Westfield Newsroom

Caped Crusader revisits his roots

Some characters are hard to tell new stories for. Take Batman for example: after more than 70 years worth of appearances in publications, cartoons and films, many creators have tried to radically alter the character and his world to make him more relevant to modern times.
But some artists, such as Eisner Award winner Chip Kidd, have decided to go the opposite direction, and bring the Dark Knight back to the type of story he originated in: gothic mystery.
Hitting stores this coming June, Kidd’s stand-alone graphic novel titled “Batman: Death by Design” is refreshing in the way it presents a Batman story without being bogged down by years worth of continuity and storylines.
Kidd’s story revolves around a new vigilante in Gotham named “Exacto,” who is the chief suspect in a series of architectural sabotage. But the mystery is far deeper than it initially appears, and it spreads back to the days of Bruce Wayne’s father.
The graphic novel is presented almost entirely in stark black and white pages, oozing with the gothic atmosphere that Batman is so at home in. Gotham City is practically a character in itself, filled with stone buildings, gargoyles, and smog.
While the story doesn’t take place in any particular timeframe, the imagery is reminiscent of retro 1930/40’s noir. This is evocative to the Emmy award-winning “Batman the Animated Series,” which featured a similar style. The time frame helps to enhance the story’s personality.
The mystery is layered and intriguing, and may take a few reads to fully understand. Nevertheless, seeing Batman in a mystery story again is incredibly satisfying, and a much-needed breather from the endless series of “events” that occur in the main titles.
The only major drawback of the story is the inclusion of the Joker, who makes an obligatory appearance. While arguably one of the greatest and most versatile villains in fiction, the Joker’s role in the story could have been filled by any villain. It certainly wasn’t a bad take on the character, but an unneeded one. Especially when the character is incredibly overused as it is.
Despite that one minor flaw, the story is a nice breather. It is self-contained and easy for both old fans and newcomers alike to pick up. The story is simple, but therein lays its strength, and the artwork is its main selling point.
Hopefully, this will not be Chip Kidd’s only visit to Gotham.
For more graphic novels such as this one, check out the selection offered by Modern Myths comic shop, located at 34 Bridge Street 4, Northampton, MA 01060.
You can also visit their website at modern-myths.com.

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