Batman and Anti-Heroes: A couple of comics collections

BATMAN: The Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 8 takes us up to the end of 1952 and includes a number of great stories. There’s “The Man With the License to Kill,” about a vigilante with angle. In “The Joker’s Millions,” the Crime Clown gets rich and retires only to discover … but why spoil it? Like that one, “The King of the Cats,” introducing Catwoman’s brother, is another I’ve wanted to read for years. There’s also a lot of no-frills Batman-fights-smart-crooks stories that were thoroughly enjoyable (as always YMMV with older comics).

The villain situation in this era is a little odd. The Joker makes lots of appearances but the Penguin only a couple and Catwoman only the one. Both the Bird and the Cat would make more appearances but they’d vanish for several years after the mid-fifties. A couple of fake Two-Faces show up, then in 1954 Harvey Dent returns to his life of crime … and disappears again until the 1970s. We do get a number of one-shot villains: The Executioner, Mr. Hydro, the Human Magnet and the Renter (a better crook than his name — he rents guns to crooks, then melts them down for recasting, thereby making it impossible to identify them). I have no idea why.

SECRET SIX: Friends in Low Places by Gail Simone, Ken Lashley and Dale Eaglesham revived Simone’s antihero team for the New 52 — or Rebirth, or Convergence or whichever of the endless reboots it ties to. Much as I liked the pre-New 52 S6, this one is like meeting someone you half know but they’re very different than you remember, and it feels frustrating talking to them; the characters and the set-up are different enough to be disorienting and a couple are too damn different. Plus I really hate the Riddler as a dangerous, homicidal badass but apparently that’s now the canon version. There’s lots of great scenes, but the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

#SFWApro. Cover by Dick Sprang, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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