Most of it. Not all of it.
I discovered one grand exception to the norm earlier this year when I read Batman Snow, and now I've discovered another: Paul Pope's exceptionally awesome Batman Year 100.
The year is 2039, and a federal agent has been murdered in Gotham. The only piece of evidence, a blurry bit of video from the crime scene, seems to indicate that a caped and cowled figure with no identity is responsible The government sends in squad of storm trooper-like soldiers and spooks to attempt to find the killer. All the while, Gotham City Police Detective Jim Gordon, grandson of the former commissioner, begins an investigation of his own on a masked vigilante straight out of legend.
The first thing that stands out about Batman Year 100 is the art. It is absolutely stunning, and absolutely unlike any other art you'll ever see on any Bat-title. Pope is one of the most well-regarded names in the industry that doesn't get main-stream recognition. This was my first exposure to Pope's art, and I was resoundingly blown away.
Pope's art was so unique looking to me that I was curious to see who he's influenced by. His wiki page lists a number of influences, among them guys I'm somewhat familiar with like Kirby, Toth, and Herge, but even after checking out the other artists I struggled to see direct influences. To me, Pope is an artist that has developed his own incredible, and unique style. That said, I'm not yet great at seeing art influences in the comics medium, so I could be missing something. Personally, in Batman Year 100, I see a sort of mingling of eastern anime stylings with western indie comics with a bit of mainstream comics action sequencing. Whatever it is, it's a great blend, and it works perfectly for this unorthodox Batman comic.
Though it is quite easy to just enjoy Batman Year 100 on the basis of it's great art, I also enjoyed Pope's take on the Batman character. Pope strips away all the goofy bat-gadgets and high-tech baloney that takes away from the fact that Batman is just a regular dude fightin' crime. The Batman of Year 100 is a stripped down, back to basics Batman who uses real life stuff like ropes, and carabiners instead of grapple guns and other high-tech inanities. The batsuit doesn't make Batman look like a transformer, and instead looks like an actual article of clothing that someone might actually wear, and still be able to move around in. Not only did this make Batman seem way more human, but it also made him seem much more vulnerable, which helped make the story all the more interesting.
Oh and the coolest Bat-gadget of all....
To top it all off, Pope delivers a story that is quite compelling. As a reader, I always like having a narrative that creates burning questions that I can't wait to discover the answer to. That's a sensation that is very prevalent here as I kept wondering how the hell Batman is still around and doing his thing, in the year 2039. Additionally, it was great to read a Batman comic that felt like it stayed true to the character, rather than staying true to what a typical superhero comic should be like. Batman felt more rooted in his origins, and it was cool to see him square off mentally and physically against "the man". If superhero comics were always this good, I'd probably read more of 'em.
Batman Year 100 is definitely one of the best comics I've read this year, and certainly one of the very best Batman comics I've ever read. Great art, great story, and the best take on the Batman character I've ever seen. Absolutely fantastic stuff. I gotta check out more of Pope's work. This one is a treat for both the eyes and the mind.