Everyone that reads Batman has a general idea of what kind of a character he is. What makes him tick, what his back story is, what led him to take on a life of fighting crime...you get the idea. Yet, while we may all know the basics of what makes Bruce Wayne Batman, many fans can agree that the greatest thing about his character is his versatility. Batman can be dark and brooding or he can be goofy and campy -- different creators have managed to successfully adapt the character in very unique and very different ways; and that's what makes reading Batman books so much fun. And just because an interpretation of Batman is starkly different from what we might be accustomed to, doesn't mean it is at all bad. Case in point, the recently released BATMAN: THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS graphic novel.
DC Comics is usually very adamant about pushing certain characters, particularly Batman. Yet, the release of the THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS graphic novel by comic icons Bruce Jones and Sam Kieth caught me by surprise. Unlike the array of Batman books coming out of DC right now, this one was quietly released by the publisher; perhaps due to it being so very different from anything we have seen in a long time. The thing is, though, these two creators definitely know their Batman.== TEASER ==
For a story like this one, DC could not have chosen a better team of creators than Jones and Kieth. These two were not only perfect for writing this because of their familiarity with the Batman Universe, but both have a very twisted and unique style of story telling which compliment one another perfectly in this book. Jones is no stranger to Batman, having written issues of Nightwing, Batman: War Crimes and Batman Legends of the Dark Knight. The same goes for Sam Kieth who completely changed the artistic portrayal of the character in the 1990's with his work on Batman: Detective Comics, Batman: Secrets and many more. The long pointed ears and the hunched shoulders are classic Sam Kieth Batman qualities, and it is something that the artist brings to the classic hero in this volume.
There's an element of all things trippy and creepy in Kieth's adaptation of the Batman universe in this book which really fits with events of the story. Kieth's villains with their long features: faces, noses and fingers seem to creep across the pages. The wide, toothy grin of the Mad Hatter perfectly compliments his sadistic and eerie nature in the book.
Yet as creepy as Kieth's Hatter might be, his depiction of the young Celia -- one of Bruce's childhood friends -- is completely the opposite. Kieth captures Celia's sweet innocence and mischievous, childish sensibility perfectly through his art. Kieth's art also became less abstract when it was necessary; for example, flash back scenes like the dinner party and moments featuring Robin and Alfred have a far more serious tone.
The story reminds us that Bruce is human, not only because he takes responsibility for Celia's premature death; but also in the fact that through the majority of the issue, Bruce is hallucinating. Everything is not what it appears to be. Now, this isn't the first time we've seen a hallucinating Batman (and it certainly won't be the last), but it is the first time I have seen a Batman story which draws such a direct parallel to a classic book. In BATMAN: THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS writer Bruce Jones draws a near direct parallel to Lewis Carroll's Alice: Through The Looking Glass. In this book, Celia acts as Bruce's guide much in the same way that the White Rabbit led Alice through Wonderland. For Bruce, the sewers of Gotham City have become Wonderland and he must solve a murder. It's interesting to see that as far out of his mind Bruce is in this book, he still manages to solve a murder by following clues over the course of 72 hours.
The similarities between the classic Lewis Carroll story and Jone's book go beyond the names of the characters in the story. In fact, those familiar with the classic tale will be able to identify scenes from Alice featured in this book. The scene where Judge Hart (similar to the Queen of Hearts in the classic tale) plays croquet with Batman is similar to that in Carroll's story. Many of the characters in Jones' book share common characteristics with those found in ALICE: THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS as well, like the Walrus and the Carpenter, the White Rabbit and of course, the Mad Hatter.
There is no doubt about the fact that this Batman is very different from the Batman in DC's current, ongoing series; but a great adaptation nonetheless. Fans of both Jones and Kieth will appreciate the quirky, edgy and unique story telling that these two creators have brought to the character in this volume, and might find the way that the writer draws a parallel to the classic Lewis Carroll story to be quite entertaining. This is definitely a unique and interesting take on a character we know very well, and I personally found it to be a lot of fun.