Print Edition: September 18, 2013
“As I pulled on my gloves, I knew before the night was over, they’d be soaked … in blood!”
After reading that line, I had a single clear thought: Batman: Noir is one of the best graphic novels I have added to my collection in a very long time.
That statement may seem bold, but after reading through this compilation of stories and viewing Eduardo Risso’s beautiful artwork, it isn’t exaggeration.
I usually don’t recommend compilation graphic novels, especially when the content has been collected from other comics separated over several years.
Broken City, the major space holder of the book, was published back in 2003 while Knight of Vengeance was part of the Flashpoint Event / DC Reboot in 2011. Along with a short story about Victor Zsasz, ironically titled Scars, and a collection of single Wednesday comics, I felt that I should hate it just on principle.
But I couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried, and with each turn of the page, I realized all I was going to do was love it even more. So for those of you who already have the comics in question, this review is similar to the purpose of the novel: to celebrate Risso’s art.
While the stories were written by Brian Azzarello, a highly acclaimed comic writer, Batman: Noir is all about Eduardo Risso’s artwork. His attention to the details of the characters is amazing to study. The refurbishing and touch-ups to the original outlines are extremely crisp, and add fantastic resolution. After having studied identical panels from the original Broken City, the lack of colour just seems right. The hard edges really give a more brutal tone to the panels and add a darker mood than that of the coloured panels.
One of the most impressive feats in the artwork is how Risso addresses liquids. Sometimes comic artists will cheap out, and use red for blood in some cases, but Risso keeps within the guidelines and does it amazingly well. Rain also looks just plain awesome in the panels. Batman is constantly drenched in it and it adds to the rugged pissed-off demeanor of the character.
Something that seems so odd about the novel is that the dialogue really makes sense in a noir setting. Batman’s lack of emotion as he brutally tortures Killer Croc to uncover more information and his constant degrading comments about the city he has sworn to protect—or the fact that he will never truly succeed—are unique, and feel so right for the character.
Even when he is comparing his case to a steak he is grilling, it just oozes with noir tonnage. Broken City is already an amazing story despite its simplistic plot line. It borrows much from Frank Millar’s The Dark Knight Returns but still stands out on its own. Knight of Vengeance doesn’t share exactly the same feeling as Broken City in terms of its overall content, but it still feels familiar. The idea of a parallel universe Batman who is instead Thomas Wayne is an awesome story and possibly one of the few good things that came out of the infamous 1952 reboot. Thomas Wayne’s brutal conviction and willingness to kill his enemies displays a side of Batman that many fans have secretly wanted for some time.
Batman: Noir is a great book and an example of how simply changing the colour scheme can alter the look and feel of the story. Eduardo Risso’s art is incredible, from the rain-soaked architecture of Gotham to the broken and beaten Batman. It is an expensive purchase, as the deluxe edition is the main book out there, but if you are a big Batman fan, you’ll really want to read this!