Batman in Barcelona: Dragon’s Knight: A Very Short Review

The entrails looked good on this one.  A solid writer, Mark Waid, a good artist, a one-shot that doesn’t get involved in the latest gimmick — what could be lacking?


Well, something crucial, as it turns out.  But there is a great deal to admire in this one-shot.  It is always interesting to see Batman out of Gotham City.  The populace  and cops of Barcelona react much more normally to the sight of a violent nut dressed like a bat, cringing in horror or opening fire.    Somebody somewhere did actually visit the city, or at least downloaded a lot of images off of the tourist sites.  Killer Croc is indubitably a second tier Bat villain — he would be enraged to hear this, so nobody tell him.  But everything enrages him — it is his only character trait — so when he goes off on a rampage in Spain at least a solid plot is set into motion.

So why is the story so dead and alive?  Why is it possible to read this comic with calm dispassion, bordering upon torpor?  With all the proper cards in place, why isn’t it exciting?  Easy:  Batman, the protagonist, has no skin in the game.  Since Croc is a B-lister there is no doubt that Batman will eventually defeat him. Batman himself doesn’t really worry too much about it.  An effort to supply Bruce Wayne with a romantic interest is unsuccessful, and it is not possible to believe — even Bruce himself doesn’t believe — that he is seriously inconvenienced the failure.  If he doesn’t care, why should we?

With a long-running character like Batman this is a difficult hill to climb.  They have really done everything to the character that anyone can possibly imagine.  Villains have defeated him, maimed him, and at this writing seem to have even killed him outright, in the main title.  Romantic interests have betrayed him, turned to crime, rejected him for another, died.  But it can be done.  It just wasn’t done this time.  Skip this one, there are better comics out there.



About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.


Batman in Barcelona: Dragon’s Knight: A Very Short Review — 8 Comments

  1. I think I must get out more — find new comics to read. Oh, I know — TWO LUMPS. See, Mad, you inspire me.

  2. Killer croc was done really well in a recent Joker comic a friend gave me. I can’t remember the name of it, but it was very good. Croc wasn’t an actual crocodile, but rather a guy with cracked skin. Felt very real, like the movies Nolan has done.

  3. As is the wont with B-listers, poor Croc is drawn and portrayed any way the current writer and artist feels like doing it. Consistency, DC, is a gem…

  4. Yeah, you’re right about the B-listers. Anytime they’re used it’s usually a yawn. The best characters for Batman have been the ones that force character development. Catwoman, Joker, and the Robins.

  5. Not so. A minor character, even a one-shot, can foster protagonist character development in the right writerly hands. A great example would be “Die Small, Die Big”< which came out in either BATMAN or DETECTIVE in the ’80s. A classic, it is widely anthologized.

  6. Here we come to the root of the problem of the serial form. It really is not possible for every issue of a comic that comes out a dozen times a year to be a masterpiece. It is not possible for a character like Batman, spread over ten or twelve titles over the past fifty or sixty years, to really grow and change and develop in any micro way. (For another day, a discussion about Darkness versus Optimism.) We therefore must resign ourselves to long stretches of non-masterpiece, of downright mediocrity, sometimes lasting for years. When you think about it that way, it’s a wonder any title lasts for more than a decade.