J.G. Keely's Reviews > Batman: Year 100

Batman by Paul Pope
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's review
Nov 13, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: comics, capes, science-fiction, reviewed

From the very first page it's clear that this is a vibrant and unbridled work. Pope's art can be loose and grotesque, taking anatomy lightly, he has sacrificed it for movement, for the wide frames darting through space, telling the story precisely with evocative images, and for the physical representation of personality. There's a great overview of the wordless opening pages here.

After reading a poorly-written, awkwardly visualized comic like Fables, it was a shock to my system to watch Pope push the form, pumping life into every page. The mixture of elements here, from subversions of the Batman mythos to an understated cyberpunk plot reminiscent of Aeon Flux, corrupt and violent cops in sports jersey uniforms right out of Marshal Law, a bat-suit fit for a luchador, and touches of Manga in the character design mark this as the sort of original vision that defies genre or storytelling modes.

I felt almost breathless at the action and violence as the plot leapt up at me, but unlike Miller's futuristic Bat-Tales, Pope isn't painting with violence for the sake of machismo, but to provide a sense of palpable danger in the story's central conflict. Even so, there were moments when the flashy barrage of bullets and sound effects surrounding the nightmarish crusader were a bit cartoonish, working against the mood Pope had set. But then I hate visualized sound effects.

Unfortunately, Pope also has a tendency to overexplain sci fi, which bogs down the story, especially the latter half. He's very interested in procuring and re-using terms, trying to fit them into an array of pseudoscientific explanations that would be better dealt with in the briefest and least intrusive way.

Curiously, the story doesn't rely on the character implications or political explorations that have made Miller's Bat work lasting. When Pope does try his hand at moralizing, it ends up not just artificial, but rather pointless. There are not really any grand social questions here.

There's a lot going on, but it's not clearly directed, instead it's a combination of interesting elements which, though they make up an original world and provide some insights, do not build towards a grand central theme, as we'd expect from Moore, Miller, Gaiman, Ellis, or Morrison.

The characters are not 'explored' by the usual artificial means of internal narration or awkward expositionary dialogue ("Hello there, cousin Mark, who used to be in the Army"). Instead, we have to take these people and situations as they are, and perhaps strain a bit to figure out what we can about them from what Pope gives us. We know about them what is necessary for the plot, and Pope feels no need to encumber us with any other extraneous emotions or background.

It's rather elegant, but is bound to upset some comic readers who are used to free access to their favorite characters' deepest thoughts and desires. After all, the industry constantly inundates them with melodramatic soap opera plots and endless background summaries to rival celeb mags. It's just this sort of overweening obsession with the canon that Pope rejects.

Similarly upsetting to the average Batman fan is Pope's unwillingness to answer the question of Batman's identity, which I find hilariously ironic. Ever since the comic debuted, we've had the same Batman, the same Bruce Wayne. Any time they tried to substitute another Batman, any time they killed Wayne, fans were outraged: "Bruce Wayne can't be dead, only he can be Batman!"

So now, seventy years later, we have the same guy, the same backstory (with a few tweaks), the same late thirties mobsters and cars, but now with cellphones and the internet. Yet no one asks how this century-old Batman exists. The fans won't let him die, they refuse to accept any change.

Yet Pope presents a Batman of the future who seems inexplicably to be an impossibly ancient Bruce Wayne and suddenly, everyone reverses their position: "Bruce Wayne has to be dead, he can't possibly be Batman!" We shouldn't be asking Pope "how could Batman still be alive?", we should ask "how could Batman ever die?" The fans certainly won't let him. While Pope's other future predictions can be a bit silly (specifically the telepaths) his suggestion of an inexplicably ancient Bruce Wayne is practically guaranteed.

Pope wants us to ask ourselves how much the identity of Batman is dependent on a particular person, time, or place. The character of Gordon's son, of the new Robin and of 'The Doctor' and her daughter all approach the question of the identity of archetypal characters in different ways, and the relationship each has with Batman is important to how we think of his identity.

This imprecise combination of ideas is hardly a death-knell. Milligan has thrived on it by layering webs of meaning in surprising, inspiring, subversive ways. Pope is not the master of form Milligan is, but we can appreciate the fearless, madcap vision he presents here, even if it sometimes falters, his achievements are not lessened.

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Reading Progress

November 13, 2010 – Started Reading
November 13, 2010 – Shelved
November 13, 2010 – Shelved as: comics
November 13, 2010 – Shelved as: capes
November 13, 2010 – Shelved as: science-fiction
November 13, 2010 – Shelved as: reviewed
November 13, 2010 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by David (new)

David Cherepov tl dr

J.G. Keely We seem to have a basic misunderstanding here. You see, this is a website where people read things written by people who read other things, to help them decide what to read next. Hence, there may be a few pages of reading involved, now and again--after all, the name in the address bar is Goodreads. If you find a few pages of text too daunting, then this may not be the website for you.

message 3: by David (new)

David Cherepov Keely wrote: "We seem to have a basic misunderstanding here. You see, this is a website where people read things written by people who read other things, to help them decide what to read next. Hence, there may b..."

I already read this comic. I'm just entertaining myself by using internet slang

J.G. Keely Well, if a cat can remain amused by watching dust float by, why shouldn't you amuse yourself by not reading things?

message 5: by Garrett (new)

Garrett Honestly the most insightful review I've read for this comic. I read it a year or two ago and remember not liking it very much but maybe I will give it another chance

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