REVIEW: BATMAN SECRET FILES #1

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Long story arcs that provide twists and turns are incredibly satisfying. They are the seven course meal of the comic industry. As a counterpoint, books like Batman Secret Files provide a series of short story “snacks” that are incredibly satisfying and add depth, nuance and insight into the small moments in a character’s life. Each of those small moments in aggregate form a much greater whole. Previous projects such as Batman Case Files and Gotham Knight (DC Animation) have also used this format to great effect.
The first issue of Batman Secret Files contains five short stories. Each of these stories was created by a different team and this is part of the allure of this format. Each team brings something different to the character and we, the readers, are richer for it. The nature of each story and the artwork that accompanies it are each very different. However, each of the stories is a worthy addition to Batman lore.
The fist story in the book, written by Tom King, is entitled “True Strength”. In this story Batman struggles with injury and age as he revisits the trials and tribulations of being a mortal man in a career field populated by modern-day gods. One of those gods, Superman, offers him a choice. He offers him the ability to take his place among the pantheon or to remain a mortal man. For Tolkien fans, it is the same choice offered to Galadriel in The Fellowship Of The Ring. Do you claim the power of the ring and its terrible price or do you remain who you are and eventually diminish?
The second story in the book is entitled “The Nature Of Fear”. This story, as the title implies, explores the nature of fear in the aftermath of an attack by Scarecrow and his henchmen. A GCPD officer is struggling with the effects of Scarecrow’s fear toxin. During the attack itself, Batman aids the officer and helps him contain his fear so that the two of them can escape a perilous situation. However, while the attack may be over the lingering prison of fear and insanity that plagues the GCPD officer has not relinquished it’s hold. Writer Ram V ends with an apt illustration of the dis associative disorder that has resulted from Scarecrow’s fear based mental manipulations.
The third story by Cheryl Lynn Eaton is entitled “One”. In this story Batman is confronted with the reality that Wayne Tech drones have fallen into the wrong hands and are being used for crime against the people of Gotham City. This story has broader implications in today’s society as it explores several social themes. Most notably, it questions what responsibility a corporation has when it’s product is hijacked for sinister purpose. It also explores the nature of any technological advance per Batman’s final line in the story, “A tool is only as honorable as the man wielding it.”
The fourth story by Jordie Bellaire examines the mental state of Batman after years of crime fighting. Reportedly, a monster has been sighted in a remote location in the mountains. Eager to get away from the city, Batman escapes to the mountains to sharpen his skills and search for this monster. As the days pass with no luck, Batman is forced to spend time with himself an experience he is not comfortable with. In the end, Batman is forced to deal with the fact that hyper-vigilance can sometimes morph into destructive paranoia.
The final story by Tom Taylor explores humanity and compassion. Ironically, lessons in each of those traits is provided to Batman in the form of Bobo, aka Detective Chimp. Bobo is on a mission of redemption to find and save the son of a man who saved him some years before. The boy has fallen in with Riddler and Batman has no sympathy for the boy if he has turned to a life of crime. In the end, Bobo redeems a life through forgiveness and empathy and restores some of Batman’s humanity in the process.
Each of these stories combine to form a wonderful book . The art in each story is drastically different but each vision is fully conceptualized and realized. I was engrossed by each of these small windows into the life of Batman and I think this is a fantastic start to a new series. I can not recommend it highly enough.
 
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