Batman: Bane
Batman: Batgirl
Batman: Mr. Freeze
Batman: Poison Ivy
various writers & artists
(DC Comics, 1997)

In my heart, I know that DC Comics released this quartet of slim, stand-alone stories to capitalize on the characters' appearances in the Batman & Robin, the fourth Batman film, which was released the same year. But still, I like to think that someone in DC management put these books on the market as a token apology for the mistreatment of the hero Batgirl and the villains Bane, Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy in that travesty of a film.

I won't say these are definitive tales, but they're a far sight better than the movie and they treat the characters with some degree of respect.

In Batgirl (written by Kelley Puckett, pencilled by Matt Haley, inked by Karl Kesel), it's early in the heroing career for young Barbara Gordon. She has made a recent splash as the newest addition to the Bat family and is still uncertain how to proceed -- and how to hide her secret activities from her father, the police commissioner. This tale marks her first encounter with the Joker (the villain later responsible for her paralysis) and it shows her awkward first steps into real heroism.

Bane (written by Chuck Dixon, illustrated by Rick Burchett) is a more recent tale, featuring Batman, Robin and Nightwing against the one villain who broke Batman. Mr. Freeze (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Mark Buckingham, inked by Wayne Faucher) is a little more pointless, mostly rehashing the villain's origin and assuming that a man who digs the cold would also develop the ability to mind-control polar bears and seals.

Poison Ivy (written by John Francis Moore, pencilled by Brian Apthorp, inked by Stan Woch) is probably my favorite of the four, providing a self-contained story with some real elements of tragedy in the telling. Poison Ivy, believe it or not, isn't the real criminal here. (Although the story does beg the question: Why doesn't billionaire Bruce Wayne just buy her an island somewhere?)

These four books did not make a big splash on the comics market when they arrived, and I doubt the movie tie-in did much for their sales. Fortunately, they do provide a pleasant alternative to that cinematic hack job, so if you like the characters but hate the film, here's the place to go.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 30 June 2001

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