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on 31 December 2008
Really great 70s Batman book. Merges old school characteristics with the true dark essence of Batman,a great story that combines lots of notable villains such as Penguin,Joker,Clayface & Hugo Strange.

The panels and art look awesome; one bit where Batman swings down upon a prone Deadshot and takes him out hard through the glass window of a building is really cool. Batman ready to strike on a broody silent night,the art really reminds you how good Batman is to read in a comic. I'm sure this run influenced a lot of Batman stories written after it and was a kind of creative catalyst to say Frank Miller and Jeph Loeb when they were devising stories and ways to challenge what was/still is such a complex amazing character. The book makes Batman take on everything imaginable in this; gangsters,assasins,psychos,supervillains.

It's a truly good old Batman book and it really taps into many of the issues that will be brought to Batman for the 35 years or so after it was released. It's such a good example of Batman becoming cutting edge for comic writers in terms of what he can go through,decisions he needs to make and consequences of his choices.

Definitely recommended, it's a pity this "collection" (although it is a coherent story in many ways) isn't more well known. It would also be a good way to begin reading Batman,along with obvious books like Year One.
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on 23 March 2013
`Year One', `The Dark Knight Returns', 'The Killing Joke', 'Arkham Asylum', `The Long Halloween', `Hush'... These are probably the main titles that any casual reader of Batman graphic will be familiar with. But there's another title which deserves to be on that list, perhaps more prominently so than most of the others there, and yet even many of the more seasoned Batman readers won't be familiar with it. This is `Strange Apparitions' or, more specifically, the issues from the creative team of Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers (collected more recently in Legends Of The Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers, which doesn't include the opening issue of `Strange Apparitions' which Rogers didn't draw). This is a story from the late 1970s which captures the essence of Batman perfectly and, along with Frank Miller and Alan Moore's work on the character, would radically influence the 1989 Tim Burton `Batman' movie. Written before he became the brooding "Dark Knight" we're now so accustomed to, Englehart and Roger's Batman was gritty while fun, and harkened back to Batman's pulp 1930s origins, and the carefree "detective" era of the 1960s. The whole thing reads like a labour of love to a character that the creators clearly cherish and get. If ever there was a quintessential Batman story, this is it, perfectly capturing an aspect of the character which most creators since Frank Miller have failed to grasp.

This book is actually a collection of interconnected stories by different creators (two writers and two artists, but mostly Englehart and Rogers), which are tied together through the continuing narratives involving Bruce Wayne's latest love interest, Silver St. Cloud, and the Robert Thorne criminal empire. However, although it's great fun, be warned that this story is old. If you're the kind of Batman reader who is only familiar with the stories mentioned above, and some other newer graphic novels, then the retro style of writing might take you some adjustment. The dialogue will probably seem out-of-date, the lengthy internal monologues might seem ridiculous, and the characterisation won't be as fleshed out as what you're used to. One of its biggest failings, for instance, is that the relationship between Bruce and Silver, the fundamental aspect of this story, comes across as forced and unrealistic. But if you can get over these problems, and appreciate it for what it is, then this book should be a real treat, although it certainly isn't for everyone. That said though, Englehart's writing stands up to today's standards of comic book writing better than most other writers of that period I've come across, while the artwork of both Marshall Rogers and Walter Simonson is still as great as ever.

Interestingly, the plot involving Silver St. Cloud was never taken up by future writers, and so Englehart and Rogers themselves would return to Batman 30 years later to continue this story in a sequel-of-sorts, Batman: Dark Detective. I won't go into my thoughts on that story here, except to say that it's a decent, though inessential, follow-up.
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