Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga, Vol. 2 by Jiro Kuwata

Kuwata made Batman stories for the Japanese market in the late '60s, riding the wave of the TV show and DC Comics's zeal for finding as many licensing dollars in as many places as they could. Those stories were generally adapted from ideas and stories from the American comics of the time -- but the American Batman comics of the mid-'60s were already pretty weird in those pre-Neal Adams days, and turning them into Japanese comics did nothing to make them less weird, if you know what I mean. (I wrote at greater length about the history of "batmanga" in my review of the first volume.)

Either the modern editors cherry-picked the weirdest stories for the first volume, or I'm getting jaded by Kuwata, because Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga, Vol. 2 felt much less crazy to me than the first one. Oh, sure, there are murderous wrestlers, crazy scientists and their amazing inventions, an actual lake monster, and the Japanese remix of the famously weird Alfred-as-villain "Outsider" story. But Batman is competent and organized throughout, and isn't wrong-footed as much as he seemed to be in the first book. The Batman of volume one sometimes seemed to be a guy who just happened to be there as crazy events occurred; this one sees a more recognizable great-detective and great-athlete Batman who is nearly always in control of the situation.

They're still nutty Japanese Batman stories, of course, drawn as if Dick Sprang and Osamu Tezuka had a really unlikely love-child and written out of a similar cultural clash. And that's pretty darn cool. But these stories are not quite as deranged and sui generis as the ones in the first book.

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