Before the holidays I wrote a list of stuff I was going to read during the break. On the list were a lot of great books that were undeservedly collecting dust on my book shelf. So I read them and it was a great time. But by far the greatest time was Batman Ego and Other Tales from Darwyn Cooke.
This book is a bit tricky to find in Europe. You can specially order it of course, but it’s not sitting around in most comic book stores here. So when I was in New York City for vacation, I found myself in JHU Comic Books and sure enough, Batman Ego and Other Tales was on the book shelf. I took a look around and wondered if anyone was going to fight me for it. Seeing the coast was clear, I grabbed it and went my merry way (after paying for it of course).
I first learned about Darwyn Cooke watching the special features on the Justice League The New Frontier Blu-ray. I am ashamed to admit that but I never really crossed paths with him because I took a break from comics after the millennium and I’m still living with the consequences. Cooke was producing stuff when I was in the scene, but if you only have so many dollars to go around as a kid, you give up the abstract, black and white stuff in favor of the clean-cut lines and bold superhero poses. And I have to live with that.
But as the saying goes, it’s better to show up late to the party than miss it, right?
And that brings me to Batman Ego and other Tales. It’s not only a beautiful collection, but if you enjoy Batman and his exploits, and also the Bat family, then you need to buy it. It’s really one of those must-haves for your bookshelf. And I’m curious why it doesn’t appear on a lot of lists. Cooke is not only a talented artist but he’s also a sharp writer.
And he knows Batman. In the forward he writes that he had to stop writing Batman because being in his head was depressing and you’re forced to come up for air. After reading this you believe him, because he puts everything in his Batman and I can’t imagine having to live with him for so long. But he does and we’re thankful to him for it. And the stories are so good that even when he’s not talking about Batman we know he’s there. And that brings me to Catwoman.
In fact, the collection should be titled Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score, because that’s the major story. And boy is it a lot of fun. Cooke gives us a true caper story with cool dialogue and moody, gritty panels. Watching Catwoman plan a heist with her ex and some new guy is just so Catwoman. And it has the twists and twirls you’d expect. Selena is definitely the antithesis of Batman and seeing this caper really fleshes out that world. Plus I can’t help but think a lot of dialogue that Tom King cooked up during his run must have been inspired by Cooke.
You also see the influence of James Bond on Darwyn because the story does read and feel like a James Bond movie. The villains have exotic accents and there’s enough crazy stunts going around that would put Bond in his place. Though Darwyn clearly says who the inspiration was for all the characters, I can’t help but think that the revelation of one’s name was a nod to Bond.
But you also get Batman. And Bruce Wayne. Or rather a dialogue between them. Cooke also mentions that he doesn’t believe he delivered Ego as well as he could but I would disagree. To tell that story in the number of pages that he did is an achievement. It’s a great story and it’s everything you would think would happen if Batman and Bruce Wayne talked to each other. In fact, this story was the inspiration that most writers and artists look to when they talk about Bruce Wayne and Batman. Ego sums up all the conversations, articles, and remarks that people have on the psyche of Batman, but with one important difference; Cooke’s art style. I can’t see it happen in any other way now. That’s how good this collection is.
Indeed, if you needed a common thread for this collection it would be Bruce’s psyche and the death of his parents. Ego starts it off and Déja Vu bookends it. I don’t want to get too much into the nitty gritty of the stories because of spoilers, but I want to wrap this up with one last thought. The lists. When we look at Batman we usually talk about The Dark Night Returns from Frank Miller, The Killing Joke from Alan Moore, and The Court of Owls from Scott Snyder. But we really should be talking about Batman Ego and Other Tales from Darwyn Cooke. I don’t know where it would go on such lists if you think these these things are important. I only know that it should be extremely close to the top.
The list of stories in this collection include:
Batman: Ego – Darwyn Cooke
Here Be Monsters – Paul Grist and Darwyn Cooke
Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score – Darwyn Cooke
The Monument – Darwyn Cooke and Bill Wray
Date Knight – Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale
Déja Vu – Darwyn Cooke with special thanks to Bruce Timm