Clerks III: Batman Returns

Batman: The Widening Gyre, written by Kevin Smith, illustrated by Walter Flanagan and Art Thibert (2009-2010): Kevin Smith (yes, that Kevin Smith) and Batman make a somewhat problematic fit — The Dark Knight and that patented oopsy-cutesy-risque Smith frank sexual dialogue don’t mesh all that well. Would Batman’s girlfriend really tell Batman’s surrogate father Alfred the sexual details of why she calls Bruce Wayne ‘DD’? And it doesn’t stand for ‘Daredevil’, either.

Smith picks up where he left off in his previous Batman miniseries, Cacophony, presenting a Batman drawn heavily from 1970’s Batman scribes like Steve Engelhart and Bob Haney (!). This Batman isn’t the hypercompetent ubermensch of Grant Morrison or even Denny O’Neil — instead, he’s got a personal life, and he’s riddled with enough insecurities about that personal life (and his life as Batman) that he’s awfully soft and mushy under that crunchy exterior. It’s not psychology, mind you, it’s psychobabble.

There are certainly enough enjoyable moments — one of Smith’s advantages when he does comic books is that an artist stages thing, thus saving us from Smith’s self-admitted visual crappiness as a director. Flanagan and Thibert do a solid, competent, vaguely ‘retro’ job on the art — there’s no discernible manga influence or really much cartooniness at all; the book would look perfectly normal to a comic-book reader who time-travelled here from the far-flung past of 1978.

One major caveat? The whole thing ends on a cliffhanger that I assume will be resolved in the next Smith/Flanagan miniseries. The plot? Batman starts working with a new costumed crime-fighter named Baphomet (!) while simultaneously re-connecting with 1970’s Steve Engelhart/Marshall Rogers era Batman-girlfriend Silver St. Cloud. Will Batman justifiably let down his guard in both his public and private life? What do you think? Recommended.

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