Saturday, June 20, 2009

Batman : The Black Casebook

Since this book ties into Grant Morrison's recent storylines in Batman, you could argue that it's seriously belated. I won't dispute that idea. But I'm glad DC decided to publish it at all, as it's surely one of the quirkier Batman books to come down the pike in many a moon.

Here's DC Comics' page for Batman : The Black Casebook. Ignore that blurb about an Alex Ross cover, assuming it stays there. The actual cover is as depicted. I'm not certain how I feel about the "rough notebook" look from an aesthetic standpoint, but it does go hand-in-hand with the high concept behind this collection.

The conceit is that Batman keeps a journal of all his weirdest and most improbable cases - the so-called "Black Casebook". This is essentially code for those wacky stories from the 1950s and early 1960s where Batman fought monsters and aliens and found himself knee deep in some of the gimmickiest stuff of his fictional career. This book gives those tales their due, with special attention to ones Morrison referenced in his recent work.

I'm not going to rehash every story in this trade paperback. C'mon, that'd be silly. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find some genuinely interesting psychology at play in a few of them. I won't accuse them of being particularly deep, but they were a little more challenging than I might have expected. Nicely played.

In a wildly different sort of enthusiasm, I'm thrilled to FINALLY read the famous "Batmen of All Nations" story. The "foreign Batmen" are all rather corny national stereotypes, but that sort of nuttiness was and is exactly what I love about these old comics. It's so fun to get this story and its sequel from World's Finest in a single volume.

One of the things I usually don't like about these collections, and this book is no exception, is that it's darn near impossible to not get "repeats" of stories from other collections. I know I have at least two of them from this tome in other trades. I can only imagine how frustrating this must be to the hardcore buyer!

Also, maybe it's just my copy, but the contents page is a little blurry and hard to read. Off-register, maybe? I'm terribly behind in how these books get produced anymore.

Minor complaints aside, I still think this is an extremely worthy addition to my bookshelf. Perhaps you will agree.

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