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DC Retroactive: Batman - The 1990s

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DC Retroactive: Batman - The 1990s

Credits

  • Words: Alan Grant
  • Art: Norm Breyfogle
  • Inks: Steve Mitchell
  • Colors: Adrienne Roy, Carlos Badilla, Andrew Elder
  • Story Title: "One Night in the Rest of My Life", "Trash"
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $4.99
  • Release Date: Aug 17, 2011

In the 1990s, Batman was a different beast of the night. Tim Drake had just started his tenure as Robin, Dick Grayson as Batman was just a temporary thing, and his reach didn't span internationally in a Batman Incorporated. In the 2010s, Tim Drake flies high as Red Robin, Dick Grayson is ending his second run as Batman, and an international team of Bat-operatives extend far beyond Gotham City. Alan Grant, veteran of Detective Comics and Batman: Shadow of the Bat, returns to a tale he wrote in the 1990s and sees what happened in the aftermath. Norm Breyfogle, artist of that tale, rejoins him. How does the shadow of the 1990s fall over the incorporated era of the 2010s?

The Retroactive series has been an entertaining set of experiments from DC. At a time when they're both criticized and commended for their New 52 initiative, they're taking the month before to look back on the stories from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. In these books, they reunite writers and artists with titles they were known for. Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle both worked on various Batman tales from the 1990s, and as seen in the back-up tale, did the appropriate thing in finding a moment in a previously published story where they can expound on the story. To even enhance the retro nature of the books, they're printed on the old newsprint-esque paper of the era.

The Batman of the 1990s was a different character. Sure, he was Bruce Wayne, but the Batman as seen in "Trash" is worried about a date with Vicki Vale, kicks two criminals into a trash compactor killing them (accidentally), and is a solitary character in his own universe; Alfred and Vicki Vale are the only characters of note to appear in this tale. "One Night in the Rest of My Life" doesn't stray too much from this, but even omits Vicki. In this tale, the forgettable villains have moved on with their lives, and a newly-freed Scarface takes the center stage. In the classic tale, Batman fights a more likely enemy, one that Grant Morrison swore off; the common thug. In the more modern tale, Batman fights off a supernatural threat that seems out of place in Batman books. There's a reason why Bruce Wayne died twice; once in Final Crisis for the supernatural element, and once in "Batman RIP" for the more real-world reasoning. When Batman deals with a paranormal enemy on a daily basis, such as Clayface or Poison Ivy, there usually is some real-world logic behind their physicality, but more importantly, there's a psychosis in play. In this case, while the supernatural threat is nothing more than a zombie, the connection to the previous tale makes the psychosis clearer: revenge.

There are parts in both tales that are wonderful, but don't fit in the New DC 52. Norm Breyfogle makes the cowl more expressive than possible; much like Spider-Man, characters with hidden eyes can either rely on comic-like faking of size to replicate human eyes, or body posturing. While not being overly comedic, Breyfogle throws a few small expressions into the eyes that you actually have to try to catch.

There are dozens of reasons to have a skewed vision of this era. Many components are just out of place in a Gotham City run by Grant Morrison. This is a Batman who can see a child die right as he kicks two criminals to their deaths unintentionally, but can balance out the darkness by delivering a baby and saving a new father.

This is a Batman that sees the balance between the light and the darkness, and is an interesting contrast to the world-builder that the current era sees that can be too prone to the shadows. While Batman can find solace in a competent family unit nowadays, this is a Batman that finds solace in the good deeds he does.

This is a Batman that deserves a second look.

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Comments

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Aug 23, 2011 at 4:04am

    Nice review and good catch on Batman dying twice and the reasoning on a larger meta level. Being a huge Breyfogle Batman fan, I keep waiting for a Showcase Grant/Breyfogle Batman collection but it seems they are still blacklisted at DC.

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