By Will Barber – Taylor
Following on from the bizarre and putrid last story, Sign of The Skull, in this edition we look at a good story. A one off prestige format comic published in 2004, Batman: The Order of Beasts tells the story of an alternative Batman before the Second World War. So without further ado let’s have a look at The Order of Beasts (Batman: The Order of Beasts #1).
The story shows Batman investigating a series of bizarre murders in London in 1939 with the aid of the Metropolitan Police. The victims are all members of an elite group known as The Order of Beasts, a mock medieval society who wants to preserve traditional British life from before the start of the Industrial Revolution.
The brilliance in The Order of Beasts lies in its wonderful nostalgia. While most Batman stories tend to try and either be stuck in the period they are written or try and exist in some strange, timeless environment The Order of Beasts embraces the inherent silliness and darkness of the early comics.
Co-Writer and artist Eddie Campbell manages to capture the simpler era of storytelling extremely well but without making the story seem dull, something which is an accomplishment in itself. He manages to show off the paradoxical nature of England during the late 1930s. The mixture of the beautiful English countryside that adorns the crime thrillers of the period, to the dark and dingy backstreets of London which mirrors the London of Jack The Ripper, which Campbell depicted so well in From Hell, they gel together extremely well. Campbell also manages to keep the sensibilities of the period as well; Batman does not seem out of time or out of place in the comic’s setting. Interestingly enough Campbell also manages to, by taking The Dark Knight back to his roots, make the character seem fresh and interesting again. By stripping away some of the baggage associated with the character such as the Batcave, Robin, Batgirl etc. Campbell is able to have fun with the character and make his actions and manner seem unpredictable. However, he does not lose the essential essence of the character; a man broken by tragedy who remakes himself in order to prevent others from undergoing the pain he has felt.
Campbell’s artwork is also excellent. He manages to create a beautiful, almost dreamlike expressionist landscape for the scene in which Bruce Wayne is in the English countryside before reversing to the dark and brooding tones which make up the depiction of London. The use of colour in the comic is particularly striking with Campbell managing to emphasis the smog and grime of London by a use of a dark blue while Batman stalks the night.
Overall, The Order of Beasts is a wonderful tale that evokes an era of comics that is long gone but manages to do so in a way that doesn’t feel dry. I would highly recommend you try and find a copy of this book as it is well worth a read.
Next time we look at The Origin of Man Bat.