Batman Night Cries Review

April 6, 2017 1 comment

Batman Night Cries Review Graphic Novel Cries In The Knight


Batman Night Cries was the first book I read after The Dark Knight Returns and, at the time, I really disliked it.
To me it was overhyped and dealt with the subject of child abuse in a poor way. I wanted flashy comic scenes that would work more as a metaphor over a literal telling of the dark issues it was based on.
 
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. 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 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 her is brilliantly dealt with.
 

The Divorce


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 the book 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 concentration and a sacrifice that not many would be able to make.
 
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.
 

The Best Art In A Batman Comic

The Art


From the off you will notice the art. It’s been beautifully painted and really adds the dark tone to the book. It has an impressionist style that is 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.
 
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.
 

Child Abuse In A Batman Comic

Violence sends a message


The sub plot of the book 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 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.
 
In the same way a parent abused their child, they themselves are murdered.
 
It’s a really clever play on the theme. A mother who refused to pick up the Phone 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 I felt the Boost side threads made the story slightly convoluted and at times I struggled to understand exactly what was going on with it and the connections to the murders.
 
Batman Unmasked
One of the highlights of the book is when Batman visits one of the abused children 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 trade 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. The book feels like it has come full circle and it’s hard not to admire the moment.
 

Doctor Death


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.
 

The Verdict


Batman Night Cries was a book that left me with a negative first impression. Upon a revisit it has redeemed itself, slightly. 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.
 

8/10


If you’ve been following my reviews then you know that i’m ranking the books as I read them in what all the fans of me lovingly call ‘Rank As I Read’ or ‘Rank As You Read’…I don’t know, I can’t remember, you do though as you’re a proper fan.

So here is the leaderboard so far.

  1. Batman The Long Halloween
  2. Batman The Killing Joke
  3. Batman: Arkham Asylum A Serious House On Serious Earth
  4. Batman And The Monster Men
  5. Batman Dark Victory
  6. Batman: The Man Who Laughs
  7. Trinity
  8. Batman: Year One
  9. Batman: Venom
  10. Batman: Night Cries
  11. Batman: Gothic
  12. Batman Snow
  13. Batman: Fears
  14. Batman: Prey
  15. Robin Year One
  16. Batman And The Mad Monk
  17. Batman: Son Of The Demon
  18. Batman Ego
  19. Batman: Shaman
  20. Batman: Terror
  21. Batman: Faces
  22. Batgirl: Year One
  23. Catwoman: When In Rome
  24. Batman: Madness
  25. Batman: Ghosts

1 Comment on “Batman Night Cries Review

  1. Thank you for your review it was most informative. A friend posted the book on a Facebook page. I asked him what it was about and he sent me your review. The image you posted in your article was powerful stuff and immediately made me want to dash out and buy a copy. However, I will take your advice and make a note of it just in case I come across an inexpensive copy in my travels. Thank you again.

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