Here is the first of hopefully many to come of reviews of graphic novels and collections that would make fine additions to your bookshelf. I can’t think of a better book to christen this off with then one of my favorite Batman runs with writer Doug Moench and Kelley Jones 1995 run on Batman. Moench had been writing the regular Batman book for quite a while through the whole Knightfall and Knightquest run and had previously worked with Jones on the critical and commercially successful Batman Red Rain Elseworlds hardcover with Jones and there two sequels. Jones had worked on many different comics over the years but became much more high-profile with his collaboration with Mike Baron on their re-imagining of Deadman in 1989 at DC Comics. So it was really a perfect time for Moench and Jones to take over the Batman title and do smaller stories that would usually not run more than three issues. They started their run on Batman #515 and ran through Batman #552 with a handful of fill in issues by other artist. DC has thankfully started to reprint this amazing run and the first volume hardcover hit stores last week.
Jones art style really divides readers but the thing that makes Batman so great is he is so adaptable to different artistic interpretations. Jones really brings a dark mood to Batman with his art. The one thing that he brought back to the charater was the mile long cape made famous in the 1970’s by Marshall Rogers run on Detective Comics. The other great thing that he brings to Batman is the horror feel that lends itself to the Dark Knight. In the run Batman teamed up with some of DC’s greatest supernatural characters Deadman, Swamp Thing, Man-Bat, Spectre, Demon, and Ragman. They also used some of Batman greatest rouges such as Joker, Clayface, Two-Face, Catwoman and Penguin to name a few. Mownch’s stories were really refreshing at the time. They were smaller more intimate written stories. Moench has written numerous books for DC and Marvel and other companies over the years, his collaborations with Jones are for me a high water mark in his writing career. Both of them were really firing on all cylinders with this run.
While Moench and Jones are the main credits on the book I must really point out that they had other great collaborators on the book. John Beatty inked all of the issues and is a long time collaborator with Jones. With Jones’s pencils you need an inker that is going to complement and not overpower the pencils and Beatty really did that so very well. Adrienne Roy’s beautiful color work really complimented Jones and Beatty’s artwork without overwhelming it. She was one of the best colorist out there and this book really shows off what she could do with color. With issue #519 Gregory Wright took over as colorist through the rest of the Jones run on the book. Following Roy’s work up is a big act to follow and Wright was a perfect choice to do just that. He was able to keep the bar set just as high as Roy had done on the book. Sadly there are very few colorist out there today that can do color as well as both Roy and Wright could. Remember that this was all hand colored without computers and really shows how it takes real talent to color a comic well. Todd Klein lettering shows why this man is still the most sought after letterer in the business still today. Editor Dennis O’Neil showed what an editor should do, keep the book on track but let the creators be creative.
The thing that I think works best in their run is that fact that the stories were much more creatively driven than the epic story lines that had plagued the book for so long. By doing shorter stories there is so much more depth to them because they didn’t have to worry about absurd continuity with other books. It was a much more back to basics type stories that really made Batman books by such great creators as Marshall Rogers, Neal Adams. Moench and Jones really stripped Batman back down to the basics and also brought the supporting cast to be a key element to the plots. Jones’s redesign of Mr. Freeze that was used up until the New 52 overhaul of the character. By bringing a more dark element back to the book it allowed Batman to his Dark Knight roots. Jones also brought back loosely the 1940’s Batmobile look with the Batman face on the front of the car.
This first volume collects issues #515-519, 521-525, 527-532 & 535 and has the alternate glow in the dark covers for issues 530, 531, & 532 and the double page fold out cover of issue 535. There are some really great stories in this first volume including the Swamp Thing/Killer Croc story from issues 521 & 522, the Two-Face circus freak story from issues 527 & 528 and my favorite from this first half of their run was the Deadman story line from issues 530-532 that has one of the best examples of Moench and Jones’s collaboration from issue 531 page 10.
While it’s great that DC has finally came to their senses and reprinted this great run I wished that they had also included the fill in issues by other artist and at the very least the Jones’s covers for those issues. I do understand that the volume is more based on artist Kelley Jones and the missing issues were stand alone stories, it would have been nice to have the entire run together. DC has included other artist in their artist centric volumes such as the Batman by Alan Davis that included Carmine Infantino art in that volume. The one that is a real shame that is missing is issue #526 that has a really great Alfred solo story that was really wonderful.
Overall this is a really worthy book to add to your bookshelf. DC is slowly reprinting some of the vast library that they have. I only hope that this book really sells well and maybe they will put out a nice hardcover collecting all of the Batman Vampire books that were only reprinted in a trade and the two mini series that Jones collaborated with writer Steve Niles (Gotham After Midnight and Unseen) that would also make a really nice hardcover collection. Heck while they are at it they could collect all of Jones’s Deadman books (Love After Death, Lost Souls and Exorcism). This book is a must have for Batman fans and of course fans of Kelley Jones. This was a great run of Batman that has not been printed for far too long. Minor issues aside this book is a steal at $39.99 and you can get it over at Cheap Graphic Novels for 45% off retail the list price. Lets keep our fingers crossed that DC will print the second volume of this great Batman run.
As an added bonus Kelley Jones posted the original artwork for Batman issue #516 on his Facebook page that was the art used for the hardcover and have included it below, enjoy!