Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Batman: Through the Looking Glass Review (Bruce Jones, Sam Kieth)

I’m not sure when or even why Lewis Carroll came to be so closely associated with Batman but today there’s a very strong Wonderland presence in Gotham thanks to the character of Jervis Tetch aka The Mad Hatter. To be fair to ol’ Jervy, he’s had his moments. In New 52 The Dark Knight Vol 3: Mad, we got an enthralling Hatter origin and a thrilling Batman tale, and his part of the Arkham City video game was easily one of its highlights, not to mention quite atmospheric. 

Then there’s Batman: Through the Looking Glass from Bruce Jones and Sam Kieth which is disposable junk! 

Batman gets accidentally dosed with hallucinogenic tea and is sucked into a Wonderland adventure where he encounters characters from Carroll’s classic sequel, Through the Looking Glass. The twist is that the characters, though visually similar to Carroll’s creations, represent “real” figures in Gotham society and a murder mystery begins that Batman and “Alice” have to solve. 

Our Alice facsimile is Celia, a childhood friend of Bruce’s who died young. I vaguely recall seeing a girl friend of Bruce’s in other stories of his youth and it might be Celia but it’s more than a little contrived to have her be this incredibly powerful figure in his psyche all of a sudden. Her presence instantly changes his personality to make him desperately clingy to her thus ensuring the two follow each other everywhere and the book can happen. How convenient!

While Jones’ script is a stinker, Sam Kieth is a good fit as the artist on this book. His swirling, fluid art style worked beautifully in The Maxx, another trippy, fantasy comic that blurs the lines between reality and fiction, and stars a big bruiser of a man alongside a waif of a girl. And as Batman’s been drugged, the warped look is appropriate. But even with an appreciation of his art from his work on The Maxx, his illustrations in this book are much more loose and rough than usual, to the point where it looks extremely sloppy, rushed and amateurish. 

Through the Looking Glass is a contrived run-through of Carroll’s characters first and a story second. I kept reading hoping that it wouldn’t be quite so mundane as “Batman in Wonderland” but the book never rises above this conceit. Instead this single idea is run into the ground. Also, this is astonishingly presented as Batman’s first encounter with Jervis, probably so that Batman wouldn’t instantly suss out who’s clearly behind it all – that’s how poorly put-together this story is! 

Batman fan? Lewis Carroll fan? Avoid! Use your vorpal blade on this book – snicker-snack!

Batman: Through the Looking Glass

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