The recent opening of a much needed new comic bookstore in town has unleashed my latest ongoing superhero fever, which in full multimedia madness includes compulsive use of my comics apps and a sumptous run-through of the entire X-Men film franchise. In the middle of such activity, I began looking for something suitable to feed to my kindle, and stumbled upon this ebook.
The first question that springs to mind obviously concerns the peculiar, cold-fusion pairing of two characters that inhabit entirely separate narrative universes, apart from the occasional crossover. Common traits between the two are surely easy to spot: they’re (the) good guys with a dark side, to the point of redefining the domain of ‘good’. Batman and Wolverine also happen to be the stars of recent (and, in the former’s case, past) successful film sagas that further increased their fan bases — i.e. the pool of potential readers into which this ebook taps (a similar book on Superman and Spiderman actually appears to have been written by the same blokes). Yet these are for all purposes two different slim ebooks stitched together, and the result never even tries to work as a whole.
The text, evenly split between the two subjects, offers no delucidations on the motives behind its editorial choices; there is in fact no general introduction, and the reader is plunged without ado into whichever half of the book he prefers (full disclosure: I am a confessed Marvel fan), each allegedly detailing the story of one character from his origins to the most recent developments at the time of publication, in 2012. Don’t expect any literary analysis on the narrative choices of their creative teams, or perhaps even a comparative study of their personalities: the ebook sticks to intra-narrative facts. This is probably not surprising for a book explicitly designed, as per subtitle, as an introduction for newcomers into the extensive and intricate chronologies of two of comicdom’s most prominent representatives. And on the other hand, in all likelihood even long-term fans would enjoy an engaging, heartfelt recapitulation of their paladin’s highs and lows.
And that is precisely where this book fails miserably: plagued by poor language, peculiarly bad editing, repetitions, endless errors and misprints (including, maddeningly, the names of many characters) it fails to draw the reader into the otherwise compelling adventures of the two heroes. Although, to be perfectly fair, the rewriting of such eventful lives into a blood-drained prose that drags along uneventfully has to be reckoned as a feat in itself.
It’s very sad: this could have been an excellent and enjoyable essay, possibly the definitive guide to both heroes, and instead turns out to be merely a curio that fans will flip through more in the cheeky search for what the author has got wrong than for any other reason. I don’t think newbies will have the stamina to see this through.
Moreover, even though comic book issues are mentioned (rarely), there are no references given for the events narrated, and no footnotes to speak of; i.e. this is not a scholarly research. Not incidentally, the most interesting chapters are those detailing the two characters’ origins, which feature the personal recollections of their authors; and the direct words of real writers and artists are a very welcomed intermission to the plain, repetitive prose of the surrounding chapters.
On his part, the author offers such insight as “why would you not be [fascinated by Wolverine]? He is short, hairy, mean and has redefined the meaning of claws for comic book characters”. Wow, that’s avantgarde.
Considering how handy the chronologies of such prominent superheroes are (haven’t Marvel and DC Comics published their own guides?) and how easy self-publishing through Amazon, this could well be considered the work of a moderately obsessive teenage fan, if the author himself did not confess to being “just another fan whose actual age is now older than Batman’s (who perpetually remains 29 forever)”. And please note, not just perpetually, but forever too!
The caped crusader and the mutant with sideburns deserve more than this.
But Amazon is giving it away for free, which explains a lot.
Joe Bensam, Dean King
Batman and Wolverine: the Stories of the Superheroes
pp. 190, € whatever Amazon is charging at the moment
Platinum Publishing, 2012