The library is a great place for readers to discover comics, and it’s a great place for comics readers to check out things that they want to try without spending their hard-earned cash. I’m looking at comics that I find in the New York Public Library system.
Batman: Going Sane collects two separate storylines that appeared in the anthology series Legends of the Dark Knight, a pseudo-continuity comic series that allowed creators to play around in the Batman mythos without burdening them with the day-to-day restrictions of the DC Universe. The title arc, “Going Sane,” was written by J.M. DeMatteis, noted for his psychological storytelling, and penciled by Joe Staton. The second, shorter story features the words of From Hell and Fate of the Artist author Eddie Campbell and his co-writer Daren White, with art by Bart Sears.
“Going Sane” has a elegantly simple plot: the Joker believes that he’s killed Batman, so what’s left for him without his muse? Turns out that without a focus for his insane plots, the Joker opts to go sane. A day job, a fiancée, and a love of old movies keep him satisfied, despite those terrible nightmares that plague his sleep. Meanwhile, Batman, who fears that he’s losing his sanity as part of his ongoing battle against crime, recovers from the Joker’s assault in an idyllic upstate location, tended to be a lovely young female doctor. It’s an interesting idea, a touch over-written by today’s standards, but DeMatteis does a good job exploring the differing psyches of the two characters, particularly via their relations with the women they each share their time with. Staton’s art isn’t one of the story’s highlights, unfortunately, as his storytelling is difficult in places and the characters inconsistent from panel to panel.
Campbell and White’s script is entirely from the point of view of a young doctor working her first shift in the emergency ward, as the hospital gets far more than expected. The Joker’s planted three bombs throughout Gotham. The first one sends dozens to the ER, overwhelming the staff, testing the young doctor’s resolve. Batman defuses the second explosive, but during the battle, the Joker’s exposed to his own nerve toxin. Thus, Batman comes to the ER searching for an antidote so that he can learn the location of the third. Campbell and White do a fine job capturing the pace and technicals of the emergency room setting, and there’s a nice bit of detective work by Batman in deducing the third bomb’s location. It’s a bit predictable, but solidly entertaining.
Nothing in Batman: Going Sane is worth going out of your way for, but if you want a solid psychological Batman yarn, it’s worth a look if you can find it in your local library.