Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Batman versus Predator: The Collected Edition

Cover by Dave Gibbons
Batman's teeth are so
distracting on this cover.
Batman versus Predator: The Collected Edition (1993)
Writer: Dave Gibbons
Penciller: Andy Kubert
Inker: Adam Kubert
Colorist: Sherilyn va Valkenburgh
Letterer: Adam Kubert

When I first got a hold of this comic (also lent to me by a co-worker), I was completely torn.

I love Batman but I also really love Predator. The original Predator film is one my favorites and I actively enjoy watching Alien vs. Predator, I don’t even care (seriously, I don’t even consider it a guilty pleasure; I just love it that much). So when I was given Batman versus Predator, I really didn’t know who to root for.

Then I actually read it and I realized that DC and Dark Horse kind of didn’t really try with this one.

Look, there isn’t much to ask for from a Batman and/or a Predator story. I understand that. Each has their own basic and familiar formula and that works for each one. But when you throw them together, you have to expect and these tropes would get shaken up a bit. I mean, what works in a Predator story may not work in a Batman one and vice versa. Therefore, Batman versus Predator suffered from this and instead of creating a new sort of narrative, it simply tried to fit clich├ęd elements of both universes into as much as possible.

If anything, this comic was really more of a Predator story: a Predator (or a yautja, if you’re a major nerd like me) comes to Gotham to hunt and garner trophies. He kills some powerful people, Batman figures out that this is a honorable extraterrestrial who has a distinct method to his hunting tactics and battles him in a final showdown where Batman proves himself to be a strong and noble warrior. Other Predators show up, they’re impressed and give him a sword as a sign of their respect. They fly away on their ship. Hunting season’s over.

As I was reading this comic, I kept thinking, “Man, I’ve heard this story before.” And I have. Predators 2, Alien vs. Predator (I haven’t seen the new one, Predators, yet for some insane reason but I assume it won’t be too different) all followed this basic plot. The only major differences were the setting and the inclusion of a hardboiled Jim Gordon.

All the basic tropes of the Predator mythos were there: his heat-sensory vision, the ability to mimic human voices, his day-glo green blood and his propensity to laugh at the last human he’s battling (always the best scenes in the movies). With all of this, Batman kind of got pushed to the wayside. In fact, Batman is MIA for a portion of the comic after being injured by the Predator in an earlier confrontation. Instead, we get a darker, angrier and majorly stressed out Jim Gordon (I continuously feel bad for that guy) as he struggles to keep order in a city that is freaking the hell out. He even shows weakness by going on television and imploring the missing Batman to come out of hiding. That was kind of interesting and not something I would expect from Gordon. He’s more of the strong, silent type to me but here we actually saw him completely up to his neck in panic.

Batman/Bruce, on the other hand, was completely devoid of a personality. He was basically an action figure and really, it could have been anyone fighting the Predator by the conclusion: Superman, the Joker, the Flash, whoever. In the final fight, Batman wore some special reflective body armor that made him look like Judge Dredd.

I also noticed that this comic suffered from post-The Dark Knight Returns syndrome. It tried very hard to match the basically untouchable and ultra influential work in terms of narrative choices and artwork. The narrative was illustrated through constant Gotham news reports, for example, and the very dark and hard to follow art had a distinctly late 1980s feel to it. I wasn’t crazy about it but I also disliked the art in The Dark Knight Returns so there you go. Also every panel had obnoxious onomatopoeia that annoyed the hell out of me. That could just be a personal failing on my part.

Anyway, as a novelty comic, it was pretty boring. Worth checking out but nothing to write about home about, sadly.

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