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I’m not sure when I first became aware of Neal Adams, but it was some time in the mid-70s. I had missed his work before then, but started seeing his wonderful covers for DC, and through a friend with a used book store who was buying old comics to sell, began finding work like the eye-opening GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW. By the time I started at DC in their production department in 1977 I was a firm fan, and it was thrilling to be able to work with his art on projects like SUPERMAN VS. MUHAMMAD ALI. When Neal started publishing his own comics I followed them for a while, but they came out so infrequently that I lost interest after the first year or two. So most of my love of Adams’ work is based on what he did in the 1970s. I was intrigued to see what this book would be like, Neal’s first major project for DC in decades, especially since it starred Batman. Neal did some great work on the character with Denny O’Neil and others, but here he’d be writing as well, so it was a chance to see what Neal thought a Batman comic should be.
The art is still stunning, the figure work terrific, the shot selection dynamic, the storytelling exciting. One thing that hit me after a few pages was that nearly every figure and face is expressing extremes of pose, posture, movement and expression. There are very few stoic faces or relaxed figures, almost none. I love the way Neal pushes reality to extremes, but it’s almost as if everyone has had too much caffeine, and has been told to overact every scene to the max. I don’t recall seeing this many teeth and tongues in a comic in some time. It’s great work taken panel by panel, but it’s way over the top of melodrama as a whole. So, I guess what I’d suggest Neal thinks makes a good Batman comic is to take out all the boring conversational standing around parts and pump up every moment possible.
It kind of works if you’re willing to go there, but it makes it hard to get a sense of belief in the story. Of course, the same could be said of many action films. The dialogue has its nice moments, as when Batman notes a tactical error: “Could’ve waited on drawing the gun. Now I have to climb with one hand…stupid.” Some of the plot points are a little hard to follow, but may become clearer in later issues. Mostly it’s Batman’s Wild Ride time, and I did enjoy it and will read on, though I can’t say it’s as involving as I might have hoped. I’ll still recommend it, and if you’re an Adams fan, how could you not have a look?