Chris (The Genre Fiend)'s Reviews > Batman: Li'l Gotham, Vol. 1

Batman by Dustin Nguyen
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This review is courtesy of an Advance Review Copy through the good folks at NetGalley.

It seems most of the major publishers are keen on chibi or mini-esque versions of their properties. Marvel has Skottie Young's current portfolio, Dark Horse are playing with "Itty Bitty Hellboy" and DC has Li'l Gotham.

While I normally wouldn't check out tales of tykes fighting crime and spending their weekends engaging in being cute and creating hilarious dust clouds through punch-ups, since most of these stories tend to be aimed at audiences not yet old enough for multiplication tables, Li'l Gotham actually came as a surprise. The short stories in this volume hit more towards Pixar-levels of humour rather than the broader strokes that kid-friendly entries like Disney and DreamWorks usually strive for. There are enough jokes in Li'l Gotham for the adults and under-10s alike without dipping into inappropriate territory (though I do find the notion of a chibi-esque Zatanna wearing fishnets in a kids book to be questionable), and more often than not I laughed quite heartily at some of the self-aware dialogue about how ridiculous the notions of both superhero fiction and the mini-mes in this story really are.

Each story centres on a different yearly holiday and cycles through phases of having Batman, Robin and several assorted villains as the central protagonists. While a lot of it's nice enough on the surface there are moments of deep here and there, particularly in a sympathetic Mr Freeze-centred chapter that reads almost like a "F**k you" to the far more creepy work that recent writers like Scott Snyder have done with the character.

While the story and dialogue are both well-presented and entertaining, artwork is a mess. I've liked Dustin Nguyen's work when many of my colleagues haven't (with Heart of Hush being a particular standout for me) and Derek Fridolfs has had some good stuff going before, but it just falls apart here. The use of a watercolour scheme as opposed to the usual full-lipped illustrations Nguyen and Fridolfs usually provide is ambitious, but falls down when the lack of distinct character lines and dominance of single-colour background palettes causes things to blur together a little. There are also several panels where dialogue seems disjointed in its positioning, causing the reader to check out panels referencing previous dialogue that hasn't been read yet. It's a shame since I really like some of the cuter representations of characters on the page when compared to the usual midget-superhero fare, so some better clarity of art style later on would be helpful.

Li'l Gotham is definitely worth a read, but is not much more than a temporary piece of popcorn fun entertainmenty thing. The novelty's fun but will probably wear off by the end. Still, not a bad book at all.
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Reading Progress

February 5, 2014 – Shelved
February 5, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
March 7, 2014 – Started Reading
March 7, 2014 – Finished Reading

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