Last fall, DC released a cheap reprint of Batman
#1-4
from the 1940s. Check it out.

General Information

Title: Batman: The Dark Knight Archives Vol. 1

Credited to: Bob Kane

Original Publication Date: 2004 price reduced reprint
of of a 1992
collection of material first published in 1940 and
1941.

ISBN: 1-4012-0375-2

Cover Price: $19.95 US, $30.95 Can

Buy from: Amazon.com
or Amazon.ca

Past comic reviews can be found here.

Premise

Batman and Robin face off against several villains,
and have their
first encounters with Catwoman, Joker, and Dr. Hugo
Strange.

High Point

The first appearance of the Joker. Now
that’s a scary clown.

Low Point

I don’t know which was published first, but this uses
the came
“make-up to replace a sports figure” gimmick that I
read in the first Superman
Archives volume a few weeks ago. It was weak in both
places, but at
least the Superman version showed some insight into
his character.
This one isn’t as effectively used. I also wonder
about the abilities
of these characters to create such convincing masks
that can stand up
to the rigours of a football game.

The Scores

This was fairly original, using the costumed
human hero and
setting him up against villains that had some sort of
extra
abilities. (Dr. Strange’s creations are the most
obvious examples.)
Then, near the end, we hit that football story. I
don’t know which
title did it first, but they’d have been pretty darn
close together.
I give it 4 out of 6.

The artwork is in that classic 1940s comic
strip style, with
a fair amount of detail in some places and very little
in others. The
aim was for realism at all times, despite the
unbelievable events
being depicted. Apart from the occasional lack of a
neck, Batman
consistently looked good. The villains, particularly
the Joker, had
some great looking moments as well. The panel shapes
and arrangements
had a fair amount of variety, and certainly came
across as
experimental. There’s a very cinematic feel to the
art, with numerous
angles and views that American movie audiences would
only have seen in
Citizen Kane at the time. This art is
telling a story, and
telling it well. I give it 5 out of 6.

The stories are fairly good. They do have
some irritating
examples of mysteries whose solutions are revealed to
involve
information not provided to the reader, making it
impossible for us to
figure everything out before (or exactly when) Batman
does. I give it
4 out of 6.



The characterization is inconsistent as the
volume develops.
Early on, Batman isn’t too broken up to see the bad
guys die, trying
alternatively to kill or simply not save the Joker in
their combat.
Later on, he vehemently swears against the taking of
any life. As
this only starts to happen when Robin starts asking
him for a message
he could deliver to every boy and girl in the country,
I suspect it’s
evidence of editorial interference attempting to make
the character
more kiddie friendly. I give it 3 out of 6.

The emotional response works both for the
stories, and for
the historical perspective. There is some evidence of
evolution (such
as the fight in which the Joker and Batman are an even
match; that
should only be true in the mental categories), which
is interesting
to compare to today, but some of the mysteries are
interesting in
their own rights. I give it 5 out of 6.

The flow is nice. The different stories are
quite episodic,
but the “sequels” do remind the reader of the
necessary bits from the
past. Each individual story flows quite well, with
the narration and
camera angles needed to keep everything moving. I
give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a good collection, well worth
the reduced
price. (These volumes are usually $50 US, or $85
Canadian, for
exactly the same product that you get here.) I give
it 5 out of 6.

In total, Batman: The Dark Knight Archives Vol.
1
receives 31
out of 42.

Additional Notes and Comments

I’ll pay this price for the Archives, but that regular
price is just
more than I can afford. If anyone from DC is reading
this, I’d love
to see more low-cost archives, or a more complete
Chronology
line that’s beginning with Batman this March. (Green
Lantern, Flash,
and the JLA would be nice to see.)