Batman Year 100 #3 (of 4)

In the third issue of this mini-series, Batman attempts to fight his way into (and then out of) police headquarters in order to retrieve evidence and a sample of his own blood that was found by the federal cops.

Pope continues to impress in this series in a number of ways. His visual rendering of sound effects continues to be very expressive and integrated into the artwork. For example, the sound waves from Batman’s “ultrasonic” weapon are rendered with the e’s in “eeeeee” looking like scratchy little musical notes. Artistic representations of sound effects always run the risk of being cheesy, but Pope manages to make them an important part of the overall piece.

He is also able to unify theme and plot. When the FPC unleashes their dogs, shouting “Go Dogs Go!” it symbolizes the entire animal pack mentality of the FPC, with its “Wolf” and “Tiger” teams. It is this pack mentality that Batman has been fighting against for three issues, and Pope has cleverly literalized it in the narrative.

Thirdly, when we see Batman tearing towards the reader on his motorcycle, his face looks like the front of the old 30s or 40s Batmobile grill. Pope’s representation of chrome wheels in motion is quite exciting. In fact, the motorbike itself now becomes a character. In some panels, you can clearly see the “face” and the “body” of it, just as much as any human character. The artwork blurs the line between the man and his tools. Overall, Paul Pope continues to use motion, light, force and sound as active characters in telling this story.

Pope’s Batman continues to surprise me in the little details that are changed. Instead of a batarang or some other predictably bat-prefixed custom gadgetry, he uses gear that would be used by mountain climbers, such as the steel rings and other bits of hardware recognizable from the real world. Such minor touches immerse the reader in the story by making it seem “real”.

It does seem that there is at least one contradiction between Pope’s Batman and his own description of the character: In some interviews, Pope described Batman as being incredibly wealthy and having vast technological resources at his disposal. While it would take someone a considerable investment in time, energy and money to operate independently as “the Batman”, thus far, I haven’t seen a lot of evidence that Pope’s “Year 100” Batman is stinking rich. There’s no car, no Bat-copter, and no elaborate underground lair. There is a souped-up (and admittedly exciting) motorcycle, and some people working covertly in an apartment, but that is not the same thing. However, this doesn’t really detract from the quality of the story itself, but it is an odd incongruity.

There are some other minor contradictions in the series: in issue #2, Bats can’t talk properly with his “teeth” in (gnarled, ceramic monster dentures, worn to scare the feces out of his opponents). However, in this third issue, he speaks as clear as a bell while wearing his unique mouth gear. Another reviewer also pointed out that it seemed unlikely that the FPC’s rabid pursuit dogs would be way up on a rooftop chasing Batman in the first place.

In spite of these eccentricities or even outright errors, I must admit that I never questioned or even noticed these things the first time. It doesn’t even matter now, because I’ve come away accepting it as part of an original interpretation of the Batman character. Dramatically, it all works. Paul Pope’s scaled-down, “underground” approach to Batman really appeals to readers interested in creative takes on the character. He brings much more tension to the whole vigilante idea, and places more emphasis on the physical and mental capabilities (i.e. the success or failure) of the man behind the mask.

The high quality of the series so far means that readers, myself included, will have great expectations going into the final issue of this mini-series. Given his track record thus far, it is a safe bet that Paul Pope will satisfy his audience with his final explanation behind the mystery of the “Bat-man of Gotham”.