Prey For Batman
The Batman canon read through is back. We’ve had a great run of books so far which set up Batman’s early years. He’s clashed with villains, saved people from human sacrifices and been close to getting caught in a couple of them himself!
Here we are with Batman: Prey.
This 1990 book follows up on Hugo Strange after his appearance in the Monster Men and really really shows you why his surname fits him so well (Cue Mannequin Sex). This book isn’t regarded as canon by some but to please the ones who do, I’ve read it! After going through it, it raises a lot of questions.
Should this book be cemented in The Dark Knight’s history or should it be avoided in the same way you avoid your Wanker Uncle Bobby until it’s your birthday and you need money cos those Batman comics don’t pay for themselves? Read my review to find out.
“The Very Genesis Of This Tormented Figure Might Well Be Traced Back To The Traumatic Events Of A Single Night”
Firstly the Art by Paul Gulacy really helps the book to fit it into the run so far. It’s dark, grounded and realistic. This compliments the tones of the last few books and aligns it with the style that was brought to the forefront in Year One.
The colour palette used within the pages helps pull you into this dark and grimey world and this is one of the best looking works so far. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect though.
Bruce….your handwriting is terrible
One problem that I had was the font used for Batman’s narration. Similar to Year One, a very cursive style is used that mimics handwriting. However, they’ve used slightly different lettering and I don’t know whether my eyes are getting old (or they printed it like this) but it is very hard to read. I found myself just making up certain aspects of the book. I especially liked the bit about Batman talking about how he loves Taylor Swift’s song “Style.”
However, I digress, I do wish they’d moved away from this handwriting style sooner as it does make some panels a chore to get through. Gordon’s is fine, they literally just used this font to keep in line with Year One. Up till now it’s worked. You can kind of view this font starting off strong and going a bit off the rails like Frank Miller did, and if that’s what they intended then brilliant. Well done DC, you’ve done it again (round of applause for DC’s meta department).
Thankfully, the handwriting is the worst part of the book. Moving on.
A Night That Haunts Him And Will Haunt Him Forever
The story follows the return of Hugo Strange. When we last left him, in The Mad Monk, he was doing the psychology tv show circuit. Early on in the story, Gordon is requested to join Strange on a show and we see the two debate Batman’s psyche. This opening chapter has a great way of examining just how batman is psychologically. Strange breaks him down live on air for all to see and though Gordon argues that batman is a necessity, he too is dragged into the character assassination when the Mayor appoints him as the leader of the task force assigned to take down batman at the show’s close.
The taskforce go out in full swing, without the watch of Gordon, and when Batman humiliates their leader, a vendetta is formed. The piece has two villains really. Hugo Strange and Max Cort, leader of the aforementioned team. Cort is obsessed with taking down Batman by any means necessary and I love stories where the Batman is still truly a vigilante with both sides of the law trying to finally capture him. These stories work so well because they put pressure on Batman and Gordon, who struggles to justify why Batman is needed but who won’t turn on him because of his actions at the end of Year One. The police’s hate for Batman lets us know that Gotham still isn’t cleansed yet and that there is still a lot of work to do. The stakes are as high as they have ever been, and need to be to truly justify batman’s presence.
Should’ve Just Bought Arkham VR
One of the weirdest parts of the book (other than the mannequin sex) is Hugo Strange’s decision to dress up as Batman. In analysing the Dark Knight so closesly he becomes obsessed with him and tries emulate him in order to receive the same thrills that he does.
Should’ve just bought Arkham VR.
In order to unearth Batman’s identity he begins investigating all the murders and muggings within Gotham’s history as he believes that these were what created the caped crusader. When Gordon isn’t forthcoming with this information, Strange sides with Cort and the two team up to frame Batman by kidnapping the mayors daughter so that the task force is given more power. Cort himself becomes a vigilante when he and Strange realise that Batman can work above the law. This is a subtle comment on the restrictions that the police face whilst also slowly turning Cort into the thing he hates. In hunting monsters make sure you don’t become one yourself sort of thing. It’s a nice little touch that compliments Batman whilst also making us hate the villains as they are unaware of their contradictions.
Max Cort Of Owls
This book has such a psychological edge to it, it really breaks down the mindset of Batman and shows why he is so driven whilst also questioning his sanity. The only way batman gets through It is through reassurance from Alfred and recuperation. This is one of the best psychological looks at Batman out there and when Strange deduces Batman’s identity then we really fear for the character. I really enjoyed the story and think it follows on nicely from the previous books whilst setting laying it’s own path. The realistic tone is welcomed and Doug Moench is regarded as one of the best batman writers solely from this book. Arkham City is influenced so heavily by this book that I’d say it is a must read for any fans of the game. We are also beginning to see Rebirth mimic this plotline and this is the quintessential hugo strange.
Another stellar book by DC that deserves it’s place in canon. This book has everything, a great villain, tests physically and psychologically and in depth character deconstruction. Though parts were hard to read, the art is still fantastic and up there as some of the best in the run so far and this book is a must own. It even works as a follow on directly from Year One so if you are starting there you can dive straight into this one just after. I’m eagerly awaiting Strange’s return and hope that the next book featuring him lives up to this one.
Leave a comment whether you agree with my ranking or not.