That being said, the eleven stories featured in this collaborative work of Steve Englehart and Len Wein for Strange Apparitions is a fun-filled adventure that makes use of a roster of villains such as Dr. Upon reading the first two issues of this volume, I was immensely entertained even when the narrative boxes are self-aware and cheesy in a lot of ways. I just pretend that there is an old-timey voice speaking in my head as I read. But as I progressed on, this linguistic style started to irritate me that I have to consciously block it out in order to invest myself in the stories themselves.
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The art from the book has been burned into my brain over the years from google and batman fan accounts on Instagram and I feel a familiarity with the work, even if I know nothing about the story.
Strange Apparitions was very difficult to get hold of and I have sought after it for the best part of the last ten years. So, will this one deliver on the hype…or would it have been best left as something I, and you, should never pick up?
The Calculator The copy I got opened with an issue about Batman taking down the calculator. Mobsters huddled around a table, exclaiming that the Batman must go. The entire scene is dark, gritty and moody and it lets you know from the off that this is going to be a tale set in the underworld of the Gotham pantheon. The perfect place to be in the pages of a Batman comic. Deadly Detox Bruce decides that he needs time to recover from his latest battles especially that one with the Calculator and decides to check into Greystone Hospital.
The action and dialogue feels slightly dated but there is a real weight added to the story upon Strange beating Batman and discovering his true identity. Hugo Strange knowing that Bruce Wayne is Batman has almost became a motif of stories starring the villain. Bruce is acting Strange Unfortunately the ensuing chapter fails to deliver on this promise. Strange, wearing a Bruce Wayne mask no idea how it fits over his beard , slowly begins to ruin the playboys life. This all climaxes when Strange holds an auction to reveal the caped crusaders true identity.
It feels slightly anti climactic and I think the animated series handled this plot better. In that the auction still happened, however Bruce was able to use his cunning to deceive the bidders and convince them that they had been sold a lie.
At this point I felt let down by the book. However, the constant notes by the editor on every page and little things like geese flying in the shape of the Penguin are really distracting. They truly take away from the atmospheric, dark mood that the prior two issues had established. This section really marred the book for me. The detective work done reeks of the show and whilst they were played for laughs this book has no comedic intention behind it.
Luckily what follows gets the book back on track. For a while. We slowly start to see Rupert Thorne being driven mad by the spectre of Hugo Strange. Whilst it could be mysterious and terrifying it feels rather goofy.
Out of place in what has till this point been relatively grounded. The aesthetic shift is slightly jarring, especially for someone like myself who is very skeptical when it comes to the paranormal.
I always find it fascinating whenever Bruce gets a new love interest in the comics as each writer has their own way of dealing with his dual identity. It almost creates a complex love triangle that normally ends in a break up. He even remarks at one point that Bruce has become the mask and Batman is the true face.
Rarely are true identities shown as the mask and you really get the feeling that Bruce may, on some levels be insane. He is on a mission of self sabotage, an obsessive vigilante with a god complex and we love him for it.
However, there are some ups and downs in the book due to this love plot. Mainly when Batman visits Silver and they refuse to admit to one another that they know the secret. Whilst it is by the numbers I cannot judge it too harshly as the characters are very well crafted and the book was created before this became a cliche. Whilst a majority of the book feels dated, this duel feels like a really modern telling.
It really shows just how forward thinking the artists were to see that this outfit still looks great 40 years on. What I love about these older stories is how they set up, whilst tying into, other stories. Sure the editor notes within the panels are a bit ham fisted but they subtly speak to a larger universe.
One in which Batman has been tried and tested so his crime fighting abilities and detective skills seem more genuine. Joker has poisoned fish along the Eastern seaboard so that they resemble him. He now wants to earn money from a fish distributor as they share his likeness.
So a plot in which The Joker makes fish smile is hard to really get to engrossed in. That sort of sums up my experience with Strange Apparitions. Every time I wanted to really enjoy it, something came out of nowhere and cemented my dislike.
It hit me at this moment that Strange Apparitions might be a bygone book. We also are introduced to a more brutal Batman. After losing Silver St. Cloud the Dark Knight decides to take it out on the scum of Gotham.
And Clayface apparently dies in a fire but of course no trace of him is found. That being said this was still a fun section in what had been a disappointing book. Ticket to tragedy For the final chapter Batman travels to London.
The climax of the story is laden with terrible English dialogue. This issue feels like filler and you could end the story at the Clayface issue without having to slog through this in order to complete the book. The Verdict Batman Strange Apparitions is a very mixed bag. I normally hate that term but it feels appropriate here. There are threads of an over arc that intertwine with singular issues but from the off it feels disjointed and unclear. The book is very dated and often felt like a chore to get through.
Updated every new review. Leave a comment whether you agree with my ranking or not.
Batman: Strange Apparitions
Steve Englehart actually only worked on Detective Comics — , and Marshall Rogers Detective Comics — , but in collected works all of the issues are encompassed into the title. Englehart worked on his first two issues with artist Walt Simonson , and Rogers finished off underneath writer Len Wein. The storyline was published in and it is notable for reintroducing forgotten Golden Age characters like Hugo Strange and Deadshot , while also introducing new and relevant characters to the Batman mythos like Doctor Phosphorus , Rupert Thorne , Clayface III and what could be considered one of the best romantic partners of the Batman, Silver St. The run also included the epic storyline "The Laughing Fish" and "Sign of the Joker", which are considered among the best Batman stories ever told. A new villain appears in Gotham City , Doctor Phosphorus , who terrorizes the town by contaminating the water supply. He also blackmails the city council whom he had previously held ties to , demanding that they remove Batman from his path.
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