Comic Review – “Batman Archives Vol. 1”

Batman’s first adventures have been collected and reprinted, now at a new, lower price.

General Information

Title: Batman Archives Vol. 1

Credited to: Bob Kane is the only name on the cover, but Bill Finger, Gardener Fox, Sheldon Moldoff, Jerry Robinson, and George Roussos also contributed.

Original Publication Date: The original issues were published from 1939 to 1941. This compilation was first published in 1990, but at a price of $49.95US. This edition, which shipped on Wednesday, August 13, only cost $19.95 US, or $32.95 Can.

ISBN: 0-930289-60-9

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Millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne dons a secret identity to fight crime, recruiting a teenage orphan along the way. This collection assembles the Batman portions of Detective Comics #27-50.

High Point

The Joker’s appearance in this collection. He was clearly the most formidable villain Batman faced in this set of issues.

Low Point

There were too many lucky circumstances that kept Batman alive, including one instance in which the villain ordered a lackey to kill him, so the lackey hit him over the head with a gun, and then left him for dead. Why didn’t they just shoot him, before or after they knocked him out?

The Scores

Even today, Batman’s role as a detective in a dark world feels original. There are a few heroes in dark worlds know, but they don’t get the same “detective” feel that this does. He’s also one of the few heroes that is completely self-made, without any superpowers. He chose to be a hero long ago, and worked to that goal; he didn’t have some radioactive accident and then decide to change careers to that of a crimefighter. I give this 5 out of 6.

The artwork becomes very good by the end, but the early stories leave something to be desired. Setting aside Batman’s massive, massive head, Bob Kane hadn’t yet developed the storytelling instincts that were expected in the field. Despite these early problems, he soon does some very good work, both in the lightly-inked panels and in the arrangement of the panels into a story. I give it 4 out of 6.

The stories that were told here are certainly detective stories, capturing the feel of Chester Gould’s “Dick Tracy” more than that of any superhero book I’ve read. Batman does detective work, and doesn’t really go out of his way to save the life of a criminal or killer. He was definitely a “dark knight” in these days. Even the grafting on of Robin felt almost natural, given the similarities in their origin stories. The mysteries that needed solved were often not immediately obvious, either. I give the stories 5 out of 6.

The characterization of Batman was well done, even if it differs somewhat from the Batman we know today. (This one told jokes once in a while.) Similarly, we know Robin fairly well. What we don’t get to see is a lot of depth to either hero, or any real complexity to the Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson personas. I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response this produced was mainly historic interest. I was surprised to see Batman kill with so little remorse, and I was interested to see how the superhero feel that pervades so many comics today hadn’t really crept into these yet. I give it 4 out of 6.

The flow of the early issues is pretty choppy, depending heavily on captions for the scene transitions. By the end of the book, the storytelling instincts had been developed, and things were going smoothly. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a decent collection, recently reprinted at a very worthwhile price, but it’s still mainly interesting from a historical perspective, to see what comics in general and Batman in particular were like seventy years ago. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, Batman Archives Vol. 1