Comic readers are a covetous lot indeed. Hoarding their books in poly bags with acid-free boards. Only to sentence them to a life of solitary confinement buried under stacks of overcrowded long-boxes Or, encapsulating their treasures in a gas-impenetrable Barex sleeve, assuring they will never again be enjoyed the way they were intended. We even go so far as to claim the iconic characters for our own. How often have we heard a disillusioned comic fan complain of a new creative team, “This is not my Batman, I’m out.” Truth is, while characters like the Caped Crusader may belong to large corporations, their well-being is entrusted to the writers and artists who conjure up their fantastic adventures every month. After reading Batman: Odyssey #6 it is clear that THIS Batman couldn’t possibly belong to anyone other than Neal Adams. With covers featuring word balloons, and interior pages filled with thought bubbles, the book has some structural features of comics from a bygone age. But the unusually coarse narrative and the use of characters plucked from different eras of Bat-lore aren’t reminiscent of any era of Batman comics to date.
The story begins, thankfully, with a recap of the preceding events by Bruce Wayne himself. After which Batman, accompanied by Deadman (who has hijacked the Joker’s body) are exploring the sewers beneath Arkham Asylum. What follows is a confusing series of events marked by the introduction of Arkham’s Dr. Chu. Chu is unmasked as the infamous Sensei, who is later to be revealed to be the son of Ra’s Al Ghul. The action moves on to the Batcave, where having anticipated al Ghul’s sidekick Ubu’s new abdominal training, the world’s greatest detective opts to neutralize him with a blow to the head. The issue ends with an exhausted Bruce Wayne babbling about a trip he’s about to embark on and then inexplicably collapsing into slumber on the floor of the crowded Batcave.
Of the complaints that I would imagine readers might lodge regarding this book, Neal Adams coasting through the story for the sole purpose of a paycheck can’t be one of them. While the interior pages do have moments of appearing rushed, the 69 year old master draftsman gives us enough touches of brilliance to treat us to a book that is, at the very minimum, interesting to look at. The silent two-page splashes or panels void of backgrounds so common in current comics are absent here. The frenetic action of Batman: Odyssey cannot even be contained by its pages teeming with panels. And if the character’s constant open-mouthed appearance is unsettling, that’s just because everyone keeps talking.
Besides being a legendary artist, Neal Adams has made a name for himself in the scientific community. Adams’s unconventional theory of an expanding Earth has helped spark some spirited debate regarding the history of Earth. But Adams’s cogent and thorough dissertation on Earth’s expansion has not translated to the narrative in Batman: Odyssey. While this issue is packed with characters, Adams fails to give them each unique voices. This is made doubly confusing with Deadman jumping in and out of various characters. And while we may believe Adams’s claim of tectonic plate separation without subduction, it’s hard to buy his characterizations in this book. Everyone comes across as being quite rude. Especially Bruce, with his peculiar penchant for calling others “idiot” and “stupid.” Certainly not the vocabulary that has elevated Bruce Wayne to be one of the highest intellectuals of the DC Universe. And just like the molten material that cools to fill the gap between Earth’s separating plates, this book is dense! Each page is replete with a combination of word and thought balloons, making this book seem a lot longer than its 25 pages would suggest.
As opposed to other media, comics can be particularly fantastic. With no production budgets, creators are able to wield their unrestrained imagination. A comic series set in no particular historical continuity can be even more so. My guess is that the “trip” that Bruce mentions to in the final pages of this issue is a reference to the title of the book. With the series reaching its midpoint, I can honestly say I don’t know where Neal Adams is going to take this. With Batman doing and saying things so out of character, all bets are off. This is Neal Adams’s Batman after all. And despite the myriad of technical flaws within the pages of Batman: Odyssey #6, I am eager to see what this comic legend has in store.
Batman: Odyssey #6:
Reviewed by hayestronaut