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Review: Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga Chapter #26

batmangaHello Batfans! This week finds us exploring the third chapter of the increasingly excellent Hangman saga. Jiro Kuwata raises the bar once again and delivers a story that is worthy of sitting alongside some of the best that DC has to offer. Kuwata’s strength lies in his ability to convey powerful messages using a minimalist approach to dialogue and art direction. This approach is executed flawlessly in this issue and is one of the primary reasons this series still resonates with readers almost fifty years after its first publication.


The chapter opens with Batman on the verge of being unmasked by the Hangman. These cliffhangers pay direct homage to the ’66 television series and are enjoyable every time they grace the page. After a swift recovery on the part of the Dark Knight, the focus of the story quickly shifts to Robin and his pursuit of the Hangman. I enjoy the manner in which Kuwata utilizes both Batman and Robin to add a certain degree of depth to his narrative. He reminds us that it often takes both members of the dynamic duo to thwart the enemies of Gotham City.


The most compelling portion of this week’s entry into the Batmanga was the result of Kuwata drawing upon personal experiences and expressing them through the character Cathy. We see Cathy standing on the edge of a bridge contemplating suicide. Her hope is that she will serve as a martyr and be the catalyst of her brother’s redemption. Kuwata understands the nature of wanting to end one’s own life and uses these panels to convey an emotional depth that is rarely captured in the pages of a comic book.


Just before he began work on the Batmanga, Kuwata was jailed for possession of a handgun. He indicated that he planned to use the gun to take his own life. It is also well known that Jiro Kuwata struggled with alcoholism and depression for a large portion of his adult life. I am confident that Kuwata used these experiences to craft this section of his book and the result is both beautiful and tragic. We see the character of Cathy finding a renewed sense of purpose after her suicide attempt was prevented by an outside source. I am not sure if Kuwata experienced a similar event in his personal life, however, I would not rule it out as a possibility.


The issue wraps up with Robin facing a foe that is strikingly similar to the Hangman. Furthermore, it ends with the Boy Wonder’s fate hanging in the balance. It is almost as though he is experiencing the same fate that Batman faced in chapter two of this story arc. Although it felt a bit repetitious, the panels involving Cathy felt fresh and invigorating, giving the book just enough material to stand on its own. With one more issue to go, let’s hope that Kuwata wraps up this story arc with the same compelling storytelling of the first three chapters.


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