Sunday, October 16, 2011

Paul Pope's "Batman: Year 100" (Steak Knives)

'Imagine this as a Batman story 'told' 100 years from now, rather than a Batman story that takes place 100 years in the future.' 
This is a good enough recommendation (from my new local comic book guys at Conspiracy Comics) to pick this up and see what Paul Pope can do to expand the canon.  It's a novel spin on a worn out idea - projecting today's heroes a century into the future.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but Pope's ability to invert this trope and give it new life is a good share of this book's appeal.

Still, the future scene Pope creates is not altogether novel.  It reminds the reader of writers and artists gone before, rather than bravely carving out a new vision of a 2039 metropolis.  

Why the choice of year?  It's exactly 100 years ahead of Batman's first appearance in Detective Comics - an arbitrary start point for the fictional plot, but an essential one for the reader/interpreter.  Pope is playful with the 100 year idea too - adding to the read.  He hints at the identity of the Batman, and his full age/pedigree, but leaves it happily up to the reader to determine or ignore the hints dropped heavily and lightly as the story comes to a close.  The story, on its own merits, is also a good one.  It gives you empathy for the Batman before knowing much about him or the context, and says much about the run down, beaten and abused city he's self-determined to protect and redeem.

A clue?  Batman with 'scary-assed' dentures?
While the art is impressive, it was similar enough in feel to Miller's past Batman/Ronin work that it made me wonder how much better this would be (if at all) if Miller had a crack at the concept.  In fact, I was reminded of Ronin throughout - and while this is certainly a compliment to author and colourist (Villarrubia), it still lacked a full, 100% originality that would place it in Cadillac territory.

Just a great panel. 
Really iconic, given this is
meant to be 2039...
Time will set this piece in its place, I think.  Maybe in 20 years we'll see this in a more matured light.  For now, I say Steak Knives, but reserve the right to change my mind based on where people take the idea from today...

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