Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

2 Graphic Novels Carry on Story of the Caped Crusader

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

2 Graphic Novels Carry on Story of the Caped Crusader

Article excerpt

Storytellers can't seem to help themselves when it comes to putting their own spin on Batman, and it's not just Christopher Nolan's trilogy of films. Two recent graphic novels offer fresh takes on the Caped Crusader, created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939. The releases have little in common except for small threads that tie them to the sprawling web of all that has come before. For instance, both story lines include the perfecting of one of Batman's favorite gadgets, a grappling gun that allows him to rappel tall buildings and look cool doing it.

* "Batman: Earth One," by writer Geoff Johns and illustrator Gary Frank (DC Comics, $22.99).

Writer Johns, also the creative leader of DC Entertainment, gave himself a license to rewind to the moment of young Bruce Wayne's transformation from schoolboy to vigilante in a bat suit. In "Batman: Earth One," butler Alfred arrives on the scene as a tough war veteran.

Oswald Copplepot, aka The Penguin, and a disturbing serial killer are among the big baddies, with good guys Detective Jim Gordon and daughter Barbara and inventor Lucius Fox also in the mix.

Mr. Johns dedicates the reboot to "our beloved archivist Roger Bonas," and he shows an agility for mixing long-standing Bat-lore with sensibilities attuned to a Dark Knight for today's world.

The story is dark, bloody and beautifully cinematic, aided by Mr. Frank's unflinching, naturalistic style. He pulls the reader into action sequences as assuredly as he delivers faces in close-up, contorted with emotions, that pop like special effects on page after page.

If there's a question mark about whether "Earth One" will have a Volume 2, it seems to have an answer in the intriguing final panel.

* "Batman: Death by Design" by writer Chip Kidd and illustrator Dave Taylor (DC Comics, $24.99).

The involvement of award-winning designer Chip Kidd is the first hint that style will be a factor in "Batman: Death by Design. …

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