Page 45 Review by Jonathan
I don't get it. By now they must have some footage of you or something. Why not just come out with it? Why not just come out with it?
What, and admit there's somebody out there they can't identify or control? ...Oh, and, by the way, he's called Batman and he kicked our asses? Get real.
Okay, it's not new Paul Pope, but it is Paul Pope doing one of the finest non-continuity Batman stories that's ever been written or drawn for that matter, so will that do you whilst we wait for the entrance of THE BATTLING BOY? (Note: BATTLING BOY prequel one-shot THE DEATH OF HAGGARD WEST is out in July. Whilst it is not entirely clear if any or all of it will be in BATTLING BOY it is almost certainly going to go straight out of print, so fervent Papists, I would advise pre-ordering...)
The year is 2039 and the future is distinctly Orwellian with the all-seeing state, including psychic police, keeping the populace under close scrutiny and a very heavy boot heel. The powers that be aren't exactly squeaky clean themselves, though, enjoying the excesses of their more than equal labours, wearing their sharp suits and smoking fat cigars. But in this dystopian world there are no more superheroes, not even any supervillains as we find out in one particularly dark moment, as government control has become near absolute. Except for one man who refuses to even contemplate defeat.
A figure so shadowy, so wraithlike in his ability to go undetected, even the bad guys refuse to acknowledge his existence, though that is primarily because those in charge want to deny people even the solace of the faintest hope. The total media blanket suppression, though, means that the Batman has once again become a creature of legend, a whispered urban myth with the power to frighten children and crooks alike. Which is of course not exactly undesirable for someone who wants to cause near cardiac failure in those he's out to bring down...
Pope is undoubtedly an artist whose style one could accurately describe, I feel, as unfettered. Complex, intricate, ornate even, but also possessing a freedom you don't see in everyone else's work. I am quite sure it isn't the case, but I get the distinct impression even he doesn't know what he's going to draw, particularly in terms of background detail, before he puts pen to paper, it just looks so, so effortless. But the same is also true of his writing, for whilst it's very easy to be distracted by the beauty of what you've been presented with visually, he really knows how to spin a story, and punch out the pithy and poignant dialogue with breathtaking ease.
This is a new printing and when I re-read it, I had honestly forgotten what a brilliantly dark and dense tale he'd put together here. It is certainly in my top five Bat-books, comparable with, say, THE LONG HALLOWEEN. The other additional factor that makes this work near-perfect is the colouring. More often than not Paul's work isnt coloured, and frankly it doesn't need it, but here Jose Villarrubia really does add another dimension to the artwork with an additional layer of vibrancy that demonstrates exactly how you should colour a book that has so much happening in dark shadows during nocturnal activities! Neon signs atop grim sky scrapers seem almost luminous and holographic displays showing Bat-vital information are practically standing out from the page, wonderful work.