Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Story : The Joker's Five Way Revenge
Writer: Denny O'Neil
Art: Neal Adams
Contrary to popular belief, Batman was not a campy character before Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. In fact, the Dark Knight detective version of Batman started emerging in the late 60s under writer Frank Robbins and O'Neil and Adams' acclaimed run helped return Batman to his darker 1930s roots while still keeping him a likeable and a very human character. The Joker's Five Way Revenge is one of those essential 70s Batman story and is part of the legendary O'Neil/Adams Batman run. Before one reads this story and can fully appreciate it, one needs to know a few things about Batman history at that point in time.
Prior to this story, for quite some time, the Joker had been a harmless prankster who was never thought of much as a threat. This is the story which helped return the Joker to his murderous roots and create the Joker that we are all familiar with today.
The premise of the story is fairly simple. The Joker is hunting down members of his old gang who betrayed him to the police and Batman. So, Batman is on hot pursuit of the Joker while The Joker keeps killing his henchmen one by one in an unpredictably creative manner. There is one instance in the story where the Joker is able to knock the Batman unconscious and has ample time and opportunity to kill him but refuses to do so because without Batman, his own existence would come into question. For chaos to exist, there needs to be order and vice versa. This concept has been used in several of the later Batman stories and was a recurring theme in Nolan's Dark Knight as well. Well finally Batman is able to catch up with the Joker and is able to save the last henchman but not without having to battle a shark first! He then chases the Joker down an oil-slick beach and after a few punches and hard knocks, the Joker's in perfect condition to go back to his cell.
Well thats basically the story. Whats so special and extraordinary about it you say ? Well as I said earlier, you need to be a bit familiar with Batman history to fully appreciate this story. For a long time (late 1940s-late 1960s), Batman was a completely different character than the one modern readers are familiar with. He was more like the Adam West tv show Batman than say Batman: The Animated Series. This is the run that changed it all. Neal Adams art, as always is spectacular and helps create a hauntingly gothic Gotham City. Oh and Neal Adams also created the modern Batman look with long ears and a big flowing cape. Future Batman stories owe a lot to this, especially stories like Miller's Dark Knight Returns and Moore's The Killing Joke. This story had the Joker go from this :
To this :
Neal Adams' artwork is absolutely brilliant and helps create a haunting atmosphere that reflects the tone of the story right from the rain to the gargoyles on the rooftops. His Batman looks lean, fit and agile and yet has a presence that would make most criminals wet their pants. The Joker takes on a more sinister appearance than his 50s/60s version but yet has a very classic vibe. In my humble opinion, Neal Adams is THE defining Batman artist.
As I said, this story and this entire run in general plays a very important role in Batman history helping to create the darker yet human Dark Knight Detective. Although the dialogue might seem a tad bit dated considering the era it was written in, this still holds up as one of the best Batman stories ever written. All in all, a must read for all Batman fans alike!
Final Score 9.5/10