Really enjoyed this well thought out collection of stories that are combined to make an actual arc. The downside is it left me wanting more as some questions are left unanswered. The entire book is very strong with the exception of the Penguin story which i didn't really enjoy and felt like an Adam West Batman adventure. Apart from that this book deals with some great subjects such as Love and Batmans Identity. The stories main arc revolves around Batman falling in love with a woman called Silver St Cloud and how he deals with balancing a love life and a secret identity, throw in the Gotham City council lead my Rupert Thorne trying to take Batman down and some fantastic old and new enemies showing up to have a shot aswell and this makes for a fantastic read. Bringing back Hugo Strange is a stroke of genius and hes portrayed really well here, using a combination of psychological and genetic warfare on anyone that gets in his way its a real shame that some of the questions surrounding him are left unanswered at the end of the book, fans of the Batman: The Animated Series TV show will also get to see the original Laughing Fish story line starring the Joker which was later adapted into an episode. Infact there are a few nods to the future in this book, which obviously inspired certain elements and episodes of the Award winning TV show. On top of that we get introduced to some long standing future villains such as Clayface 3 and Doctor Phosphorous both coming with there on tragic origin story. Im grieved that this book is out of print and now costs so much, it needs to be reprinted again as Batman fans of old and new material alike are really missing out on some fantastic works here. It also contains a rare and rather endearing moment between Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson when they share some banter in the Batcave and even have a father and son tussle, Theres not many moments like this with Batman being grumpy and Robin being annoying but this was nice to see the connection between the two as a family unit rather than a crime fighting duo and showing that underneath everything they do they do still have a relationship. The characters are deeper and more invested than they have been previously and you can really tell they've taken some of the Marvel Comics magic and introduced it to DC, Providing Batman and his villains with real and believable motivations and things to lose really enriches the story as you pity both friend and foe alike and crave a happy ending for all involved, Silver St Cloud is an interesting take on Batmans love life and again makes one of the first believable love interests for Batman again providing him with something he could potentially lose or be used against him. Hugo Strange is as strong and as mad as ever, making Batman history in this book he becomes a major threat to Batman and Bruce Waynes life and despite only appearing in two stories his presence is felt throughout the entire book. There isnt a weak character in this book (apart from Penguin who at this point in time is still cheesy and undaunting) with Steve Englehart really providing some much needed layers to the characters. The art is beautifully done painting a great atmospheric picture for the reader in all aspects and all areas of the book, with towering spires and dark cold lairs you really get into the gritty spirit as you invest your time in these devious characters and their actions. Overall i would actually rate this as a must read for anyone really passionate about Batman. The book provides so much substances and is just written so well that you want more of it, its not often these days that stand alone tales can be strung together so well and juggle a separate main storyline and longer comic arc set over the top of it. The only issue is the price, i cant knock Batman fans for not wanting to pay the price currently asked and even more disappointingly these issues arnt even available as Digital Downloads on the DC comics App at the moments so to read them as a collective you need the book or to buy the separate prints. Either way this is definitely a good read im just not sure some readers will see it as worth the amount of money asked. The book collects Detective Comics #469 - #479
`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.
The first two issues in this collection are okay, not great, just good. However, the opening of the third issue lets you know that the series is picking through the incorporation of shadows. I love that each issue could be good as a stand-alone but each issue builds upon the previous as a behind-the-scenes plot-line progresses. I like this Rupert Throne, who starts as a ruthless corrupt politician who finally snaps and goes crazy. I love how we're teased that the joker is returning for multiple issues before he actually does. The joker remains out of vision for that time which makes his grand entrance that much more epic. Hugo Strange also worked very well, as he is the namesake apparition. I also love the romance between Silver and Bruce, because they would go great together but by the end you know they couldn't be together, making for a tragic love story. What's truly tragic is that this book ends with many unanswered questions, such as who was the lady who stopped at Wayne Towers or who left the detector for Batman to find (granted, the answer is obvious but it is left unanswered until 1983!). However, I will overlook that because this comic did something most people think didn't happen until Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns: it showed that Batman could be both cool and dark. Definitely a good buy.