentless FBI of the future, trains Robin, confabs with Oracle, puts a shaky trust in Commissioner Gordon and much more (we're talking about 200-plus pages of doings here). But none of that plot stuff matters. That is, in a year or two, you won't remember any of that, and that's just fine.

 

What overwhelms in this one are the fights and Paul Pope's style.

 

The cover to Batman: Year 100. Click thumbnail for a larger image.Batman is constantly fighting, always punching and roundhouse — kicking, dropping on guys from above, cleaning clocks and taking names, but then, too, receiving at least as many beatdowns as he distributes. It nearly becomes comedic, a la Philip Marlowe — if it's Wednesday, I must be getting the crap beaten out of me. The freely bleeding Batty is just trying to outrun the goon cops answering to a tightly controlled totalitarian government. In a society where secrets are not allowed, they just want to know his name. They hound him, pursue him, shoot at him, set dogs on him, use helicopters, page after page after page. The effect is like a nightmare in which the dreamer is pursued for hours. The reader literally starts to pant – when will it end?

 

The answer is never, of course, and that extended chase keeps things moving. In the bonus endpapers that come with this $19.99 book, Pope explains that he's influenced by Hong Kong action movies, and it shows. That whole genre of slick, stylish gangster films plays out in frozen tableaus panel by panel. You know the guy isn't going to die — he's Batman — but in what clever ways isn't he going to die? The motorcycle chase scenes are beautifully drawn, with Batman's nifty-sweet bike rocketing through Gotham at night, his ever-dramatic cape trailing, light glinting from metal and city.

 

Pope may be one of the more outré stylists working in comics, but that hasn't stopped DC from letting him limn Batman with idiosyncratic big lips, shoulder pads and lace-up knee-high combat boots (!!) no less than six times now. (There's even a Paul Pope-style Batman mini-statue that DC sells). The latest adventure may be the weirdest, with our hero putting on hideous fake teeth that curve every which way to frighten the bad guys real good. Pope's characters, with their long faces, and his hinky ink-style, twisting in on itself, is instantly recognizable. (Could he be Richard Sala's kid brother?) He puts it to good use in a Gotham that is all night and shadow, blood and bruises, fear and more fear, closing in.

 

You won't take Pope's characterization of Batman with you — he's here, punching and kicking, but there's none of the black humor that has made him so much more than a gladiator with a Batarang in past incarnations. There is the relentless acceleration of pursuit, though, and the desperation of our hero, a fun supporting cast, and Pope's borderline-freakish style, colored in lovely, murky shades by Jose Villarrubia. | Byron Kerman

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