Friday, February 15, 2013

Review: Batman Death By Design

I don't typically read recent comic books a lot, but when I do, I read Batman. No, not that bullshit, piece of rotten ass garbage, 52 series, actual Batman comics. So I picked up Batman Death by Design. The cover really intrigued me. I liked the charcoal look of the Caped Crusader hanging upside down over the lights and streets of Gotham City. When I received the book, I was blown away by the illustrations inside. Truly, some unique work was put into this one.

Death by Design was written by Chip Kidd, who has done various cover art for novels and has written two himself. Death by Design would be his first written graphic novel. This book was illustrated by Dave Taylor, who has illustrated various Batman comics including series like Shadow of the Bat and Batman & Superman: The World's Finest. Lets start with Chip Kidd's writing. Overall, I feel this book is very well written, but as far as Batman is concerned, it's pretty standard. There is no delving into the dark knight's psyche, no elaborate twists that have to deal with the struggles of other known Batman characters; it's pretty much just another Batman case. It's not a pain to read, but if you're looking for a comic that has a unique portrayal of Batman, this really isn't it.

On to Dave Taylor's illustrations though, they are really awesome. If I could describe it, it would look as if it was drawn with some type of charcoal pencil(sorry, I don't know much about this stuff or the actual name of it, and looking it up would be cheating). Predominantly, the whole comic is somewhat black and white except with certain panels highlighting other colors. Now, as far as art goes, I really like hand drawn art without any color. Like, if someone just drew something with pencil and that's it. That's just my style. So I immediately was sucked into Taylor's work. Everything is its own. The architecture and style of the characters, their clothes, as well ass the buildings and even cars, are representative of the early 1900s. Taylor's illustrations capture this time perfectly and lets you know that this is an independent Batman in his own world. Really stunning. I must have looked back through this book three or four times after I read it just to admire Taylor's work.

This is a pretty good example of the art style
The story of Death by Design focuses on Wayne Central Station(WSC), and how it's crumbling introduction to the see of Gotham needs some serious repairs. A crane accident happens while Bruce Wayne speaks to the media in front of the building and the Batman feels an investigation is in order. Through this ordeal, he finds himself speaking with Cyndia Syl, a person who wants nothing more than to preserve Wayne Central Station the way it is because it is one of Gotham's most important landmarks. While during a party at a new nightclub opened by the architect planning on building the new WSC, a masked stranger, like kind of looks like the Rocketeer, named Exacto appears to warn everyone that the structure is unstable. This joined with a surprise attack of the Joker causes the structure to loosen and start to collapse. Batman saves everyone but is now met with new questions: Who is the stranger? What is Joker up to? What does it have to do with WSC?

The Joker
We learn that the original architect got in bad with a union boss(the dude stole his wife) and the bad condition of WSC was done intentionally so more money could be spent in the future and union workers could keep working and getting paid. In the boss's attempt to murder a local Gotham newspaper reporter, Batman arrives to save the day only to be trapped in a crane compartment by Exacto, who is looking to murder the union boss. Batman escapes only to find that the Joker has kidnapped Cyndia Syl and Bruce Wayne is expected to pay ransom. It all ties to WSC where all the answers are revealed.

The mysterious Exacto
This book was pretty entertaining. A lot of the content reminded me of an old black and white suspense movie(the illustrations pretty much help me get to that thought). It even has some old school scenes that I found quite amusing. For example, when the Joker has Cyndia Syl, she is tied to the hands of a giant clock. At the top is a blade fashioned to it so if she is not removed by a certain time, the hands will send her into the blade ending her life. Classic 1900s villain set up. Like the damsel being tied to the train tracks. I like that kind of stuff. This book is like old school movies mix with modern day technology. It's very nostalgic while still maintaining its own style and perspective.

Love the Batman style
For the illustrations alone, I'd say get this book. And if you are into this type of style, then you should instantly be drawn to it. Batman Death by Design is a fun look into old time ideas with a twist of today's influences. Once again, I really like the design of Batman. Year One style, or 1930s, 1940s, Batman if you want to look at it that way. I imagine long time Batman lovers from back in the day were pretty happy to see a Batman that seemed similar to the one they grew up with. Also, it is a good look in the type of cooky and odd situations Gotham's defender had to deal with, since this book is pretty reminiscent of some of the first Batman stories. I advise that you get this one. It opens up a window to a Batman that has been closed for a really long time.

UPDATE 04/29/2013

So, I was just randomly looking through referring sites on my pageviews screen when I noticed that there were hits from Chip Kidd's website. I looked into it and found that my review of this comic was posted on his site and he had some awesome words to say about it. Don't believe me? Check it out here: This was posted way back in February(2013) and I never knew!

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm...interesting, indeed. I'll have to keep this comic in mind when it's time to get my brother a gift; Batman's the only DC character he's ever liked, so it'll be nice to know I can fall back on this if need be.It's a shame his birthday just passed, though -- but on the plus side, now he's got a spiffy (?) Jason Statham movie to tide him over.

    In any case, thanks for this...though I can't help but wonder how Batman can stand hanging upside down for so long, judging by the cover. Then again, maybe that's why he looks so angry.