Current Reviews


Batman vs. Aliens V. II #1

Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2002
By: Ray Tate

Writer: Ian Edginton
Artists: Staz Johnson(p), James Hodgkins (i), Gregory Wright(c)
Publisher: DC/Dark Horse

DC teams up with Dark Horse to yet again produce a work that is in all respects superior to either stars' solo comic book forays. Pitting the Dark Knight against a well-known menace in general increases the levels of tension and excitement. We know from the films of what the Aliens are capable. We know going into the story that Batman cannot dare lose this battle. Batman is only human. He cannot like Superman be infected by a Facehugger and survive. Superman in the highly recommended Superman vs. Aliens Volume I managed to earn his victory by reaching yellow sun radiation to once more attain invulnerability thereby precluding the Chestbuster's exit and killing it with his super-regenerative processes. Ian Edginton had to find a means to make this latest duel against these creatures a compelling read without resorting to such a tactic. As Ron Marz did before him in the also highly recommended Batman vs. Aliens Volume I, Mr. Edginton draws the reader into his vortex of imagination by giving the reader what she desperately wishes to see. Batman.

I am a life-long Batman fan, and I hate what Batman has become. A borderline psychotic with a hypocritical lack of morality, Batman of the gimmicky so-called original DC Universe, a designation I find highly insulting, is also portrayed as a cretin as well as a manipulative bastard not above spying upon and selling out his so-called friends. I despise this Batman. Fortunately, that Batman does not live in Batman vs. Aliens. The Batman who fights the monsters is the Dark Knight with whom every true Batman fan can relate. He in fact would feel more at home in the animated universe of the Cartoon Network than the alienating lack of continuity at DC comics.

A consummate detective exemplified in terse dialogue that reveals his deductive powers, Batman also remembers that he took part in the last adventure involving Aliens which is a boon since it would have been silly for him playing catch-up to the audience who sees the Alien on the cover and witnessed the gripping period prologue. Edginton further believably portrays Batman as a hunter, a tracker and the man who has "a matchless knowledge of the city.": John Byrne Man of Steel. This knowledge and skill helps Batman but does not end his acid-blooded problems. For that, Batman uses his utility belt--Yes!--as well as his resourceful, adaptive ability to win the day.

Allegedly Batman vs. Aliens is set in the Gotham City of the present, but this is inacurate. Despite Batman looking like the Year One version Jim Lee prefers, Superman, as mentioned by a newspaper in one scene, is dead. A pity since in the both instances that Superman was presumed dead, Batman's ears were longer and he wore a yellow moon around the smaller bat symbol on his chest. Despite not carrying an elseworld brand, there is no doubt that Batman vs. Aliens is an elseworld like all the other Dark Horse team-ups. We are better off for the fact. First, the characterization of Batman can be quintessential Batman. You cannot believably characterize the continuity Batman as a hero without making drastic changes to the DC universe. A big one would been having Batman call in the Justice League to fix an earthquake ravaged Gotham: an event that did not occur in this series else the chamber in which the Aliens are disturbed would have already been destroyed or breached. A Justice League ready to aid Batman should he have the intelligence and humility to call therefore may not exist. Indeed, all the heroes populating this elseworld could have only been Batman and Superman. You can even imagine Diana not coming to man's world. Thus, Ian Edginton attends to the little things that tend to snowball and destroy a good story premise. He suggests that Batman is the only hero who can stop the Aliens.

Besides the more recognizable characterization and the continuity amendments, Mr. Edginton further distinguishes his story from the current heartless dreck being feted as wonderfully fantastic by other critics. James Gordon is the Commissioner and Batman's friend. Jim Gordon has been missing for over a year in Batman's stories ever since the stupid, stupid "Officer Down" was allowed to happen. James Gordon is integral to Batman's adventures, and it was a foolish beyond foolish decision to remove him from office. James Gordon helps keep Batman human. Jim in one scene feels hurt that Batman would keep important information from him. Jim and Batman trust each other implicitly. The Dark Knight explains his motives because they are not apparent, and he must preserve the trust they share. Trust is earned not given blindly. The reaction we see from Jim while the only note of humor to be found in the suspenseful, action-filled work also reveals to the reader that Batman had Jim's best interest at heart. The scene shows that while Batman may keep secrets his rationale must be driven by the greater good. To reveal what he knew about the Aliens before first determining that these are what Gotham now faces would have been irresponsible.

Mr. Edginton brings in the real world momentarily to his adventure. The real world, and this is what many a writer fails to fathom, cannot deal with a nightmare beyond our meager imaginations. If it could cope with such horror, there would be no need for Batman, and Batman, Mr. Edginton stresses, is needed.

To my knowledge Ian Edginton has never had a Batman story published before this one. He nails the character with a startling ease. Staz Johnson however has had experience drawing the Dark Knight in a short-run for Detective Comics. There he showed promise. Here the promise is met with a professionalism that's marked by strong anatomy--indeed Batman's every muscle can be seen rippling beneath his costume--and a strong sense of interaction between characters. Whether Batman battles Aliens or consults with Jim, the characters appear to be in the same scene rather than off somewhere in their own dimension to paraphrase the crew of the Satellite of Love.

Mr. Johnson erects a sense of place with detailed architecture that combines skyscrapers with the more classic gray stone of the late Anton Furst who created Gotham for Tim Burton's Batman. He evokes mood and atmosphere in the dark arena of the Aliens and a nineteenth century mad scientist's laboratory. The Batcave in comparison actually looks homey. Inker James Hodgkins refines Mr. Johnson's work with precision, unbusy inking. Gregory Wright finishes the presentation with eerie colors that accent an otherworldly design.

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