Thursday, August 16, 2018

Throwback Thursday Reviews: Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga #1 (2014)


Written and Illustrated by: Jiro Kuwata
Translated by: Sheldon Drzka
Cover Price: $0.99
Release Date: July 5, 2014

Continuing on the theme of "When I enjoyed some Batman", here is a review of Jiro Kuwata Batmanga #1 which was a ton of fun to read and really took me by surprise! - Jim

Well, this one kind of snuck up on me.  I was not aware of "Batmanga", let alone that it was going to be released weekly as a DC Digital First.  After seeing a couple of issues released and looking into its history, I decided to give it a whirl.  I'm glad I did.

In a nutshell, the Batman '66 television series caused a Batman craze in Japan from 1966 to 1967.  During that time, a manga was commisioned and written and illustrated by Jiro Kuwata.  These issues are the first time the series has been translated in English but maintains the Japanese right-to-left reading style.  What I like is that Kuwata goes with the limited knowledge he had of Batman and ran with it.  It comes off as a combination of Batman '66, an old-time radio serial and (of course) Japanese Manga. 

This issue is the first in a three-part arc featuring Lord Death Man.  Fans of Grant Morrison's Batman Inc. will not only recognize the scary villain immediately but smile at the influence it had on Morrison's take on him.  While the reader doesn't get a solid grasp of what Lord Death Man's plan is, it's fun to watch him and Batman square off. 

While Lord Death Man may seem familiar, this is definitely a different version of Batman and Robin.  Robin may be Dick Grayson, but he acts more like Damian Wayne.  He is a brat.  An ass-kicking brat.  In fact, he comes off as the stronger of the two.  At one point, Bruce Wayne has a nightmare of Lord Death Man and Dick comes running in the room and comforts him.

There may be more gunfire and knife-wielding than some readers are used too, but it's not all dark and scary.  The Batman'66 influence comes through as well.  Batman and Robin take a trip to Jamaica, the Batcopter is in full effect and Batman rides a wrecking ball. 

Batman came in like a wrecking ball

Jiro Kuwata's art is mostly black and white retro greatness.  It reminds me of one of my favorite anime cartoons of my childhood, Marine Boy and that is a sincere compliment.  Anyone familiar with 60's and 70's manga and anime will know what to expect.  As I noted, this book is mainly in black and white so if you don't like that sort of thing you may be disappointed.  I don't mind and loved it.

Sheldon Drzka does the translation and while I can't comment on how accurate it is, I liked the inclusion of the sound effects.  I also have to admit that when I saw Lord Death Man, I expected his mistranslated Japanese way of talking found in Batman Inc.  Of course, Drzka is giving us the original and accurate translation here, so don't expect him to sound so goofy.

Overall, I am really glad I gave this a shot.  I'm not so sure how many will jump on this series as it is a very acquired taste.  I'm glad I acquired it.

Bits and Pieces:

Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga #1 is a great introduction to a lost chapter in Batman's history.  It's a blend of a radio serial, the Batman '66 television series, and Japanese Manga.  I am a fan of all three so I'm sold.  However, it is an acquired taste, but at $0.99 it is worth giving it a try and see if you like it.  I'm glad I did.


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