An 80-year retrospective shows the fraught and fascinating evolution of the beloved caped crusader.
Spanning nearly a century, this sprawling anthology traverses Batman’s Detective Comics history, starting with “The Crimson Avenger,” a precursor to Batman from 1938. Later issues from the 1940s introduce Boy Wonder Robin and Two-Face but also lesser-known characters like the Boy Commandos. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Batwoman and Batgirl make their first appearances. As the collection reaches the present day, readers encounter a recognizable cast of characters and the ongoing exploration of Batman’s tortured psyche. Detective Comics is separate from the stand-alone Batman line, and both exist concurrently within the DC Universe. Seeing how the styles, use of color, and text bubbles evolve throughout the decades is compelling; in the early volumes, the issues burst forth with a bright, almost psychedelically hued palette; they later fade to the shadowy palette now associated with the Dark Knight. Narratively, however, readers can see how overt racism and casual misogyny were bandied about in earlier decades and have now changed. Despite past offenses, this look back at an iconic hero is intriguing not only for devout fans, but also for those interested in comics history. In addition to the comics, there are contributions written by fans, including Neil Gaiman and Cory Doctorow, and short biographies of many of the creators who contributed to the collected works.
Engrossing on many levels. (biographies, cover galleries) (Graphic fiction. 13-adult)