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Batman: Jekyll & Hyde #5
posted April 9, 2007
Paul Jenkins, Sean Phillips
DC Comics, comic book, 32 pages, October 2005, $2.99
One thing that directly benefits me about the dysfunctional structure of the Direct Market is that it frequently results in little-bought mini-series that employ interesting creators for a several month period. I'd never heard of Batman: Jekyll and Hyde
before, and there's no reason it shouldn't have been six issues of Batman
except that the big companies value market share and shops will frequently buy a regular series and special series on the bigger name characters -- not in great amounts, but together it all adds up. I can then a couple of years later pick these books up in dollar bins or by pushing a comics order over the free shipping mark by clicking the box next to low-grade copies of each issue. It's kind of the equivalent of watching a show because it plays when you're at the gym or because it's on FX when you eat breakfast. Given everything that's wrong with the Direct Market, it's nice that there are still benefits for the scroungers and motivated reader.
The attraction in Batman: Jekyll & Hyde is the art of Sean Phillips, perhaps best known for his genre-tweaking work with writers like Joe Casey and Ed Brubaker. His work in this comics proves really solid in the way of great comics pros during that portion of their careers when every single thing they do looks thought-out and dramatic. Although it's a sign of the time, Phillips' strength with staging a talking heads scene, and making those attractive by varying his point of view and lighting, comes into play quite frequently with this issue. Paul Jenkins' strip seems standard-television-show fine to me, and although the story he has to tell isn't substantial enough to stretch out safely and give meaning to every moment of the laconic pacing, I imagine it's nice if you read a lot of Batman comics to experience Jenkins' take on a competent, engaged Batman going up against an equally confident, engaged foe over the icon polishing that you see in a lot of these Batman books.
It could be that the four issues preceding and the one issue after are the worst superhero comics ever done, but this seemed like plopping into a solid adventure serial that only asked you to believe in a guy wearing a bat-suit. And given the effectiveness of the art, that didn't always seem like a ridiculous request. At some point I may try to pick up the remaining issues. If this were the low-end standard for the big titles, instead of some forgotten installment in one of 1400 mini-series over the last 15 years, superhero comics might be a lot better off.