Bat­man: The Jiro Kuwata Bat­manga Vol­ume One

West goes East

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Rated / Comics - Saxon Bul­lock

Re­lease Date: 16 De­cem­ber

352 pages | Pa­per­back/ ebook Pub­lisher: DC Comics Writer/ artist: Jiro Kuwata

One rea­son Bat­man has main­tained his pop­u­lar­ity so long is that he’s a character who can sur­vive mul­ti­ple in­ter­pre­ta­tions, and few of th­ese are as weirdly dis­tinc­tive as this se­ries of li­cenced Ja­panese Bat­man ad­ven­tures, pro­duced in the late ’ 60s to cash in on the pop­u­lar­ity of the Adam West- star­ring TV show. Sam­plings of th­ese tales were seen in the 2008 book Bat- Manga, but now DC is col­lect­ing the whole saga to­gether in English for the first time.

The re­sult­ing ad­ven­tures make an off­beat com­pan­ion vol­ume to DC’s cur­rent Bat­man ’ 66 se­ries. Kuwata’s Caped Cru­sader is just as far- fetched as any­thing in the clas­sic TV show – per­haps even weirder, since it’s played with a straight face. Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson bat­tle un­dead gang­sters, an evil hu­man bounc­ing- ball and other loopy threats, and the ac­tion is ren­dered in a won­der­fully ki­netic old- fash­ioned manga style, pack­ing im­pact into even the cra­zi­est mo­ments.

It can some­times feel like Bat­man and Robin have wan­dered into an old- school an­ime like Lupin III or Speed Racer, and the de­mented charm of the sto­ries keeps this col­lec­tion con­sis­tently en­ter­tain­ing. The ’ 60s art style may be too ar­chaic for some, and there’s never re­ally a point where th­ese sto­ries add up to any­thing other than glo­ri­ous non­sense, but it’s still re­fresh­ing to see Bat­man viewed from a new cul­tural an­gle.

Kuwata- cre­ated Bat- vil­lain Lord Death Man was res­ur­rected re­cently for an ap­pear­ance in Grant Mor­ri­son’s Bat­man In­cor­po­rated.

Adam West’s paunch didn’t make it in.

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