Batman Night Cries Review By Deffinition
To me it was overhyped and dealt with the subject of child abuse in a poor way and was a lot of style over substance. I wanted flashy comic scenes that would work more as a metaphor over a literal telling of the dark issues that this was based upon.
Tonally I thought the book was too much of a shift from what I understood to be ‘Batman’ and I sold it. That’s how much I didn’t really gel with it.
I’ve managed to get my hands on another copy of this very rare, out of print book and I’m going to read it now with a more open mind. Hopefully I can appreciate what many see in the book and regard it more highly. This could be a messy one! Let’s jump in.
One of Batman’s Darkest Stories
The book opens with the cries of bats awakening Bruce. Whilst many would go back to sleep, he can not divert from his duty The calls in the night are for him to take up the mantle. To become the Batman.
We then join Jim Gordon as he travels to meet the Mayor, during the journey he is alerted to a brutal family murder and diverts to this instead. He too has his priorities.
The similarities are not lost on me, at their core Gordon and Batman both share a sense of purpose. They know Gotham is corrupt and that they are the only ones with the power to change it. They have to sacrifice a normal life in order to do what no one else can. It is their duty to answer the cries in the night.
From here we join Bruce as he attends a foundation evening, created to set up a safe house for abused children in Gotham. Through speaking to the event organisers we really pick up on Bruce’s inner turmoil as they discuss the Home’s mission. Bruce has had a terrible childhood and one that still haunts him to this very day. He can never escape it and subtly the artist and author show that the mere mention of distressed children gets to him. Of course we know that Bruce must shrug it off and keep up the playboy persona but the subtext here is brilliantly dealt with.
A key aspect of the book that is rarely featured in a lot of publications is the break up of Barbara and Jim Gordon. Throughout Night Cries they are at breaking point and in it’s final pages we see the two depart from one another. It really is a sad moment but one that doesn’t feel in vain.
Much like Batman, Gordon cannot have any attachments if he is to save the city. It requires his full attention. In order to save the city he must sacrifice whatever life he could have in order for others to have theirs.
Gordon is as much of a hero as Batman and I feel like this book really cements that he will do anything for the greater good. Even at the cost of his own happiness. He and Batman are two sides of the same coin. Whilst the Dark Knight operates in the shadows, Gordon prevails in the light.
I love that such a short book is able to portray such subtext and as with my other reviews, I regard any text that speaks to the psychological side of Gotham’s side characters very highly.
From the off you will notice the art. It’s been beautifully painted and really adds a dark tone to the book. It has an impressionist style that is almost like taking a stroll through an art gallery on every page turn. I love Scott Hampton‘s depiction of the world and it gives the book a grounded feel that is unmatched by many. It’s like if the lucid dream of Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth had’ve been set in the real world and not just a nightmare.
His pencilling of graphic crime scenes elevates the book to a height that is seldom seen in comics. And it’s during one of these crime scenes that we pick up another story thread.
Similar to the situation that opened the book, a family have been brutally murdered in their home. Jim and Batman meet in the snowy woods, in a scene that could be up there with some of Batman’s most moody depictions.
That’s what I love about this book, there is no need for bombastic action scenes and fights. The drama comes from the story and atmosphere that the writer and artist have set. It is a master of mood and tension that showcases what a comic book can be.
Violence sends a message
The sub plot of the graphic novel centres around the newly developed drug ‘boost.’ Through the investigation we are introduced to a child who heavily implies that he was molested. In all honesty during the introduction of it, I thought that it was slightly unnecessary to the plot and only really served to make Gordon realise that he had a temper in front of his son. However, we later learn that the murders are being committed against abusers.
Whatever abuse the parent carried out on their child is wrought back unto them by this new Gotham Criminal.
It’s a really clever play on abuse thematically. A mother who refused to pick up the Phone to call child services is hung with one and a father who watched twisted pornography (what type is never confirmed, only implied) has his head smashed through a television set.
Overall it manages to deal with abuse in a thought provoking way. Not overly controversial there is still entertainment to be found from a reader standpoint in these dark scenarios. Which is definitely a difficult thing to pull off when dealing with such depravity.
Similar to the way I’m fascinated with True Crime Documentaries, this book pulled me in with it’s gripping depiction of often unspoke of crimes.
One of the highlights of the book is when Batman visits one of the child victims in the middle of the night. Up until this point every child had identified their attacker as Batman. We know the Dark Knight wasn’t involved but his presence at the scenes has still caused some trauma. It’s at this point where Bruce takes off the mask. Sits down with the child and in a very mature moment for comics in general explains that he only wants to help.
It’s hard not to feel sympathetic towards the characters, it really does not feel like a comic book in this instance. More of a survivors stories. A moment between two people who had something tragic happen and blamed themselves. Perhaps if Bruce had’ve had a similar situation during his youth he may not have became the bat and we begin to see our protagonists true depths when dealing with this scenario. The book feels like it has come full circle and it’s hard not to admire the moment.
The villain is revealed to be the only character that it could have been. I think graphic novels that revolve around a mystery often have this problem. With the book containing so few characters and having such a short length it’s hard to really introduce a lot of characters and mislead the reader with red herrings. Due to this the ending lacks the true UMPH that it could’ve had.
We are given a backstory which ties in with the book’s opening. Similar to Batman hearing the cries of the city, the killer heard the cries of children. Screaming out for a saviour. A duty that they too could not ignore.
The finale ends in a discussion rather than a fight which completely sums up the book. It’s very down trodden, subtle and poignant. These are it’s strengths. It was slightly disappointing but due to it’s adult subject matter it would have ruined the tone had it diverted from this manner of story telling.
Batman Night Cries was a book that left me with a negative first impression. Upon a revisit it has redeemed itself. The art is absolutely breath taking and it handles a lot of difficult issues with a mature understanding that would be hard to execute with any other comic book character. This truly feels like a Batman book from start to finish. I was wrong in saying that it wasn’t. However, the convoluted drug sub plot and underwhelming mystery makes it hard to place in the upper echelon. This had the potential to be one of the best Batman Graphic Novels ever written, sadly it just falls short.
If you felt similar to me after a first read then this may be worth a second read through but I wouldn’t recommend that you hunt this down and pay the steep price that it now commands unless you are truly a die hard fan.
This book will not be for everyone, however if you are after an adult take on serious issues that aren’t too common in this medium then this will deliver on a lot of levels.
Leave a comment whether you agree with my ranking or not.