Sunday, November 30, 2014

Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga #20 Review

Written By: Jiro Kuwata
Art By: Jiro Kuwata
Cover Price: $1.99
Release Date: November 15, 2014

The Revenge of Clayface (Chapter 1 of 4) anyone thinks of Batman in the 1960's two thoughts come to mind: the comic book published by DC Comics and the 1966 William Dozier TV series Batman--camp at it's finest. The versions of Gotham City that both of those products presented was bright and colorful but what a lot of people fail it realize is that there is another Gotham City. The Gotham City of legendary manga writer Jiro Kuwata.

In the 1960's when Batmania was at it's hottest, shōnen magazine, Shōnen King, decided to license the rights to the character of Batman, so that they could publish their own Japanese Batman adventures. These stories were written and illustrated by Jiro Kuwata, whom had previously created Maboroshi Tantei (The Phantom Detective) in 1957.

For years, the work that Jiro Kuwata had done--over 1,000 pages--was never previously compiled. Recently, DC Comics decided to have the complete Jiro Kuwata Batmanga translated into English, with print and digital collections finally being released as well. To get the story out there  DC decided to use their digital first platform to release a chapter a week on ComiXology. Being someone that hasn't actively read manga in the past (though there are some titles I'd like to look into) I was incredibly excited to pick this up.

First and foremost there is a learning curve to this book--and not to who the characters are. Regardless of art style Batman and Robin are both presented true to form in their iconic costumes right down to Robin's American R. That being said DC Comics and ComiXology both agreed that in order to be true to the original work it should be presented in traditional manga style, meaning that you start on the top right corner of the right page and work your way left. The guide view feature of ComiXology definitely made reading this a bit easier, though there were still times I caught myself starting on the left of a panel instead of the right.

Now that we've gotten the formalities out of the way let's talk about the story at hand: The Revenge of Clayface. At some point I would like to go back and read the first 19 chapters of the story although I may hold off for the first physical release that comes out on December 9th and will have 352 pages of story. Looking past that fact the story itself was well presented with a clear concise opening that presents the reader with 95% of the information they need to know and the 5% that isn't there is all your common Batman information that everyone already knows.

The story is pretty straight forward: escaped criminal Ferris needs to get to an alien ooze that gives him the powers that he needs to become the villain Clayface. Unfortunately, the location where he intends to get it has been destroyed but he is able to track a sample of the alien ooze to the lab of Professor Zone. I won't tell you what happens next but I can guarantee you it involves Batman, Robin, Clayface, and an awesome Batman story that I can't wait to see the next part of.

The art in the book is also done by Jiro Kuwata and he did a fantastic job of illustrating the Caped Crusaders. The character of Professor Zone (and even Bruce Wayne at the end) have the same visual style that I recall seeing so many times growing up as I watched shows like Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon, though at times you can still tell it's the 1960's based on the size of certain characters hair.

The book serves as a nice contrast to the American Batman comic as the entire story is presented in black and white. At first I was a little hesitant to jump head first into a Batman story lacking color that wasn't Black and White but fortunately the experience was a pleasant one. Also of note is that all of the sound effects are presented in panel in their original Japanese with the English translation printed below the panels.

Bits and Pieces

Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga is a new take on the comic book icon presented in a slightly different visual style but pays off fantastically due to the writing. The series is one that can easily be picked up by Batman and manga fans and both parties can have an enjoyable experience.


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