Monday, October 24, 2011

Review: Batman Odyssey #1

When Batman: Odyssey was originally announced back in 2010, I was pretty excited. I'm a huge fan of 70's era Batman (it's the source of many Batman: the Animated Series stories), and Adams was a big part of that. I was looking forward to some classic, throwback stories that focused on Batman's most iconic villains. What I got was something else entirely. In Odyssey, characters hurl insults like "your death, jelly roll", and a shirtless Bruce Wayne regales us with tales while eating raw eggs and a banana. Characters suddenly appear on panel and start having conversations about events we've never seen, and Batman himself randomly tries to beat Riddler impersonators to death in front of Commissioner Gordon because he thinks may have killed a kid. Don't worry, folks, Gordon promises to club that costumed murderer if he has to.

This time around, I was still looking forward to Batman: Odyssey, but for a very different reason. I couldn't wait for more bizarre dialogue and crazy Batman, and the new issue of Odyssey didn't disappoint. From the looks of it, this is actually the intended 7th issue of the series, held back and renumbered for the sake of the relaunch. I'd say something about it being inaccessible to new readers, but when it comes to Odyssey, every issue is as delightfully incomprehensible as the one before. Not being able to understand what's going on is part of its charm.

I love my K-Cup brewer too, Batman.
When the story opened on Bruce Wayne offering me a cup of coffee, I knew this was going to be good. He informs me that the coffee is from a coffee machine brewer and that I should lobby for my office to get one. Even better. Sure, he may actually be giving that coffee to a mystery acquaintance, who can't believe it's a machine, but in the world of Batman: Odyssey, Bruce Wayne is always talking to me. In a rare moment of clarity, Wayne actually seems to understand that he's completely insane. But the moment is all too brief, and soon we return to the crazy ramblings I've become accustomed to. Wayne says that there's a point to all this, but before we can be filled in, we're transported to Arkham Asylum.

These Arkham inmates are classy and/or British and say things like "Solid as the queen's rump. Time for a spot of tea." Because that's what classy British folks do. Soon, an Asian man appears to insult their lockmaking and call them "odorous animals of decadence" and does things that are un-scientific. I'm not being snarky, it says so right in the comic:

Suddenly, Penguin and Riddler appear. Penguin is the one telling riddles, but since this is probably a fake Penguin and fake Riddler I'm not terribly concerned. Plus, before we can get to the bottom of this, we're taken to a splash page of folks riding giant bats and dinosaurs, and I'm willing to forgive just about anything if there are dinosaurs involved. And then Batman plays rodeo with a dinosaur named tiny and I am incredibly grateful this comic exists. Alas, the moment is over all to soon, and we're taken to a man telling Alfred that he's a font. I hope he's Helvetica. Robin appears, and admits that even he doesn't know what's going on. Sometimes I think Batman: Odyssey is the greatest work of metafiction the comics world has ever seen, and I'm just not smart enough to understand it.

The comic actually does reveal who a few of the characters that have been cropping up throughout the series are before ending on another dinosaur laden splash page. Oh Neal Adams, you know just how to lure me back. At this point, I wouldn't be shocked if half the cast was replaced by kittens for the next issue. In Odyssey, the sight of Bruce Wayne's chest hair is the only thing you can really count on. Still, I'm hoping for more Batman/dinosaur acrobatics in spite of myself.

Gravity?!? Yeah, gravity.
Neal Adam's art here is different than what you might expect. There's something sketchier, looser, and very kinetic about it. His facial expressions can get a bit wonky, but it's honestly some pretty nice art. I like the messiness mixed in with Adams' more traditional style. Some of the panels are slightly off-kilter in a way you might not notice if you weren't paying close attention. It's a perfect fit for the incoherent feel of the comic, and would work well even on a book that did make sense. Bill Sienkiewicz is one of several inkers working on this book, and he and Adams, as always, make a great team. There's a great team of colorists here, including Moose Bauman, and it all comes together to create a very interesting looking book.

If you're just looking to sit down with a solid Batman story, don't read Batman: Odyssey. Try Scott Snyder's work on the main Batman book, or check out some of the classic stories Neal Adams did with Denny O'Neil, like Half an Evil, Night of the Reaper, and Vow From the Grave. But if you're like me, if you like watching those terrible rip-offs of popular movies that they always have on Netflix, if there are few things you enjoy more than a good episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000- give Batman: Odyssey a look. Once I gave up trying to make sense of this comic, it became an absolute blast to read, and I have fun with every crazy issue. Batman: Odyssey is the ultimate b-movie of comic books, and I'm thrilled it's still around.

By Marceline with No comments


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