Batman: Gotham City’s Guardian by Matthew Manning
Published by Scholastic, January 26, 2016. Paperback of 126 pages at $5.99. Intended for ages 8 – 12, grades 3 – 7.
Note: I read an advanced copy so anything may have changed by publication.
The cover: A bust shot of the Dark Knight is given, showing him standing before his expansive collection of monitors in the Batcave. It’s a good image by illustrator Patrick Spaziante. The coloring is different, as everything behind the Caped Crusader consists of different shades of violet. This had the gray portions of suit blending in too much with the background. This coloring brings down the grade. Overall grade: B-
The premise: From the back cover, “Hero? Detective? Man or bat? Ever wonder how BATMAN became a hero? What was his childhood like? Who are his most trusted allies and fearsome foes? What compels him to protect Gotham City? What is his mission? In this biography — complete with illustrations, time lines, and intriguing facts — you’ll uncover the epic history of Gotham City’s Dark Knight and discover his true backstory.” I would have been all over this book in elementary school because it gives me a summary of the life of one of my favorite super heroes. Accompanying this summary are three pictures: a patch from Gotham Preparatory School for Boys, an illustration of the Batmobile, and a blueprint of the Batwing. Yeah, I would have been on fire for this, and I’m sure any young fan will feel the same. Overall grade: A+
The sections: The book is divided into nine chapters by author Matthew Manning. After a Foreword, written by Batman himself, the book is separated into Before Batman, I Shall Become a Bat, The Equipment, Learning Curve, The Dynamic Duo, Justice for All, The Allies, The Enemies, and The Future. Each chapter traces the development of Batman, from his origin to the teams he’s been associated with, including the Outsiders, which I was overjoyed to see. I was pleased to see the inclusion of so many villains, from the classics (Joker, Catwoman, Penguin) to more modern foes (Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, Bane). Another good addition were the blueprints and pages that described Batman’s many vehicles, from the Batmobile to the Batboat, but my favorite was the Bat-Gyro; I’m a huge fan of this, granted, dated vehicle, but it’s just so cool looking! All three Robins are also given some focus. Every major aspect of the Dark Knight’s comic adventures is mentioned in this book. Manning has got the summaries and explanations of all tightly written, giving just enough details without overloading the intended audience. Also included is a chronology (no dates, just a sequence of events) that begins with Bruce Wayne’s birth going all the way up to his meeting with son Damian Wayne. It’s impressive with how much is covered in so little space. Overall grade: A+
The art: Because I read an uncorrected proof, the artwork of Steven Gordon consisted of sketches. What I’m seeing looks good, with Gordon selecting classic images, but adding some details to make the work his own. For example, the classic David Mazzucchelli Year One shot of Bruce crying over his parents’ bodies is changed up a little, with the addition of a background and a slight moving of the bodies. There are several images that look to come from iconic images (the Carmine Infantino shot of Batman and Robin on Page 79 and the cover of Batman #1 on 118). This is slick way to acknowledge the past and introduce these scenes to a new group of readers. There are also several illustrations lifted from Batman’s appearances in comics, such as from Mazzucchelli and Brian Bolland. The sketches look good, but without seeing the final work, I’m hesitant to give this category a letter grade.
The final line: This is the perfect compilation of all things Batman for young readers. This will feed the frenzy of the upcoming Superman vs Batman, and be a good source for those looking to learn more about the Caped Crusader. Where was this when I was a kid? Overall grade: A