If you thought the first issue of “Batman: Odyssey” was strange, the second issue manages to somehow up the insanity and absurdity. Weaving in multiple levels of story frames and narration with plots that still aren’t clear and dialogue that veers from bombastic to just plain bad, Adams’ writing isn’t like anything else you’re bound to find in comics today. Whether or not that’s a good thing is hard to say.
The issue begins with a hairy-chested Bruce Wayne addressing the reader directly, explaining what’s been going on so far and clearing up one or two things from last issue before jumping to three pages of people trying to explain why shooting a hydrogen car won’t make it explode to a criminal. For three entire pages. It’s farcical as the reasons why are stated again and again and again, but the criminal doesn’t understand or doesn’t even want to understand — he just wants the car to blow up. That scene seems to suggest how to read the comic: it’s all mad farce, not meant to be taken seriously. In many ways, “Odyssey” fits into the Batman Frank Miller writes in “The Dark Knight Strikes Again” and “All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder.”
After all, this is an issue where an early Batman adventure is shown where he prevents people from being killed in a train explosion by shooting at them with guns before making nice with a little old lady. People think he’s a vampire out to suck their blood! There’s a level of goofy camp to Adams’ writing where everything is treated with the utmost seriousness despite what’s happening being utterly silly. Even his over-the-top narration when Batman is shot continuously by a couple of criminals feeds that disconnect with the art looking comedic as copious amounts of blood spill out of the hero and his body contorts into a variety of mind-boggling positions, never falling.
Adams’ art has the same qualities as his writing. It’s energetic and a little messy, but seems intent on expressing the story in absolute seriousness, while delivering page upon page of characters with gaping mouths or gritted teeth. Characters never seem content to look neutral, but are, instead, overacting in every panel. It’s like watching a bad B-movie with third-rate actors hamming it up in every scene. At the same time, it’s compelling and dynamic in its own way.
The early Batman, as Adams draws him, looks like an imposter almost; or, perhaps, a “Mad Magazine” parody. His costume is ill-fitting, his mask barely on, and he looks uncertain about every movement. All of that makes sense to a degree, but it’s strange to see. It’s definitely a different approach to the character that what readers are used to.
Whether the farcical and comedic elements of “Batman: Odyssey” #2 are intended, they’re hard to miss. Adams’s storytelling is downright silly and absurd at times, while the story seems intended to be serious. It’s a fun comic that won’t be to everyone’s taste, but looks like Adams is having fun creating. It’s pretty fun to read, I must admit.