Evil Geek Book Report – Batman: The Widening Gyre
Howdy Evil Geeks and Nerds. Welcome back to another edition of the Evil Geek Book Report! In my last review, I mentioned that my reading habits were rather Gotham-centric as of late, so in keeping with that motif I’ll be chatting about The Batman again. This weeks Bat-review comes courtesy of Batman: The Widening Gyre, written by Bat-worshipper Kevin Smith (“Our Batman, who art in Gotham, cowled be thy mane…“) featuring art by one of his closest friends, Walt Flanagan. This is Smith & Flanagan’s second time taking the helm of the Caped Crusader; Gyre is a follow-up to their 2008-2009 mini Batman: Cacophony.
The storyline of Gyre seems a little scattered at first, but once you finish the initial 6 issues it then comes together as a whole. Think of issue six as The Dude’s prized Oriental rug. At first it seems to be a collection of random encounters with various obscure villains, interwoven with Bruce’s memories of “the olden days”, when it was just him and the original Robin (I originally typed that as “when it was just him and Dick”, but thought it might not be such a hot idea considering those memories I was referencing already feature a young boy in short-shorts. Seriously, what the hell were they thinking when they created this stuff back in the 30’s?). I’ve heard Smith talk about the writing of this story on the Fatman on Batman podcast before; how basically he and Flanagan were trying to shoehorn in every obscure villain they could. Their thinking at the time being “Well when are we ever going to get to write Batman again? We might as well throw in everyone we’ve ever wanted to write in a Bat book.” I think it gives the story kind of a scattered feeling, because as I was reading it I kept waiting for the main villain of the story line to reveal themself. The reveal of the main baddie doesn’t happen until the very last page of the last issue, leaving us with one totally unexpected, shockingly grisly cliffhanger left to be resolved in a future mini series.
The ending REALLY caught me by surprise, as Smith’s overall handling of the Bat seems a little lighter and jokier than readers might be used to. It’s not a straight up comedy, Smith is faithful to the Batman’s serious character, but the ancillary characters tend to have a laugh at Bruce’s expense, using Smith’s trademark humor style. The mixing of the serious side of the universe with the comedic aspects feels to me like a way of bridging the 60’s and 70’s era cartoony Bat U, with the post Dark Knight Returns, gritty Bat U. He’s combining Adam West Batman with Christian Bale Batman. The Bright Knight and The Dark Knight are finally one. Flanagan’s art style is a reflection of this as well. He’s clearly more of a fan of old school Batman as opposed to the newer era, but while his art is very reminiscent of that less intense era, he certainly doesn’t give the book a hokey look. Smith’s storyline certainly helps the book from descending into the corn-ball arena also; it’s definitely for mature readers.
Besides the random villainy plot, the story also focuses on the sudden reappearance of Bruce Wayne’s ex-grilfriend, Silver St. Cloud (best non-porn porn name ever! Although it sounds like she’d specialize in Minnesota porn, except I’m not sure what Minnesota porn would be. It’d probably involve Vikings jerseys and ice fishing,). Silver left Bruce some years back in order to shack up with some senator, but she’s come back to be with Bruce. She confesses that Bruce was the only man she’d ever loved and that she never once slept with the Senator. Cough, cough, BULLSHIT, cough…excuse me. There’s a twist with Silver though. She knows that Bruce is Batman and that once the sun goes down, there is no more Bruce, only the Bat. Silver is willing to sacrifice a normal relationship in order to be with Bruce again, so she makes a deal with him in that he can be Batman all he needs to be once the sun goes down, but during the daytime she gets him all to herself. Bruce agrees to this and almost immediately he and Silver get pretty hot and heavy. They spend days jetting to various tropical locations, while at night Bruce returns to Gotham to wage his war on crime. Not everyone is too keen on Batman hooking up though. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman, gets EXTREMELY jealous of Bruce and Silver’s relationship and quickly begins basically stalking Batman and trying to tempt him with various sexy variations of her outfit. Buce isn’t having anoy of that though, he’s got his heart set on Silver. With Silver back in the picture and supporting his career as a cape, we finally see Bruce in a state that is almost un-natural for him: Happiness.
Another portion of the story involves a newbie crime fighter in Gotham named Baphomet (think Batman with a scary, pentagram-like goat head). Several times in the story Baphomet mysteriously shows up and bails out Batman without saying a word, as Bats is in the middle of getting his ass beaten like a rented mule at the Grand Canyon. Batman is impressed by the potential and raw skill that Baphomet shows, so the two eventually get to talking and strike up somewhat of a friendship. Batman sees a potential trainee/replacement in Baphomet. He’s not an innocent kid like the various Robins (it’s just Dick and Tim in the story, Jason’s still dead and Damien’s nowhere to be found. He’s probably hanging around somewhere being a sawed off psychopath.), he’s a grown man who can clearly take care of himself. If Batman can dump some of his crime fighting load (heh heh heh…) on Baphomet’s shoulders, it would free Bruce up to pursue life with Silver more often and eventually someday retire. Batman isn’t so quick to trust him though. In fact the first time Baphomet takes his mask off in front of Batman, he kind of freaks out.
Despite what at first seemed like a scattered story, without a doubt I enjoyed this story. What both the Silver and Baphomet plotlines do for Batman in this story is humanize him. This person, who has spent his entire life from the moment his parents were killed, only pretending to be himself, FINALLY sees an opportunity to actually be himself. He no longer will have to parade around as Bruce Wayne, while waiting for the sun to go down so he can be Batman again; he BE Bruce Wayne at last and not have to worry that Gotham will suffer in the absence of Batman. Will that plan work out or will it end in utter heartbreak? Check out The Widening Gyre to find out.