Batmanga – Campy, humorous, and sometimes so on the nose it's laughable

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga Vol. 1

by Jiro Kuwata (illustrator)

DC Comics

2014, 352 pages, 5.8 x 8.2 x 1.1 inches (softcover)

$10 Buy a copy on Amazon

Available for the first time in English, Jiro Kuwata's Batman is basically a Japanese version of the 1960s Batman TV series. It's campy, humorous, and sometimes so on the nose it's laughable. Maybe Batman will escape danger with a goofy, too convenient action, or the villain will taunt Batman with some of the oldest superhero cliches around. It will surely be an adjustment for readers who haven't experienced any of Batman's older stories, but it's important to remember this was produced in the '60s, and Kuwata was essentially mimicking the style of Batman that was popular. If you can do that you'll find a thoroughly enjoyable alternate take on the Caped Crusader and the Dynamic Duo.

Included here are six Batman stories, featuring Batman and Robin vs. unique villains like Lord Death Man and the Human Ball. The story arcs are all standalone and don't reference each other, however each arc is sub-divided into three to four parts. These villains are all formidable foes and a good mix of character types. Lord Death Man for example keeps coming back from the dead, while the Human Ball wears a metal suit that allows him to bounce off any surface, including Batman's punches. Each time, Batman is tasked with not just fighting the villain into submission, but using his classic Batman intellect to outthink them and set a trap. I personally love any Batman story that draws heavily on his detective skills, and Kuwata's work is one of the better examples of how to do it right.

The art style is interesting in that it looks and feels like a Batman comic, but Bruce is also drawn to look Japanese. It's incredibly authentic and you may even find yourself thinking that Kuwata himself invented Batman in the first place. The book is mostly black and white but a few color pages sneak in, and the chapter cover pages are all in color as well.

This translation keeps all the non-dialogue text in Japanese (signs, paces, SFX, etc.) and helpful translations are snuck into the margins. If you've never read manga before, have no fear! Pages are regularly numbered for clarity (as manga reads right to left). They're small and unobtrusive so manga pros probably won't even notice them. Two more volumes in the series are available, showcasing Kuwata's complete run. If you're a fan of manga or Batman, or hopefully both, you owe it to yourself to check this out.

– Alex Strine