Batman: The Story of the Dark Knight
Ralph Cosentino, writer/artist
32 pages, hardcover
I stumbled across this book purely by accident at my day job, and golly am I glad I did. A for-kids distillation of the sort of ur-Batman mythos–the basic origin, accoutrements, methods, villains and such that everyone recognizes–it boasts sumptuous art from Cosentino that comes off like a cross between the Bruce Timm animated look and high-end commercial illustration. I pretty much love his version of every character he draws–Thomas and Martha Wayne never looked like a better mommy and daddy, just for example, while Batman is square-jawed to the point of iconography rather than portraiture. It’s basically the most sophisticated art you’ll ever see in a potentially throwaway licensed book for ages eight and under. Like Tim Burton’s first Batman film or The Animated Series, the book’s a grab bag drawn from any and all of Batman’s appearances: ’40s-style crooks in fedoras, very very old-school-looking Joker and Catwoman, DeVito-inflected Penguin, non-1966-TV-series baddie Two-Face, a cameo from Killer Croc at his most reptilian, those preserved suits of armor from the Burton Batman‘s Wayne Manor–anything that works and creates a kid-friendly portrait of a guy who works really hard to stop crime by scaring and/or beating the stuffing out of bad guys. Its unusual and notable emphasis on young Bruce Wayne’s years of physical and mental study even impart a valuable lesson about hard work, not to mention not being afraid to pursue your really weird dreams. It’s great. I’m gonna give it to my nephew.