Review: Batman: The Black Glove collected hardcover (DC Comics)

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Monday, November 03, 2008

[Contains spoilers for Batman: The Black Glove.]

Let me tell you ... Batman: The Black Glove scared the piss out of me.

I think scary comics are a really tough thing to write. A comic can easily be interesting or exciting, sometimes funny or moving--but to write a comic book that will scare you when you're sitting safe at home in your living room, now that seems a tough thing to do. So far I've enjoyed Grant Morrison's Batman run (well, Batman and Son, at least), but The Black Glove truly astounded me.

It was the first of two stories found in Black Glove, that of Batman and the Silver Age Batmen of All Nations trapped on an island and hunted by a killer, that I found so effectively frightening. Morrison plays on old Clue/Murder on the Orient Express tropes here, likely intentionally, isolating his detective among a group of suspects, any of whom could be the killer.

The power of the story comes in well-timed gore and surprises (the killer wearing Mayhew's face, literally, for instance, and the explosion of the Batplane), and also in masterfully quick characterization. Morrison makes us care for the characters quickly--not just Batman and Robin, but also the Knight, Squire, Red Raven, and others--and then just as quickly imperils them; I thought the ticking bomb in Knight's stomach was especially effective.

Of course, this story wouldn't be half as effective as it was without the moody, stylized art of J. H. Williams. Jones offers slow reveals, ever-present shadows, and pages upon pages of art deco action. As the heroes are picked off one by one, Williams had me believing the killer could be lurking anywhere in the corners, just off the edge of the page. Brilliant work by all accounts.

Morrison's second story picks up on threads from Batman and Son, bringing back three mysterious pseudo-Batman. We get much more detail this time around, learning that the policemen were volunteers for failed experiments to create Batman replacements, experiments done by the same doctor who once experimented on Batman, and possibly left within him hypnotic suggestions. While this story was not quite as intense as the first, Morrison reveals the nature of three Batmen while still keeping the reader guessing into Batman: RIP.

The one part of Black Glove I didn't like, perhaps, was the villain Black Glove him- or herself. Batman speculates in the end that the Black Glove might be a hidden mastermind, plotting against the Batman for years; to me, this sounds remarkably like Hush. In addition, I wonder if the Black Glove can really live up to his own hype; when finally revealed, Black Glove will have to have some kind of origin that posits him as a villain for reasons of upbringing or attitude--it just seems that all villains, especially large and hidden ones, ultimately fail to meet their build-up, and I worry that the same may become true here.

[Contains full covers.]

If you're looking for a collection to enjoy around Halloween time, however ... that first story is really scary!

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2 comments:

  1. Agree with this review completely. Morrison's run on Batman has been nothing short of fascinating, and it's only gotten better as it goes along. Just wait until you get into R.I.P... that story has been frying my nerves for the past few months.

    I bought the original comics collected in "The Black Glove", but I liked them so much I went ahead and bought the hardback, too.

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  2. Would you mind telling me what the Hardcover is like, you know without the slipcase. I usually try to factor in how cool the book looks to decide weather to get the paperback or hardcover edition.

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