The oracular beard with Jared Conti

By Jared Conti in Arts & Entertainment

October 13, 2011


Halloween is right around the corner, and what better time to get your costume on. I’m all about a little dress-up, so when it comes to comics, nobody does it better. So when Batman has his rogues gallery in full force, it’s no wonder they refer to him as The Dark Knight. I got the chance this week to re-read two offerings that I feel are some of the best in Batman’s pantheon of written and visual works. An extra ten points for me for choosing a book with a bangin’ post-apocalyptic feel. Best genre in the biz.

Remember, folks: The bigger the beard, the better the rating!

No Man’s Land
By Greg Rucka

This well-seasoned comic vet may have had some help churning out this novel based on a coupla runs in DC Comics’ continuity, but boy, he really amps up the drama once he gets started on the prose. Poor, poor Batman. His hometown of Gotham City gets hit by some sort of catastrophic plague with an earthquake to follow. And of course you can’t forget about The Penguin, The Joker, Two-Face…and even Lex Luthor.

The villains of the piece are some opportunistic grubbers, at best. Each works of their own accord, not straying beyond their normal lines of uncouthery. What really makes this novel an interesting read is not so much the heroes “fighting crime” but the psychological trauma that each go through when the city they love is taken from them. Just what will the good guys do when they can’t fight for what they once did?

Re-reading a book is akin to having a conversation with a friend you haven’t had contact with in awhile. I knew what the end result was going to be, but it was nice to see the story peppered with references and foreshadowing throughout. The ending was “killer” of course, but it was good to see how you got there. You realize things about the person you hadn’t before, and the story changes. You change, too.

Facial Hair Rating: Maxie Zeus. Even though he never showed up in the book, this is the only Batman character to have a beard.

Batman: Hush
By Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee, Scott Williams

“Criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot.” So says Batman. The Caped Crusader is faced by a bevy of bad guys, all intent on taking Batman down. Problem is, their motives aren’t up to par with their usual activity. It doesn’t take long until Bats realizes that they’re being brought together by some mastermind, orchestrating all of their moves. Villain and hero are likewise used by this super bad guy, and all the clues lead Batman to globe-hopping.

As with the title, Hush, it is also the name of the baddie. It’s a secret the way it all comes together, pieces of puzzles fitting together and opening up more so that they extend beyond their straight border edges. The rogue’s gallery comes out to play, everyone used like so many chess pieces. It’s all a game by “Hush” and one that’s played to the hilt.

The art is spectacular, and what makes this especially gorgeous is the fact that it’s one of DC Comics’ “Absolute” editions. Not only is it a collected graphic novel of all twelve issues, but they’re printed bigger so you can really get into the art and feel the story that much more. This edition is bookended at the front with an introduction by Loeb and Lee, but at the end is a “Easter egg” section where Lee shows us some of his favorite panels and explains how and why he came up with them.

Facial Hair Rating: Villainous Handlebar Moustache. Seriously, if you’re not reading at least the comic, it would be criminal.

Posted in: A&E

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