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on 17 July 2012
Following on from Will Brooker's 'Batman Unmasked: Analysing a Cultural Icon', 'Hunting the Dark Knight' is simply 'the' book for Bat-fans everywhere. By utilising a framework which consists of doyens of poststructuralism such as the controversial Derrida, Bakhtin, Foucault and others and wrestling with multiple theoretical models (authorship; realism; intertextuality; carnival; deconstruction), this book presents complex arguments in a clear, concise and eminently readable manner. Don't worry if the theories sound somewhat obscure - Brooker explains all with deft articulation and profundity. Focusing on, amongst many things, Nolan's Batman films and Grant Morrison's 'game-changing' tenure as Batman writer for DC Comics, Brooker does not constrain Batman within inescapable chains of meaning, but unleashes the multiplicity of his personalities. 'Hunting the Dark Knight' sets the Batman free. If you love The Dark Knight, this book is a must buy. This should be on the shelves of academics, film-lovers and comic book fans everywhere. Simply put, the book of the year!
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on 31 July 2012
I have been a fan of Will Brooker's work ever since I read Batman Unmasked. His latest, Hunting the Dark Knight, provides an excellent analysis of Batman's recent history. In weaving together adaptation theory and concepts outlined in Roland Barthes' 'The Death of the Author', Brooker constructs a model for understanding how recent Batman texts, particularly Christopher Nolan's film trilogy, manage to negotiate the space between auteurist innovation and narrative tradition. His suggestion that every work fits into a 'matrix' of cultural influences that extend far beyond any individual Batman text, or continuity, is likely to change the way you look at Batman and his surrounding universe. This sounds very theoretical, but, as readers of his previous work will know, in addition to being a scholar, Brooker is a self-confessed Batman fan. He writes in a fluid style that makes his work accessible to Batman enthusiasts, as well as academics interested in the subject. He also has an eye for detail that an analyst less close to the subject matter could miss.
This book is a complete work in itself. Nevertheless, the theories outlined inside it help to develop and expand those of Batman Unmasked and, if you return to Brooker's first monograph on Batman after having read the second, you are likely to gain a deeper understanding of the concepts outlined there. Taken together, the two works represent the definitive analysis of Batman from his first incarnation, to the present Christopher Nolan trilogy. Both books are highly recommended.
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on 17 July 2012
It's only fitting in an age of sequelitis in superhero films that Will Brooker has followed up his earlier 'Batman Unmasked' with an equally compelling successor. Whereas his first book was a cultural history of the Caped Crusader from the 1930s to the millennium, this study focuses attention on the twenty-first century Dark Knight. After more than 70 years, Batman remains a compelling and alluring figure. DC's heroes were generally more boring and conservative compared to the cooler, hipper Marvel - the major exception being of course Bruce Wayne.

These two books are written from the perspective of a fan-scholar, charting the character through various iterations and interpretations. This publication cannily coincides with the release of Chris Nolan's highly anticipated 'Dark Knight Rises', and Brooker sets himself the complex task of navigating the networks of media convergence composed of cinema, audiences, fan communities, authorship, marketing and much more. This he manages with much aplomb and lucidity, drawing on aspects of cultural theory - Barthes, Bahktin, Foucault, Derrida etc. - to advance and illuminate his reading. Both studies set the bar high, and both deserve to be read together as a box set (though they can quite easily be enjoyed separately and out of order).

With Batman set to be rebooted for the movies once more, can we expect a threequel from Brooker in a few years time...?
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on 8 January 2014
I am using this book for my dissertation and this book is the perfect starting point for me. Will Brooker discusses the character of The Dark Knight in great detail. The book is well written and easy to understand whilst still having a strong academic base. Anyone studying the Batman films, Batman as a character or even if you are a fan of the character this book will not let you down.
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on 19 July 2012
Whilst Brooker's work inhabits the sometimes difficult boundary between academic and popular, you do not need the perceptive powers of the Dark Knight to enjoy and understand the ideas in this volume. Indeed, the strength of Brooker's work is his ability to distil decades of literary and cultural theory into digestible, and most importantly, fascinating analysis of a cultural icon.

The high academic level of Brooker's work is testament to the fact that pioneers often have to outstrip their peers in passion and ability in order to have their work taken seriously. This academic integrity should not intimidate or deter the `casual reader', however. Brooker has done all of the hard work for the reader, providing introductory segues for the non-academic (or indeed the academic from another field, such as myself) so that the occasional necessary theory never mystifies or stymies those of us without advanced degrees in cultural theory.

Brooker examines and interrogates the role of the author and reader with relation to concepts such as branding and hierarchy, identifying and exploring key concepts of value, legitimacy, truth and reality, none of which, as Brooker demonstrates, may be taken at face value. Whilst this work concentrates on the last decade of Batman, with particular reference to the post 9/11 works of Christopher Nolan, the book also continues the theme of its predecessor (though that work is not required reading to enjoy the text, as the author succinctly reiterates the core premise).

To risk over-simplification, Brooker's key concept, astutely established in 2000's Batman Unmasked, is that Batman is the sum of all he's ever been, and that his staying power and continued cultural relevance is the result of the character's ability to adapt in the face of change, to continue to reflect us and our interests.

Perhaps, most significantly, Brooker tackles notion of `fidelity', a problematic concept at best when applied to a character with as many competing histories and interpretations as Batman. He objectively examines the role of the author and reader (and author/reader) in the dissemination of the currently endorsed and largely dominant `DARK' interpretation of the `Batman' concept, additionally noting that fidelity may become a promotional device for the establishment of the rebooted franchise, a `relationship of sameness to a specific group of Batman texts and difference from another...' Separating the `new' and `Dark' (Nolan-growly-Bat) from the perceived-undesirable (Schumacher-nipple-Bat), interrogating these notions throughout.

Simply put, Brooker identifies key moments where specific versions of Batman become dominant, or conversely become repressed, scrutinises why this is the case, and, to a degree, who benefits from endorsing a particular interpretation at any given time, relating these themes to cultural hierarchies and interplay in the social matrix.

With deft, sometimes barely perceptible transitions in theoretical structure, moments in the book, such as in chapter 4's `Carnival on Infinite Earths', escape the boundaries of cultural commentary to become a form of anthropology/philosophy/psychology. Impressively, this is achieved without losing the cohesive integrity of the work. I was gratified to infer considerations of shamanism and theology used with reference to the symbolism of Batman and the Joker, and it is here that the depth of Brooker's analysis and enthusiasm really shines, opening the text to variant readings, a suitable symmetry to the Batman Urtexts.

In summary, Brooker's work highlights that contrary interpretations of Batman, Dark/Light-hearted, Realistic/Camp (even queer), so often portrayed in opposition, or even repressed, are in fact merely emblematic signposts on a `Batman spectrum' (or `rainbow'), a continuum of all potential `Batmen', all bearing their own potency, relevance and validity, threads pulled from the rich tapestry of the character's history. A history few know better than Will Brooker, it would seem.
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on 17 July 2012
A compelling and essential read, Brooker enlightens, entertains and explores one of the most discussed mythologies in modern literature and pop culture. No flaky ideas in sight, the author deftly examines all incarnations of Batman, from the campier television and comic versions to Christopher Nolan's darker offerings. A must-have.
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