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The Batman gyre

The Batman gyre
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First Published: Fri, Jul 01 2011. 08 00 PM IST

Turning and returning: Batman is continually reinvented by writers.
Turning and returning: Batman is continually reinvented by writers.
Updated: Fri, Jul 01 2011. 08 00 PM IST
If you are into math—this writer is, at least a teeny bit—and know a bit about William Butler Yeats’ fascination with geometry, the word gyre is sure to have some appeal for you.
The gyre, of course, refers to the set of intersecting conical helixes central to Yeats’ world view, and is part of pop culture thanks to its appearance in Yeats’ famous poem, The Second Coming.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
Turning and returning: Batman is continually reinvented by writers.
A few months ago, I came across a comic, a Batman comic called The Widening Gyre (by Kevin Smith, illustrated by Walt Flanagan) and I couldn’t help but pick it up. Regular readers of Cult Fiction will know the appeal Batman has for me (so much so that every once in a while I have to write a column on a new Batman comic).
It turned out that the book was, in some ways, a sequel to Smith and Flanagan’s earlier Batman comic, Cacophony, that I’d read a few years ago. I wasn’t particularly impressed with Cacophony. The story was weak, the dialogues seemed forced and theatrical, and the art was dodgy in parts.
The author is an actor and director (Chasing Amy and Cop Out) and he is clearly what’s called a fanboy. At 40, he has made movies, written comic books, and even owns a comic book store, according to Wikipedia.
Anyway, his follow-up to Cacophony was The Widening Gyre, which came out as trade hardback (collecting individual issues) last year. Unlike other sequels, the story doesn’t take off where Cacophony ended. Indeed, the first book’s only intersection with the second is at the end (which makes it pretty much like a gyre, though I don’t know whether this is what prompted Smith to name his book). In The Widening Gyre, Batman makes a new friend, another crime fighter called Baphomet (a popular symbol of black magic in the medieval ages, and represented by the image of a satanic-looking goat with horns; the origin is widely believed to be from a corrupted version of Mohammed dating back to the Crusades), almost gets married, and is eventually betrayed (no more details shall be forthcoming).
The ending seems to have been prompted by the desire for another miniseries, but there’s no indication as to when this can be expected, if at all (oh yes, the history of superhero comics is replete with instances of series threads left loose).
The Widening Gyre reminds me that it’s been a long time since I have read a truly great Batman comic. Ed Brubaker’s police procedural Gotham Central dates back to the middle of the last decade (although the books are enjoying a reissue). Grand Morrison’s Batman R.I.P. came a few years later. And Neil Gaiman’s Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? came in 2009. Still, I am convinced it is only a matter of time before the franchise is reinvented by someone else.
Like many others, I believe in Batman.
R. Sukumar is editor, Mint. Write to him at cultfiction@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Jul 01 2011. 08 00 PM IST