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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Batman Eternal #1

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

DO we REALLY need another Batman title? After all, DC's "Batman" umbrella of books in the New 52 includes (deep breath): BatmanThe Dark KnightDetective ComicsBatgirlBatwingBatwoman,NightwingCatwomanBatman/Superman, the Batman And … team-up series, and to a certain extent, Red Hood And The OutlawsBirds Of Prey and the now-cancelled Talon. And that's not even counting appearances by Batman and his allies and villains in Justice LeagueEarth 2, and the Forever Evilcrossovers.

As a result, with the possible exception of Scott Snyder's Batman and David Finch's The Dark Knight series, many of these titles have been suffering from a case of Bat-fatigue. In fact, after the exhausting Death Of The Family crossover in 2012, most of the Batman books have been pretty unmemorable, with the recentGothopia crossover passing by without as much as a whimper.

So excuse my incredulity when DC announced ANOTHER Batman title – and a weekly one at that – to the already swollen family of Batman titles in the New 52.

Scheduled to run for 60 issues, Batman Eternal will involve five writers (Snyder, James Tynion IV, Ray Fawkes, Kyle Higgins and Tim Seeley) and eight artists (Jason Fabok, Dustin Nguyen, Andy Clarke, Trevor McCarthy, Emanuel Simeoni, Guillem March, Ian Bertram and Mikel Janin), with each writer and artist team working on different story arcs over the 60 weeks.

Snyder and Tynion's first story arc kicks off by introducing long-time Batman character Jason Bard into the New 52 universe, and throwing the rookie cop into the deep end of what turns out to be a horrible first day at work with the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD).

The action consists of Commissioner Jim Gordon and Batman battling the insanely creepy Professor Pyg and his minions, which ends in a horrifically tragic way and results in a rather sticky situation for Gordon at the end of the issue.

Before reading this, I already feared the worse – that this would finally push me to give up on the New 52's Batman comics altogether.

Fortunately, Batman Eternal #1 is explosive enough to actually make me want more, thanks in part to Snyder and Tynion's fast and furious start to the first story arc, as well as some stunningly visceral artwork by Fabok.

Ironically, this issue works because Batman was NOT the focal point of the story. Snyder and Tynion's decision to make this opening chapter revolve around Bard and Gordon deftly counters any Bat-fatigue I might have had before reading this.

Being a fan of the excellent but ultimately short-lived GCPD-centric Gotham Central, I was happy to see Gotham's Finest given the limelight in a Batman book once again. Things might change in subsequent issues of course, and with 59 issues to go, there is still a chance that the Bat-fatigue might creep in. For the next three Snyder/Tynion-written issues at least, Batman Eternal deserves to be given a chance.

The Encyclopedia Of Early Earth

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

When a storyteller from the North Pole loses part of his soul, he has to traverse the world to find it.

Firstly and most importantly, don't let the word "encyclopedia" (sic) in the title deter you – or conversely, fool you – into picking up this graphic novel.

As stated in its back-page blurb: "This book is not a real encyclopedia (sic)!

"It is an epic work of fiction, detailing the many tales and adventures of one lonely storyteller on a quest for Enlightenment and True Love."

This debut graphic novel, both written and illustrated by Isabel Greenberg, starts off with a poignant love story between a Nord boy from the North Pole and a Soo-it girl from the South Pole.

But in the tradition of Scheherazade – the brave and cunning storyteller from the Arabian Nights – this little tale serves as a jumping-off point into a series of cascading stories that make up this book.

The protagonist of this novel is the Nord boy, who is a storyteller, and who was also once divided into three boys, because his adoptive mothers – three sisters – could not decide who should raise him.

As you can imagine, being split into three created certain, shall we say, personality issues – something his mothers soon realised, and regretted.

So, off they went to the Medicine Man, who managed to put him back together again.

But (there's always a but), it was not a happy ending yet, as during the original process of splitting him into three, the Medicine Man had inadvertently lost a small piece of the Nord boy's soul!

And no, the piece was no longer in the Land of Nord.

Cue a quest through seas unknown and lands unimagined!

Most of the stories told here are either part of the Nord boy's repertoire, or tell of his travels across Early Earth.

They are divided into four parts: The Land of Nord, Britanitarka, Migdal Bavel and the South Pole.

Interspersed between are also stories about the gods – the Eagle God, BirdMan, and his twin children, Kid and Kiddo the Ravens – in their Cloud Castle located in the "fourth (or maybe fifth) dimension".

Readers will find many familiar elements in Greenberg's stories, as she reworks well-known tales like the Biblical stories of Cain and Abel, Jonah and the Whale, Noah and the Great Flood, and the Tower of Babel, as well as Homer's Odyssey, among others.

Her usage of the three sisters – the Nord boy's adoptive mothers – reminded me of the mythological trope of the triune goddess or the female triumvirate representing the three phases of womanhood; while the pebble the Medicine Man gives our hero to enable him to understand all languages reminded me of the Babel fish from Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy "trilogy".

Art-wise, Greenberg employs a simple style akin to that of naive art.

Her panels are flat and two-dimensional, with strong bold lines and patterns dominating the illustrations, and she uses a mainly black-and-white palette, with the occasional red, yellow, brown or blue accent thrown in.

All of which goes quite well with the theme of a "history" of an earlier, more primitive Earth.

Readers who look closely at the illustrations will also notice that Greenberg sometimes adds clever little touches that embellish the story, demonstrate her quirky sense of humour, or subtly imply action in an otherwise static panel.

For example, her images of Cloud Castle show a background filled with bathtubs, toilet seats, pots and books, which include titles like Being GodlyIdol WorshipGod Com and Creation. And do check out the stoles the Shaman, Medicine Man and Wise Old Crone wear.

Her simple inclusions of the words "scuff" or "flump" alongside her drawings, for example, immediately evoke a sense of sheepishness or the sensation of falling back on a bed.

The continuity of the stories makes it easy to finish the book in one sitting. But a second reading also has its own rewards as the reader will have more time to take in the details of the illustrations.

Overall, I quite enjoyed the reworked stories and Greenberg's subtle use of detail and colour.

But more original stories would have elevated the experience, especially as The Encyclopedia Of Early Earthis essentially a story about stories.

Older teens who are readers might appreciate getting this as an alternative gift, although prudish parents might want to flip through this before selecting it as such.

And adults who enjoy a more introspective yet quirky graphic novel might like it too.

The Encyclopedia Of Early Earth is available at the graphic novel section of Kinokuniya, Suria KLCC. Call 03-2164 8133 or e-mail or visit


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