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Thursday, October 30, 2003

 
Batman: Tenses #1 and 2
By Joe Casey, Cully Hamner, Dexter Vines and Lee Loughridge
Published by DC Comics

You'll be tense, too, after wasting fourteen dollars and an hour of your life on this freakish but well-drawn piece of shit.

Joe Casey's script is squarely to blame for my dislike of this recent two issue Prestige Format series. Mostly blameless is penciller Cully Hamner, an above-average action artist who gives the story far more justice than it deserves.

I picked this up based on a number of factors, including my admiration of Casey's Wildcats work, my enjoyment of previous Hamner efforts including Warren Ellis's Red, and a misguided belief that these factors would combine to make for a good read. Casey's script is everything his Wildcats isn't: Unfocused, vile, insulting, pointless. Standout scenes include Batman getting hit on by a gay TV reporter and assaulting him for touching him, multiple scenes of cannibalism and injury to the eye, and an ending that says absolutely nothing except "You paid fourteen bucks for this?"

To be fair, Casey seems to be reaching for a theme here -- something about corporate responsibility, as seen in Bruce Wayne's actions after seeing how layoffs from his company affected one strange, super-powered cannibal who happened to be in his employ. Unfortunately, the melange of child abuse, cannibalism, closeted homosexuality and violence results in a story that can best be described as an ambitious disaster. For whatever reason, Casey manages some of these elements skillfully and in an entertaining manner in Wildcats, but readers looking for a similar exploration will be disappointed here. Similarly, anyone merely looking for a good Batman adventure story will not find what they're looking for. Bruce Wayne's boardroom scenes are mostly fine, but his alter-ego's characterization is troublesome at best, and there's a quite overt suggestion of homophobia in Wayne's reaction to having a pass made at him by a gay male television reporter. When the reporter makes his interest known, Bruce Wayne tells him "don't" and nearly breaks the man's hand. Quite out of character and quite offensive.

The art here is unimpeachably beautiful -- my admiration for Hamner, Vines and Loughridge's work could only be increased if they had had the good sense to use their powers for drawing something not quite so inane and repugnant. Grade: 1/5

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