{Review} Batman: Prey

The front cover of Batman: Year One. I love how creepy and awesome it looks!
 

“Set in the Year One time frame, Batman must confront the sinister Dr Hugo Strange, a man with a deadly secret, out to stop and, if necessary, kill the Dark Knight. Who is the bloodthirsty Night Scourge, how does he link in with the police department, and where exactly does the mysterious Catwoman fit into all this?” *

I have been meaning to follow the Batman chronology for a while now, but I’ve only really come round to doing it fairly recently (this year, in fact). I love how, with every Batman story I read, I learn something new about him! Reading chronologically really helps, but I’ve been using this as my guide. As far as I know, there are no official DC listings for a Batman chronology, despite the wealth of comics about the Dark Knight that have been around for more than seventy years (Batman was first introducted in 1939). It suggested that after Batman: Year One (review here), I read Batman: Prey, so I dutifully obeyed.

Prey is estimated to occur shortly after Year One, so it is no surprise that we still see Batman as the dark, brooding hero coming to terms with his new mission as protector of Gotham City. Despite his best efforts to prove that he is actually one of the good guys, he is still a highly targeted vigilante for many of its citizens, particularly the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD). At the moment, his only friends (and the only ones who know his real identity as Bruce Wayne) are the ever-loyal butler,  Alfred, and the detective-turned-captain James Gordon.

Prey begins with a police sting operation designed to catch a drug dealer who could reveal the syndicate behind it all. Before the GCPD could close in on the guy, though, Batman has shaken the guy and disrupted the whole operation. One of the officers, Max Cort, gets thoroughly infuriated by this and reports to an indifferent Gordon, who defends Batman by insisting that he is actually good for morale. In the next scene, Gordon is shown at a television show, being interviewed along with Gotham City Mayor Kauss and Dr. Hugo Strange, a well-known psychiatrist. Dr. Strange offers some insight against Batman, analyzing why he wears a costume, etc. The Mayor is very much impressed with him that he hires the man for his services in a newly-enforced “Task Force Vigilante” against Batman, unbeknownst to anyone in GCPD prior to Kauss’s announcement on-air. Against Gordon’s wishes, the Mayor assigns him as the head of said task force. As the story unravels, we get to see different sides of this Hugo Strange, as well as Max Cort, and even glimpses of Catwoman in between.

Even though I did not finish Prey in a day as planned, it stuck with me long enough for me to really get a kick out of it. I especially liked the latter parts, where the climax of the story is. The characters seemed very real, and were very convincing in their roles. Dr. Strange was, well, really strange, but more than that, he was downright creepy with his obsession and, to say the least, he was insane in the worst sense of the word. Max Cort proved to be as idiotic as Gordon thought he would be, all brawn with little brain, believing he could actually beat Batman! Tsk. As if. A thing that I would have liked to see more of was Catherine, the Mayor’s daughter. She was established at the beginning to be a very opinionated woman, but later on she just served as a pawn in the power play between Dr. Strange and Batman. Her faith in the Dark Knight was pleasantly unexpected, which naturally made me want to see more of her in a setting that gave her freedom to do whatever she liked. 

On the other hand, the art was, for me, exquisite. The illustrations by Paul Gulacy and Terry Austin and the coloring by Steve Oliff were brilliantly done, and the fact that it was made in the 90’s made it even more impressive. I was rereading some parts of Prey for this review earlier and I thought, ‘This is what comics should look like’. Probably part of what made me gush about the art was how I really love vintage style comics, especially from genuinely vintage comics. They just look so fine! Anyway, I really loved Prey. I was already dead set on loving Batman anyway, but reading stories like this made me remember why I love him so much. Really. 

In a nutshell…
Rating: 4/5
Writer: Doug Moench
Artist: Paul Gulacy, Terry Austin
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Letterer: John Costanza
Publisher: DC Comics
Published: 1990, New York 
Genre: Superhero, Crime
 
 

{Book Review} Batman: Year One

“A young Bruce Wayne has spent his adolescence and early adulthood, traveling the world so he could hone his body and mind into the perfect fighting and investigative machine. But now as he returns to Gotham City, he must find a way to focus his passion and bring justice to his city. Retracing Batman’s first attempts to fight injustice as a costumed vigilante, we watch as he chooses a guise of a giant bat, creates an early bond with a young Lieutenant James Gordon, inadvertently plays a role in the birth of Catwoman, and helps to bring down a corrupt political system that infests Gotham.”*

I’m relatively new to comic book reading because of the scarcity of comic book stores here in the Philippines, but I got an opportunity to read this because I knew someone who had a copy and shared it with me. I really like this comic book because I always wondered how Batman started out. I mean, I knew how movie-wise, but really reading them on the actual comics they were based on is a whole other experience. There is also an animated movie of the same name released just this year. I haven’t watched it yet, but I heard it is faithful to the comic book.

You’ll find in Batman: Year One Batman at the infancy of his planning stage. Eighteen years after his parents’ death, the business empire heir thinks that he is now ready to “clean up a city that likes being dirty”, the infamous Gotham City. The city really needed a hero at this time since it was wrought with crime and danger everywhere. This book also chronicles the life of Lieutenant Gordon, a detective, after his arrival to Gotham City and his interactions with the Dark Knight.(view spoiler). I really liked the story since it provides a good, solid background for people who want to know more about Batman. This is the first comic book I’ve read that was written by Frank Miller, and I can’t wait to read more.

As I advanced through the pages, I couldn’t help but admire the graphics as well. I mean, it’s a comic book! I love the old-school feel of David Mazzucchelli’s illustrations, reminiscent of the superhero comic strips in the comic sections of newspapers that I religiously followed as a child.

Even if it’s more than two decades old, this book is a must-read for everyone, not just DC or Batman fans. It’s easy to follow for new comic book readers, and if I’m not mistaken, I think this comes first if the Batman comics were to be read chronologically. I’m seriously considering buying the physical version of this book, not the digital comics, and hopefully the 4 issues instead of the compilation. I don’t think it will come cheap though. Then again, for such a brilliant series, it deserves it. Let’s support the comics industry! Not much people buy anymore, and it would be a shame if the industry died out.

In a nutshell…
Rating: 5/5
Writer: Frank Miller
Illustrator: David Mazzucchelli
Colorist: Richmond Lewis
Letterer: Todd Klein
Publisher: DC Comics
Published: 1988, New York *originally published in single magazine form as Batman: Year One 1-4, (c) 1986-1987
Genre: Superhero