Underrated: Batman: Blink

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way.

This week: Batman: Blink

When you think of great Batman comics, stories like Hush, The Long Halloween and Court of Owls come to mind fairly quickly for most of us, and depending on what the person giving you recommendations has read you may also see The Dark Knight Returns, War Games, Knightfall, Bruce Wayne; Murderer and No Man’s Land pop up at various points in the conversation, too. All of which are fantastic choices and well worth reading – indeed, all of those tend to be pretty high on my own recommendation list when talking to customers at the comic shop. But what happens when you’ve read all the main stuff? Well, that’s where something like Batman: Blink comes into play.

This trade collects two stories, Blink and Don’t Blink about a blind man who can see through the eyes of anyone he touches. The first story has him helping Batman track down a killer, and the second explores what happens when the government finds out he can do these things.

Originally presented in Legends of the Dark Knight 156-158 and 164-167, the story is set during the early days of Batman’s career – there’s no specific year, but judging by the framing device of the story being read from Batman’s journal and the Dark Knight’s confidence and lack of technology I’d put it within the second or third year (at latest) which means that we’re seeing a Batman stripped of a lot of what we’re used to seeing of late. There’s a lot more detective work in this story, with writer Dwayne McDuffie allowing the process to be shown on panel rather than as a one off comment or so.

This is Batman as he was before he became the caricature of himself where he could easily defeat Galactus with enough prep time (yeah, I know, different universe, but I’m making a point with extremes), where he’s more a man than a god. You see him get hit by chairs, make mistakes and still push through regardless. This Batman is fallible, and the stakes seem higher because of it in a way that Batman verses a giant monster doesn’t; it’s the human touch, the smaller scale of the threat and the consequences of failure. Plus, the way McDuffie frames the story through Batman’s journal also allows the perspective of an older Batman critiquing his earlier self which adds in both a sense of foreboding and the odd wryly funny line. I also want to highlight the choices of letterer Kurt Hathaway here because the font choice he went with is brilliant; one can easily read the cursive handwriting whilst understanding exactly what it is you’re seeing. Cursive can be tough to penetrate for some folks at times (and I am one of them despite my own writing being hard to read), and when there’s no impediment to the story because of the narration and stylistic choice then you can’t help but become immersed in the narrative.

As you cans see above, the art has a very moody feel to it, with the colours trending toward the blues, greys and other muted hues for the majority of the book – which only serves to make the brightness that much more striking. The story was penciled by Val Semeiks with inks by Dan Green and colours by James Sinclair, and despite the first issue in the book being published almost twenty years ago, the art still has that fresh and vibrant feel. Yes, there’s a sense of classic comics art to the pages, but given the flashback nature of the story, it works in a very meta way as your own sense of “back in the day” creeps into your perspective when reading this trade.

Granted that might just be my old man eyes and memories, and younger readers may not have the same experience (not kids, but folks who haven’t been reading comics since the 90’s; y’all likely won’t have the same perspective, and that’s okay – it’s not a deal breaker for this story).

The main reason I bring up this trade is because until I saw it on the shelf for the price of a single issue, I’d never heard about the story. While it won’t make it into my Must Read section of Batman recommendations, it’s going to be closer to the top of the “oh, this ones really good, too” section. It’s an underrated story, and one that can be easily overlooked when on a shelf among the other great Batman stories.

Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

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