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The Folio Society: ‘DC: Batman’ (review)

Selected and introduced by Jenette Kahn
Published by The Folio Society

 

Before digging into this book, I took my time in learning about just what it is that the Folio Society does.

I had seen postings online from a few of my friends about their books but I had no idea what it was they did.

And so, the I read up on them and even watched a video that was on their website.

All of it was fairly interesting to me. They turn each of their books into a piece of actual art. They explained the care and the love that they show each and every book.

With this latest release,  time they focused on Batman as one of their subjects.

So what did they do to accomplish this book of theirs? Well, quite a lot actually. You can see it on the page for sure. It is a beautiful book and the presentation is enormous and striking. Their book presented here is the best case that I have ever seen that comic books are, in fact, art.

The very first story contained in this book shows that, probably in the best way that it has ever presented. And it interesting to see all of these stories presented in this fashion.
Jeanette Kahn, who was once the president as well as publisher of DC Comics, presents each of the stories and chose the most interesting and historical ones. She gives some good and memorable commentary for the stories themselves that provide deeper insight to what it is that you are reading. It resonates in those stories as to why they were included and why these stories as so impactful. I’ve read these stories multiple times in other formats but this was new even for me here. I hopped on into the journey that was presented before me.

I’ll be honest. Some of these were so beautiful and some of them I had to gloss over. Not that anything was bad. I just read them before. The trouble with books like this, as well as various artist editions that are out there, is that a lot of time they never include full stories. The presentation is beautiful. It’s like going from VHS to 4k bluray projection. It is a gorgeous transfer from what we have usually seen. But a lot of these stories presented here are just the first chapter in continuous stories or reprinted from limited series. The problem is, if you want to actually immerse yourself in this and read the stories, the rest just isn’t there.

I understand that’s part of the process and maybe not the point of this book. But after you read the first part of The Dark Knight Returns in this format, and then there is nothing after? No chapter two? The story is excellent sure, but I’d love to read the rest of this landmark series in this format.

The same goes for the first chapter of Batman: Year One. Amazing series. Amazing artwork, some of the best ever. We only get the first chapter of it though. That makes it tough to commit to actually reading some of this.

That being said, the quality of the book is outstanding. And I mean, it is truly outstanding. The highlight for me was being able to see the very first Batman story from Detective Comics #27 in there, written by Bill Finger and drawn by Bob Kane. Honestly, I don’t recall having ever seen a better quality reproduction of this story. It is literally the most cleaned up version that I have ever come across. That alone is an accomplishment in of itself. Reading the story in this format gives you a new appreciation for it, and a new understanding of the time in which it was created. It’s something to actually read it this way, and worth the price of admission alone for sure.

There are some other stories in there that really are great. We get a couple of Neal Adams stories too, but again they feel like that are part of a bigger story that we aren’t seeing. The same goes for the Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers story as well as the reproduction of Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1. It is a beautiful reproduction on the scratch free material, especially with the Norm Breyfogle artwork.

But still, you’re left with a cliffhanger if you’re reading it and it takes away some of the fun.
I will say, I was completely impressed that The Killing Joke was included in this editions. The artwork by Brian Bolland has never looked better. The reproduction here of that is absolutely topnotch. Honestly, it is also probably worth the price of admission all by itself. Seeing the artwork in this format again made the whole experience something new for me. I absolutely loved it. The colors also popped in a way that I hadn’t seen or recognized before. Absolutely stunning for sure.

I felt the same way about all of the artists, really. It would have been great to get some of the more recent artists in there (Greg Capullo or even Mikel Janin) but I get it. I am glad to see the inclusion of Kelley Jones in it though, who draws a Batman like nobody else’s.

But Jeanette Kahn covers in her introduction why these were chosen. And it is hard to argue her points, as they are all thought about and heavily considered.

For reference purposes the book includes:

  • ‘The Bat-Man’ – Detective Comics #27 (May 1939) by Bill Finger and Bob Kane
  • ‘Robin–the Boy Wonder’ – Detective Comics #38 (April 1940) by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson
  • ‘The Crimes of Two-Face!’ – Detective Comics #66 (August 1942) by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson, and George Roussos
  • ‘Batman and Green Arrow: The Senator’s Been Shot!’ – The Brave and the Bold #85 (September 1969) by Bob Haney and Neal Adams
  • ‘Daughter of the Demon’ – Batman #232 (June 1971) by Denny O’Neill and Neal Adams
  • ‘The Dead Yet Live’ – Detective Comics #471 (August 1977) by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers
  • ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1 (June 1986) by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, and Lynn Varley
  • Batman: Year One—Chapter One: Who I Am—How I Come to Be’ – Batman #404 (February 1987) by Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli, and Richmond Lewis
  • Batman: The Killing Joke (July 1988) by Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, and John Higgins
  • ‘The Last Arkham (Part One)’ – Batman: Shadow of the Bat (June 1992) by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle
  • ‘Knightfall Part 1: Crossed Eyes and Dotty Teas’ – Batman #492 (May 1993) by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones

Housed separately within the slipcased volume is a stunning replica of Batman #1 which includes work by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson, and Sheldon Moldoff.  This historic issue features the debut of The Joker, Hugo Strange, and Catwoman.

Overall, this book is really a treat for every Batman fan out there. It really does create a full view at the lineage of the character. I loved the various selections here and enjoyed them all. I had read them all before of course, some many times over.

However, this format is impressive if a bit overwhelming. The endpapers are nice, and it is probably the best presentation that the stories contained within will probably ever see put to print. It’s wonderfully done and handled. I just wish it had a few more issues to feel a bit more whole. It would have felt like a more complete experience.

RATING: B+

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