Thursday, May 31, 2012

Let me say this first of all, when I saw that the new Batman hardcover by Chip Kidd and Dave Taylor was shipping this week, nothing else shipping mattered anymore. Sure, a new Walking Dead is always nice, and one of my top 5 favorite Batman villains is introduced into the new 52 when Mr. Freeze makes his debut in Batman Annual #1 from Scott Snyder, which is exciting, but the first thing I picked up and started reading was "Dead by Design", and dear fictional character many believe to be responsible for our creation, it was good. So, so, so very good.

Taking inspiration from real-life events, Death by Design opens with Bruce Wayne announcing that Wayne Central Station in Gotham is being torn down in order to replace it with a more modern transportation hub. As with the destruction of any long time monument, the news is met with resistance from plenty of sources. One of whom takes particular offense at the monument's demise, and decided to take matters into his own hands to ensure that the demolition never takes place. Of course, Batman also has a little something to say in the matter.

That might not sound like enough to fill 122 pages, but believe me if you care anything at all about classic Batman stories, you will not be able to put this book down. I read the entire thing in one sitting, from cover to cover. I was in love with every single aspect of it, the art was beautiful, but it was the way it felt like reading a Silver Age story that really had me hooked. Even the setting, which wasn't really dated, was obviously set back in that classic age when comics were far more innocent than they are today. Not saying this was a kiddie book, but for those of us who have been reading for years, it was a wonderful throwback to when comics were just fun to read and the good guy always won.

For you non-long time comic readers, Dave Taylor is probably best known for his Batman work for DC in the 90's, as well as his contributions to 2000 A.D. over in England. It took Dave years to complete "Death by Design", but the detail and hard work he put into it really shows, this book is gorgeous. Reading through a brief sketchbook section in the back of the book, Dave says he drew the entire book with blue pencil, refusing to erase anything, then going back over it with graphite to darken and add depth. Absolutely nothing else was done to the art he turned in, it was published as is. The end result is a mostly black and white penciled book, with just a hint of color thrown in every few panels. To be completely honest, I was in awe of this book after reading that. It's amazing.

Chip Kidd is a legend in the graphic design field, winning multiple awards for his book and cover design. He's also worked with DC on several projects, including The Complete History of Batman, The Complete History of Superman, and my personal favorite, Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross. This is Kidd's first time writing a full length graphic novel though, and let me assure you, his knowledge of the medium goes far beyond just design. I hope this ends up being a starting point for his comics writing career, even if only in graphic novel form every few years, as he's made a life-long fan out of me with just one book.

I can't say enough good things about this book, from story to art, this is the total package when it comes to comics. It may not have been the case when I was a kid who dreamed of making comics, but I can in all honesty say that had I been able to make that dream come true, this is the kind of thing I would like to have been associated with. Highest recommendation I can give for long-time comic fans, or just people who love fantastic art work. It might not do anything for people who exclusively read new comics, but it was nothing short of magic for me.

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