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Kelley Jones Gallery Edition
posted March 5, 2015

imageCreators: Kelley Jones, Doug Moench
Publishing Information: Graphitti Designs, hardcover/slipcased, 248 pages, 2014, $124.99
Ordering Numbers: 1401254438 (ISBN10), 9781401254438 (ISBN13)

I don't have a ton to say about this massive, oversized, lavishly-produced volume of comics. While I'm sure someone out there -- or several someones -- might object to the characterization, it seems to me basically the Graphitti Designs version of the "Artist's Edition" model made popular by Scott Dunbier and IDW. That includes color xeroxes from original black and white art, the choice of important or perceived-to-be-important comics runs, an emphasis on periods of well-liked art, and high-end production. I'm at a loss as to what Graphitti's singificant contribution to the basic model might be, but there's an interesting twist in that Graphitti's been doing high-end versions of popular comics for years, to the point that I, the least attentive comics consumer in the world, can recall at the time this material was originally serialized that a few of my comics-reading pals were regularly switching over from publisher-published versions of comics to the preferred, Graphitti one: their version of Marvels, say. So while the specific model may be familiar here, Graphitti does have a legacy of making this kind of material available in a way they can be seen and enjoyed a second time.

The comics themselves I remember only vaguely. This was a run on the Batman title from Douglas Moench and Kelley Jones that came right after the wrapping-up of the years-plus saga of Bane breaking Batman's back and Azrael taking over. So it's basically a reestablishment of the character's status quo, with some lingering hangover moments from the Azrael-as-Batman run. For Batman every reboot seems to means a gangster bad guy followed by a second-tier villain battle, represented here by a trio of Russian mobster baddies and Killer Croc. Douglas Moench has always been a solid comic-book writer; in some ways he's the closest of the 1970s writers to the kind of writer that dominates genre comics today. The stories are fine. Still, one would imagine the primary appeal to the consumer is Jones' art. Jones had knack during this period for mixing the broad building-blocks of goth with the exaggerated figures of the post-Image comics visualists: think "Vlad Liefeld." A lot of skulls around in this era of Batman, just sort of piled up in various locations. Those pages are fun to see in their original form, but there are moments of tone and pacing and choreography that are much less assured. The end result is a comics project that's fun to look at but does not bring with it a reconsideration of the story the way that some of these projects have. If you're sold by the time you get to the end of the title, this book should please. If not, you're not going to have any idea what to do with it.