This title, in many ways, is a clever mix of ideas. Famed Japanese manga and anime creator Kia Asamiya tackles one of our most distinctly American heroes, Batman. DC Comics handed the keys to Gotham over and brought in Max Allan Collins, of Road to Perdition fame, to adapt Asamiya’s words, and released the title in a handsome hardcover edition. So what’s the first thing I noticed about this historic new Batman tale?
Well, for one thing, the character profiles. I don’t mean the in-depth psychiatric portraits either, though everyone’s quirks, from Batman’s to his fans across the globe, are elegantly displayed. Each shot from any character reveals an enormous, aquiline nose that would make Caesar proud. Not that I mind, and Mr. Wayne always did have a sharp profile, but everyone’s nose seems like it could easily slice up the scenery.
Don’t let those noses distract you, however, at least not after the first few startling appearances. In this title, Mr. Asamiya deftly lays out cultural differences and similarities with a keen eye for what brings all of us closer together: the media. If that means delving into the darker side of fandom that unites cultures in media obsessions, so be it — Asamiya goes right for the life blood of mass culture. Batman here has to face a most disturbing trend. Archenemies he knows to be locked safely away at Arkham keep dramatically appearing to challenge him only to suddenly die a wretched and miserable death within hours of being caught. Each phantom of his past, even the pitch perfect Joker, turns out to be someone entirely different — a fan so taken with Batman himself, and his enemies, to pay the ultimate price for a moment of nefarious glory. In his investigations, however, Batman finds all roads lead to Japan.
The artwork is in some ways typical of manga, particularly in Wayne’s love interest and investigative reporter (Bruce can really pick ’em, can’t he?), Yuko. At the same time, the gray tones and crisp lines also pay homage to their origins in American comic art. The two styles blend impressively well. The story is an interesting interrogation of the fan mentality, and what responsibility heroes, media and otherwise, have to their public, and gets deep into the mind of what divides admiration from obsession. The dialog, despite a few clunky bits where I felt like I was trapped in a bad noir film, tells the story well. The romance felt especially phoned in and kept making me wish for a woman worthy of Batman. The action and atmosphere, in the end, make up for such shortcomings and deliver a classical Batman tale well worth the effort.
Batman: Child of Dreams
by Kia Asamiya
with Max Allan Collins
DC Comics 2003