Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Joy of Reading an “Old” Comic Book.

Last night I read Batman “Detective Comics, Volume 1, #591. This comic was released in October 1988. I happened across this copy at a thrift store in Bardstown Kentucky and paid 75 cents for it. It is in what I would guess to be “Very Fine” condition. The story is what we call a “one-shot” where the whole story from start to finish is contained within this single issue.

And what a story it is. It’s titled “Aborigine” and it was written by Alan Grant and John Wagner. A rich art collector had tasked a group of individuals, who were of less than honorable character, to go to the Australian Outback and collect the “Power Bone of Uluru” an ancient Aboriginal artifact of great power that is highly revered by the Aboriginal people. An Aborigine named Umbaluru has traveled to Gotham City to retrieve the stolen artifact. The men sent to obtain it had not only bribed the tribesman guarding the bone but had also later killed them. It was Umbaluru job to collect the bone and exact the vengeance and justice of the Earth Mother herself! Umbaluru easily dispatches said justice on the henchmen, killing one and incapacitating the others. However not finding the bone, he then heads to studios of the aforementioned art collector, a Mr. Kerry Rollo. Where his path crosses that of Gotham’s own night spirit, The Batman. However, Batman is unable to stop Umbaluru who takes the power bone and crashes through the window of the upper story skyscraper taking Mr. Rollo with him, apparently to their gory demise. However, Umbaluru is nowhere to be found. He has vanished along with the bone and Batman continues his search for the mysterious avenging spirit.

At first blush and especially from reading the above encapsulation, the story appears fairly cut and dry, pretty bare boned if you pardon my pun. But it is a deep, richly layered and beautifully presented story contained in 22 pages of comic book panels. The artwork provided by the great Norm Breyfogle is masterful and excellently accompanied by the color schemes of Adrienne Roy and Dan Raspler. The job of providing script to art, a task always under-rated and undervalued, Mr. Todd Klein accentuates this tale, with the flair and care of a classic poet.

The story describes to us the history and grandeur of ancient Aboriginal mythology and blends it into a tale of avenging spirits and tribal pagan justice. The story adds to that a twist of mystery and intrigue while also giving us a detail of The Batman himself and a glimpse into not only his personal life as Bruce Wayne, but also a sense of that burning rage that drives him to serve as Gotham’s Knight.  “1 I don't care who sent you! Nobody starts dispensing his own justice in this city without getting me involved! “Says Batman to Umbaluru, one vigilante to another!

 In this story we also get a look at a new, previously unseen “redesigned” Batmobile! All that in a 22 page storyboard! Frankly it is an impressive Batman story. One that hooked me early and kept me in its grasp until the very last. But one thing is obviously very clear. We do not get this level of comic literature in this day and age. I don’t want to come off sounding like some bitter old man shaking his fist at modernity while lamenting how great things were in “the day” but it does tend to be true at times. And that’s kind of sad. I don’t think the writing at any of the publishing houses is as expertly done and obviously created with pride and good Bards intent in today’s world. The creative team behind this single story, to me, represents a time when comics were king and those bringing us these tales of heroic deeds took great care with the legends and myths they were entrusted with.

I enjoyed this story immensely and I urge all comic fans to pick up an earlier edition of a volume one set and read it. Appreciate it and judge for yourself the difference between what is in your hands and what is available these days. But most of all just enjoy it. I was going to sell this comic. I’ve changed my mind.


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