Darwyn Cooke’s Batman-themed collection, Ego and Other Tails, was my latest New York Public Library borrowing. I’m not super-familiar with Cooke’s work, having previously read only his Catwoman book (included in this collection of material) and Spirit stories (quite good in the beginning, got a little too serious and graphic toward the end and lacked the humor Eisner infused the strip with), but I’ve been feeling like a superheroic flight of fancy lately, and Cooke’s earned some more pages. Plus, I’m always curious to see what books lurk in the library to hook impressionable readers.
Well, the bulk of this collection is still Cooke’s Catwoman graphic novel, Selina’s Big Score. When I first read it years ago, I thought it was just okay. Well done and something you don’t see in superhero comics, but maybe a little too derivative of just about any caper film. Rereading it now, I find myself liking it much more than I remember. The dialogue is sharp, the character designs strong, the storytelling precise – except during the actual train robbery, when the pacing is deliberately cranked up and things pop across the page as quickly as possible, making the pages a little jumbly, but effectively so. It’s easily the highlight of Ego and Other Tails.
The other yarns, including the titular Batman: Ego, are solidly crafted, but rarely anything special. Ego has a nice conceit, Batman vs. Bruce Wayne in a mental showdown over a particular botched case, but the psychological issues don’t feel entirely compelling. The outcome is too easy and obvious. Still, it looks nice, and it was Cooke’s first comics work.
Four short stories round out the set: two black and whites, one drawn by Cooke with Paul Grist writing, one written by Cooke with Bill Wray drawing. The Wray story is funnier, with a goofy sense of humor and a nice bigfoot cartoon style. The Grist story is stylish, a snippet of a chase and capture, made enjoyable mostly by Cooke’s great artwork and ink washes. “Date Knight,” a Cooke and Tim Sale collaboration, is a Batman/Catwoman lark, a twist on courting ritual by way of a superhero rooftop chase, quite fun, and the finale is another Cooke Solo tale, with Batman showing up a couple supporting players from Selina’s Big Score early on in their careers.
Batman: Ego and Other Tails is a solid collection of material, a nice showcase for Cooke’s talents and a nice package for readers to discover in their local library.