Writer/Artist: Paul Pope, Jose Villarrubia(c)
Last issue of Batman: Year One-Hundred was a breathless chase followed by the dramatic life-saving actions of a canny surgeon. Paul Pope skillfully conducted all of the scenes. It would have been very difficult for Pope to maintain the energy and the immediate hook of the premiere. This second issue offers the reader a chance to relax. Pope ratchets down the pulse-pounding action, but the author and artist still offers much for a Batman fan.
Paul Pope does not explicitly say whether or not Bruce Wayne roams this future Gotham, but I remain convinced that somehow; Pope's Batman is the genuine article. He's not the borderline, mistake-prone psychotic whose paranoia has swept out of control. This is Batman, "world's greatest detective" and acknowledged successor to Sherlock Holmes and the Shadow.
Batman in Year One-Hundred is brilliant. He's not just brilliant in a way that we understand. He's brilliant in a way that goes beyond our simple definition. After surviving the gunshot wound and the surgery last issue, Batman's memory has become fuzzy. He does not remember the events that led to his being shot. Batman's solution involves meditation and guided imagery to free the blocked memories. This scene, among many, convinces me that the mystery man in Year One-Hundred is Batman.
Batman "sends" himself back to the scene of the crime almost as if he were a dispassionate photojournalist. Pope shows him recalling the events like snap-shots. Batman zooms in on vital clues. He removes extraneous information. He controls his own mind. This has to be Batman, and if he's not Batman, then he damn well should be Batman.
With the police investigation, Pope brings up the legend of the Dark Knight, and this act almost takes the form of a Kolchak paper. The police find traces of Batman going back to his historical beginnings in nineteen-thirty-nine. They find more evidence of his existence in the sixties and the eighties. They find handwriting exactly the same and voiceprints that match. The evidence tallies to Batman an age he cannot possess.
There's nothing supernatural about the Bat. Pope's Batman duplicates many aspects of Batman that have been taken for granted. Batman can be hurt. In an early Bob Kane and Bill Finger adventure, one of Dr. Death's servants shoots Batman. Pope's Batman was shot. He heightened the drama with the surgery and now with this issue shows some of the side effects associated with trauma, which Batman of course mostly overcomes. The way in which Batman assaults the Federal police headquarters in the story recalls the technique used in his first story, The Case of the Chemical Syndicate. Batman instead of using suction cups to scale a building uses rappelling gear to drop down. Pope displays Batman's detective skills. He sees the patterns of things, and his natural curiosity leads him to clues. Pope exemplifies Batman's ties to the pulp heroes of yore. Batman's last gambit alludes to the favorite ploy of the Spider.
This issue Batman gains a Robin, but he's definitely unlike any of those before who worn the little green trunks. Indeed, he's not a costumed character at all. The doctor who operated on him could be considered the flip of the now disgraced Leslie Thompkins, or even Dr. Dundee. The little girl represents a Babs Gordon with legs, and they all give insight into another aspect of Batman. He attracts people. His charisma and his confidence draw people to him, who gladly helps his crusade against crime.
Any true Batman fan simply should not overlook Batman: Year One-Hundred.
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