Monday, 16 September 2013

Batman Noir: Deluxe Edition by Eduardo Risso and Brian Azzarello Review

Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso make up one of comics’ most enduring partnerships. Starting in the late 90s with Jonny Double and moving on to their career-defining Vertigo series 100 Bullets, the pair have created a tremendous comics legacy together. They’ve also done a lot of Batman stories together, all of which are collected together in one “deluxe” hardback edition, stripped of colour, in Batman Noir.

Collected in this book is a Batman/Zsasz short story called Scars from Batman Gotham Knight #8; the graphic novel Batman: Broken City; the Flashpoint mini-series Knight of Vengeance; and the 12-part/12 page Batman story from Wednesday Comics. This last one is a nice addition as Wednesday Comics is unfortunately out of print (at the moment) so this is the only place you can read this story without shelling out a fortune on eBay.

The focus in this book is Risso’s art which is well suited to blacks and whites as his art utilises very heavy black inks and high contrast whites to tell Azzarello’s noir-ish stories, so its a smart move from whoever at DC thought of reissuing the pair’s work as a black and white edition.

The problem is that besides Knight of Vengeance, the stories themselves aren’t very good. The Scars story is very dull and doesn’t give much into Zsasz’s character, while Broken City is a very dreary, overly complex gangster story, a pale shadow of the better kind Azzarello and Risso were telling in 100 Bullets - though Broken City actually works better in black and white to suit the noir-ish tone of Azzarello’s tale. Wednesday Comics’ story is your average noir/femme fatale tale that’s too predictable to be very interesting.

The winner of this collection by a mile is Knight of Vengeance, which was also the only mini-series worth reading in the whole of DC’s Flashpoint nonsense. The story is simply, what if Joe Chill killed Bruce that night instead of his parents Thomas and Martha - would Gotham still have a Batman and what would that Gotham look like? It’s a fascinating story with an excellent twist on who the Joker turns out to be, and well worth reading for that alone, but in black and white? I didn’t find it as effective. Dave Stewart’s sharp colours actually complimented Risso’s art and made the story much more haunting, especially with regards to Joker’s blood-red smile in the shadows, which you don’t see in this edition, just a stark white instead.

And let’s talk about the “deluxe” of the title - a glossy hardcover with a nice dust cover and high quality paper, yes, but glue binding? Not what I’d call deluxe given that all graphic novels are bound by glue these days. And what about the extras - one page featuring an unpublished pin-up of Bane. That’s it. No artist’s sketchbooks or commentary from the artist on how he came about designing certain characters or presenting certain scenes, which is really weird given that this book is all about celebrating Risso the artist. So no, not very deluxe, DC.

Obviously if you’re not a Risso fan or you’ve read Broken City and Knight of Vengeance you can skip this one but if you’ve not read either, this is worth a look if only to save money on buying one book instead of two. But only if you really like Risso’s stuff because I’d still recommend the Dave Stewart coloured Knight of Vengeance story over the one in this book. In the end Batman Noir is a somewhat successful experiment that really should’ve had more for Risso’s fans given that this is supposedly a deluxe edition of his Batman work.

Batman Noir: Eduardo Risso The Deluxe Edition

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