Batman Begins
The Movie and Other Tales of the Dark Knight

Authors: Various
Artists: Various
Titan Books
RRP: 7.99
ISBN 1 84576 067 0
Available 24 June 2005

When industrial heir Bruce Wayne's parents are gunned down before his very eyes, he makes a fateful promise to their memory. He will fight crime and injustice, and turn fear against those who prey on the fearful. But first he must conquer his own demons...

This bat-tastic volume contains the official comic-book adaptation of the above-named movie, together with four other Batman stories, each of which explores the psyche of the Dark Knight.

However, I do wonder why it is necessary to supplement Batman Begins, when what would surely have been a preferable page-filling solution would be a lengthier take on the movie. At 141 minutes, Batman Begins is a film of considerable depth and scope, yet here it is condensed to just 64 pages of comic strip. As a result, Bruce's journey up the mountain on page 17 seems to be over rather quickly, while on page 34 Rachel Dawes makes an astonishing leap of intuition regarding the crime boss Falcone paying off Judge Faden.

I can understand why some movie adaptations would need to be kept relatively short. After all, these things cost money to make. But surely any comic with the words "Batman Begins" on the cover is bound to sell well.

Thankfully, any deficiencies in the pacing are more than made up for by the art. Penciller Kilian Plunkett and inker Serge LaPoint not only provide detailed and dynamic imagery, but their likenesses of Christian Bale, Michael Caine and Liam Neeson are flawless.

Their renderings of Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman and Rutger Hauer are less successful. Gordon looks more like a young Albert Einstein than Oldman. However, in the case of Rachel her disassociation from the actress Holmes is actually a good thing, because it means she looks less like a teenager and more like someone who might actually be old enough to have become a district attorney!

Colourist Jose Villarrubia provides a suitably sombre, muted colour scheme throughout.

The four other stories in this collection are The Man Who Falls (from the Secret Origins trade paperback), Air Time (from Detective Comics #757), Reasons (from Batman #604) and Urban Legend (from Legends of the Dark Knight #168).

The Man Who Falls appears to have provided some inspiration for the movie. It includes not only the standard ingredients of a Batman origin story, such as Bruce's fall into the batcave, the shooting of his parents, and the bat in his study, but also Bruce's training under an Oriental master and a Frenchman called Ducard. As in Batman Begins, Bruce is forced to repel those around him to prevent them from getting too close.

The theme of falling continues through Air Time, which concerns a race against the clock to save a family whose car has tumbled into a river, and Urban Legend, which begins with the dramatic image of a badly injured Batman crashing to the ground from a height.

In Reasons, Batman revisits the site of his parents' murder and later re-evaluates his own persona. Both this and Air Time demonstrate that the comic-strip Batman now makes sensible use of Kevlar, even though he continues to appear as though he is wearing only a body stocking.

Urban Legend is the pick of the crop, a witty and harrowing examination of the public's perception of Batman, with a great twist at the end. The tense Air Time comes a close second.

All in all, this is a fine collection, and a good place for Batman newcomers to begin.

Richard McGinlay

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