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4.0 out of 5 stars The Earliest Batman Stories Chronicled from the Very Beginning; The More Affordable Debut of the Dark Knight!,, 25 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: The Batman Chronicles, Volume One (Paperback)
'The Batman Chronicles' serves to provide fans of the Dark Knight, and of popular culture in general, with a cost-friendly alternative to its counterpart 'Archives' series (which utilises more shiny and colourful print with hard-cover binding) by attempting to distribute every Batman story in chronological order from the character's debut appearance in Detective Comics #27 onwards, using more inexpensive newsprint-style paper withinin soft-cover binding for the trade paperback market.
Volume One was published on 30th March 2005 (with its Kindle counterpart given a much later release date of 2nd April 2013), and collects previously released golden-age Batman stories from Detective Comics #27-38 (May 1939 - April 1940) and the entirety of Batman #1, published in the Spring of 1940. What is presented within this volume is a Batman that was conceived as a gun-toting vigilante out to punish the scum of the criminal underworld. Gotham City was yet to be used as the strip's main setting, in stead having the Dark knight travel to Paris, Hungary and New York City in order to embark upon his superheroic missions. The introduction of Robin, the Boy Wonder, in Detective Comics #38 gave the young readership a character to relate to, and the 'Sensational Character Find of 1940' has endured throughout to the modern age, in many changing guises, costumes, and identities. However, regarding Batman himself, the man behind the mantle has always been the suave, millionaire playboy Master Bruce Wayne; and in this 1940's incarnation, he is rarely seen without his pipe and tweed jacket. The famous origin story remaining pretty much the same (or thereabouts) over the years is shown in simple fashion, recalling how an un-named gunman (in later issues revealed as Joe Chill) murdered his businessman father and loving mother in cold blood, whilst attempting a routine mugging.
The constant supporting character throughout seems to be Police Commissioner James Gordon, a personal friend of Bruce's and a suspicious observer of the Batman and how he is attempting to take the law into his own hands, thereby making the police look redundant at times. Regarding villains however, the Dark Knight seems to have gained quite a few note-worthy nemeses during his first initial outings. These include his first ever arch-nemesis Doctor Death, who uses deathly chemicals as his main arsenal advantage over others, and the enigmatic Mad Monk, who has the power to hypnotise his victims (including Bruce Wayne's then-fiancé Julie Madison) with supernatural abilities, belonging to a family race of vampires and werewolves. It is noteworthy to mention here that these first initial adventures for Batman were later re-worked for the modern audience, following DC Comic's re-vamp of the mid-1980's, which garnered quite positive reviews by its readership at the time. Additional villainous first appearances include that of Hugo Strange, the intellectual mad genius who attempts to turn mental asylum patients into huge 'monsters' in order to rob major city banks, and also the Cat (later known as Catwoman), who uses her feminine wiles and mastery of disguise in an attempt to steal a precious gem from a wealthy old woman. The joker also makes his debut in Batman #1 in two adventures as a delirious mad-man covered head-to-toe in clown attire, attempting to steal precious gems by killing certain wealthy socialites via his famous joker-gas and toxin; thereby setting the stage to become the Batman's most ruthless opponent in almost all of his incarnations throughout history across the DC Multiverse.
Later revisions in DC Comics lore would place this golden-age version of the Batman within the setting of Earth-Two, a parallel world where all (or most) of DC's golden age characters reside, later forming the Justice Society of America and going on to fight in World War Two against Hitler and his Nazi henchmen. This version, who initially wore home-made costumes and blue gloves whilst carrying a gun during the late 30s and early 40s, would continue to fight crime as the Batman in his red-sedan car until his retirement and subsequent wedding to the original Catwoman, bearing a daughter named Helena who would later take on the mantle of the Huntress after her mother's death. This golden age Batman, resident of Earth-Two, eventually died following one last battle after coming out of retirement, with the world believing he had contracted lung cancer from his many years of pipe-smoking.
Fortunately, his earliest adventures and experimental bat-suits, along with the first bat-gyro, bat-plane and first appearances of the famous batarang and gas-pellet filled utility belt with silken cord, can be seen via this first volume of 'The Batman Chronicles'; charting the mythology of the Batman from the very beginning. With eleven volumes currently in circulation as of November 2013, 'The Batman Chronicles: Volume One' promises to herald an important and vital exploration of the Batman mythos.
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