animefringe october 2003 / reviews

Batman: Child of Dreams
Format: left-right manga / 352 Pages
Production: DC Comics / Kia Asamiya / Max Allan Collins
Comments: Steamed and pressed to impress.
Animefringe Reviews:
Batman: Child of Dreams

With the great influx of Japanese comics to America lately, I really haven't given much thought to how our Far East friends react to our own comic books. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a hardback copy of a Batman story written and illustrated by none other than Kia Asamiya, the creator of classics such as Silent Moebius, Steam Detectives, and Martian Successor Nadesico.

Sealed in plastic wrap, there was no way to tell what was inside the book. Never one to shy away from a new book, I took the plunge and bought it, hoping it would live up to both my expectations of Batman and Kia Asamiya's other works.

Luckily, it does.

In this story, Batman is confronted by uncanny doppelgangers of the most notorious foes he's encountered over the years. Two-Face, the Penguin, Catwoman, the Joker - each of these popular fiends from the Dark Knight's past come back to haunt him as he tries to uncover the mastermind behind the imposters' acts of terrorism.

One of the greatest things about Batman is that he is a superhero without any real super powers. He can't fly, he doesn't have inhuman strength, he doesn't even have the lame power of being able to talk to fish. (Think about it - how is that last power useful if you're in a landlocked area? What, are you gonna toss guppies at someone? "Nibble away, trusty guppies!)

No, Batman is 100% human. His only advantage is the fact that he's wealthier than God (even God doesn't bother amassing THAT much money) and that he's smarter than the average nuclear physicist. Actually, his butler is pretty bright too, which comes in handy when Alfred is needed to perform a chemical analysis on a random biotoxin. Hey, it happens.

It is essentially because Batman is human that he is such a likable hero. Just like any one of us, his intelligence is his greatest weapon. Yet, he still manages to bring down the worst members of Gotham City's rogue's gallery.

Like most other great Batman stories, this is primarily a detective tale, and the writer has done an excellent job of maintaining the balance of action and plot.

The English edition of Child of Dreams was adapted by Max Allan Collins, the highly respected author of Road to Perdition and a number of other acclaimed comics, novels, and films. His writing suits Asamiya's visuals perfectly, and what we get is a classic Batman tale presented with a unique style.

The entire book is in black in white since it's really just a manga series collected into a single graphic novel. The artwork easily meets Asamiya's high standards - Gotham City is illustrated in all of its dark majesty, and Batman looks right at home in the equally imposing cityscape of Tokyo. While all of the characters display Kia Asamiya's distinct style, there's no confusion when it comes to identifying people from the Batman universe. Commissioner Gordon, Alfred, Bruce Wayne, and all of the villains are drawn exactly as they should be. In fact, my only regret is that there wasn't enough room to put Harley Quinn or Poison Ivy in the mix, though there are bonus illustrations of both femme fatales in the back of the book.

In addition to the extraneous illustrations, there's also an insightful interview with Kia Asamiya, which demonstrates his honest appreciation for the Batman mythos.

While I didn't notice many typographical problems, I'm a little disappointed that DC Comics bothered to flip the book. On the first page of the book (directly opposite the copyright page) it appears (to my only slightly trained eyes) that some of the Japanese text remains mirrored. Actually, the page after that also has some backward Japanese writing, though I can't tell if it's on the reverse side of a transparent surface. I'd guess not, seeing as there's a flipped view of Tokyo on pages 172 and 173. Of course, most obvious of all is the small detail that everyone in Tokyo is driving on the wrong side of the road in the book, most notably on pages 229, 250, and 256. For that matter, it's a good thing there are so many one way streets in Gotham City, otherwise we'd all be wondering why Bruce is driving on the left side of the road on page 54.

True, these are just nitpicky aspects of the book. However, Kia Asamiya's painstaking attention to detail makes it quite apparent when something is out of place, and I have to say I was noticing these technical errors as I was trying to enjoy the book. The story is good enough to overlook such mistakes, but since these were intentionally generated by flipping the book, I felt I should mention them.

Technical silliness aside, this is a great release for fans of Batman and Kia Asamiya. It easily surpassed my expectations, and if anything, left me wanting to see more adaptations of American comics from Kia Asamiya. I really need to check out that X-Men series he worked on.

In the meantime, I'll be looking out for Tony Wong's Batman story in the near future. Who knows, perhaps it will be as good as this one.