Friday, January 02, 2009
The Black Glove -- The three issues comprising "The Black Glove" storyline by Grant Morrison and JH Williams are three of the best issues of Batman since, at least, Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli cranked out Batman: Year One fifteen or twenty years ago.
Over the course of the three issues, Morrison and Williams play with Batman's decades-long mythology, creating an eerie and nuanced murder mystery that is visually stunning, the equal -- perhaps even superior -- to Williams's work on Promethea with writer Alan Moore. "The Black Glove" as a story is pure superhero comic book magic.
Unfortunately, DC turned what could have been an elegant hardcover collection into a massive failure by padding it out with four thematically dissonant and visually incompetent issues (another storyline entirely) drawn by Tony Daniel. It sounds like sour grapes, but having paid real money for the book (half the cover price, yes, thank you Borders Bucks, but still, some of my cash was involved in the transaction), I'd like to spend the rest of this review telling you how I would have preferred DC to present the good material from this volume:
* Option #1: Ideally, The Black Glove's three sublime issues would have been presented in a standalone hardcover, preferably oversized, anywhere between the dimensions of the new deluxe JLA hardcovers and Kramers Ergot #7 would be fine with me. Thicker paper, a sketchbook section, interviews and essays could have padded it out if the three issues worth of material weren't enough.
* Option #2: Less ideally, the second half-plus of the book (which were wasted on the Daniel-drawn issues) could have been blank. "Draw your own sequel!" That would have been less desirable than Option #1, but still preferable to what we got.
Well, I'm out of options. Most important to note, though, is this: I would have been much happier paying full price for this volume if it just contained the Williams-drawn Black Glove story-arc and nothing else. It would have been a better value for the money. Pairing it up, as DC does here, with the four-issue Daniel-drawn storyline implies quite strongly that not only are these two stories thematically compatible, but roughly equal in quality. They are neither. "The Black Glove" is superb superhero storytelling, among the best things Morrison has ever written, or Williams has ever drawn. The other stuff -- over half the book, I'm very sorry to say -- is perhaps competently written, but drawn by an artist -- Tony Daniel -- who can draw a comic book but has yet to demonstrate the slightest bit of artistry in anything I have ever seen him draw. Note, for example, a panel in which someone has the barrel of what is supposed to be a gun pressed against their head; the "barrel" is a generically-drawn cylinder resembling a Thermos more than the barrel of a gun.
In sum, JH Williams is an artist working in comics, who always gives more than is required by any assignment he receives. Daniel is a subpar superhero illustrator whose work suggests a lack of artistic training or inspiration, and whose inclusion in what could have been a prestigious and elegant volume results, rather, in an infuriating and narratively incoherent overall package. If no other point gets through here, at least know that I seriously thought about whether the book would be improved by using an X-Acto knife to slice out Daniel's pages. The fact that that thought seriously spent time in my mind is what caused me to write this review.
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