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Batman in his birthday suit.
Superman/Batman: Torment - Alan Burnett
Member Name: broxi3781
Superman/Batman: Torment - Alan Burnett
Advantages: Excellent villains, decent story.
Disadvantages: Too graphic, confusing at points, something missing in art work.
At one time, comic books were for children. The stories were simple, the books were cheap and you could pick them up at a corner shop or new agent. I honestly believe comic books are one of the very best ways to promote literacy and the decline in comic books has been matched by a decline in literacy. Comic books for children have all but disappeared, as editors gave into public outcry for more suitable content for children ( which also made it boring) and prices began to rise high enough to price children out of the market. Publishers then turned to a new market - adults. Whether as a means of reliving our own childhood, something to share with our own children or pure and simple escapism, more and more adults are reading and collecting comics. Of course comic book sounds a bit too juvenile for us - it is like saying we still play with toys - so someone came up with the euphemism - graphic novel - but it is still a comic book to me.
My son has outgrown picture books, but he still loves the visual experience of an illustrated medium, so he has completely taken to comics. As a home educator, I happy enough to see him reading for pleasure, regardless of the source. I feel that children who devote a lot of time to reading for the pure enjoyment of it are highly unlikely to have any difficulties with literacy, and I do know my son's reading ability has improved trough this medium. But as a parent, I am just happy that we can still have story time before bed, when he chooses one of his books for me to read out loud. I love sharing books with my sons, and I've actually found myself really enjoying the escapism of a world with superheroes as well. So when a new "graphic novel" arrived, I was very happy to sit down and read it with my son - but I do wish I had read this one myself first!
Torment is part of a series of books that feature a partnership between Superman and Batman. I have not read these in correct order, being influenced more by the best bargains I can find on used copies, but I understand this is book 5 which combines : Superman / Batman comic book issues 37-42. I do not feel order is particularly important with these books, we haven't had any major problems skipping back and forth a bit, but the first issue really does help set the scene for the others, as it shows a well developed friendship between Batman and Superman. This book has significantly less interaction between the two, and Batman definitely has the lead role in this book. Normally that is something I would like - of the two I tend to prefer Batman, but I did find this book just a bit odd.
It is obvious that the authors and illustrators are attempting to create an aura of confusion. They convey madness, chaos and disorder very well through the illustrations, but it does leave the reader a bit confused as well. It seems Superman has lost his mind. In many parts my poor simple mind was vastly overworked, trying to figure out exactly where Superman really was - how much was dream and how much was real. At least I wasn't the only one confused, my 7 year old son had trouble working out what was going on as well. I'd have felt really bad if a 7 year old had to explain it to me!
Meanwhile, Batman is after the Croc. the Croc makes an excellent super villain and my son quite liked this part - but the Croc is small fish in this battle. A scarecrow silhouette early on in the novel lets us know at least one of the villains we will be seeing but the most serious opponent is Darkseid. Batman won't be left on his own in this though. He'll have a rather different ally in this battle, a very beautiful woman named Selena.
This is the section which makes it obvious this book was in fact intended for adults. Batman is rescued and healed by the beautiful Selena - but apparently his Batsuit was in the way. A drawn up knee prevents us from seeing too much, but Batman is as bare as the day he was born. Selena meanwhile is dressed - at least for the moment - but there is a nude scene with her as well.
I felt rather uncomfortable reading this to my son. It was one of those situations where I wasn't sure if I should quit reading and draw attention to uncomfortable parts or keep going and hope it didn't get worse. I'm afraid we were both a bit embarrassed and my son has never asked me to read this book again. He does read these on his own though, and since he has already seen the scenes - I don't see any good in taking it away- and perhaps it is best not to make too much fuss. In all honesty though, you do see less than in many movies after 9pm. Something always covers the most critical areas, and this does not ever actually depict sex in any way - but it is the closest I have ever seen a comic book come.
Aside from this it was a pretty good book. I could have done without the more "graphic" scenes, but the storyline is good enough, although a bit confusing at times. Overall the art work is decent, but even my son noticed it isn't quite as good as the other books in this series. While the artist simply does not have the same talent in drawing the male face, he does quite fairly well with Selena,and really shines through with some of the villains. This book really does have some brilliant bad guys, and my son loved the fight segments and the more intense artwork. My son did comment on some of the villains being "cool", but he said something was missing in the drawings. He wasn't able to define what - but I have found some artists can bring a character to life, but these are missing that spark.
I have not rated this down because of the adult content - but I do wish a brief comment were made on Amazon in regard to this for parents. I'm well aware that adults are the target audience, but I am sure many children still enjoy Superman and Batman comics, so a bit of warning would be nice.
I have taken one star off for the confusion in a couple of parts, and also because of the artwork, especially in regards to human faces. They just appear flat, and lifeless in my opinion. I would have accepted this in a comic book when I was a child, in fact I think the illustration would have suited those well enough. But as the price has jumped with "graphic novels" , so has the level of artwork for most of them, and I expect a rich visual experience from a graphic novel now. If I just wanted the story, I would buy a paperback. A graphic novel really does need to superior graphics to justify the prices, and this one falls short. I very nearly gave this 3 stars, but a few good frames with the villains changed my mind.
I am not really certain about an appropriate age level for this. This is strong violence, but that is to be expected. Parents will have to decide for themselves if nudity and an adulterous theme are enough to prevent them buying this for their child. I can only say I would not have bought it, if I had been aware of the content, but my son is very young. If he were 12 or 13 this wouldn't bother me, but it just is not the type of book I would chose for a bedtime story!
The price on this is reasonable at £7.47 new, and I was able to pick up a copy with a slightly damaged back cover for only £3.00 from Amazon. It isn't an awful book - if you don't mind the nudity and get a good price - go ahead and pick one up - but I would really only recommend this book if you are collecting the whole series - it isn't quite as good as the others - so if you are just starting out I would really recommend you choose "Public Enemies" or my all time favourite "The Search for Kryptonite" first.
Summary: One for older readers.
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