BATMAN ODYSSEY #5 is a Fever Dream Brought to Life

“THIS DAY, gnomes will see how men fight!”

Written and drawn by legendary artist Neal Adams, Batman Odyssey is a long-running maxiseries, currently on issue 5 of 7, which sees Batman and Robin take on a number of their most famous foes, and also fight some gnome people. The series has now become infamous for being the most deranged and manic story ever seen in a mainstream comic, as Adams writes all his characters as though they were suffering through a severe acid trip and draws them like they’re all highly strung out on opium. It’s an absolutely terrible comic, but one that’s hard to resist picking up whenever it comes out. The most recent issue, which is actually part 11 of the overall story, sees Batman and someone called Jamroth Bok fight gnome people who have kidnapped Talia Al Ghul and Jamroth Bok’s wife Tatsinda. They also dive-bomb some Dinosaurs while riding bat-creatures, beat up members of the military, practise some torture and exchange awkwardly homoerotic banter.

“AGGG… my gut. What’d you… oh, man”

After last issue saw Batman blow up Robin in order to try and inflict some collateral damage on racially dubious Asian villain “Sensei”, Bruce Wayne starts the issue off by feeding the reader some drugs (handy) and explaining that the explosion was highly controlled. Apparently Batman has developed a form of explosive which only goes outwards from the target, meaning Robin, at the heart of the explosion, was completely safe from harm. So Robin isn’t actually dead at all. Mind you, given how many times Batman has set Robin up for a horrible death thus far, it really can’t be too far away by now. Robin runs in to celebrate his escape and this page happens.

You may be wondering who the people with Batman are – if you aren’t still trying to wrap your head around the concept of Batman having string in his knees. Well! The pink hippo guy vanishes almost immediately following this sequence, while the guy in a pharaoh’s crown in actually Deadman, in a bizarre cameo experience I can’t really explain to you. Just accept it, like Robin does in page three.

“I DID have to go”
“NOT… if it’s stupid”

Throughout the issue, every word balloon is filled with multiple hyphens and ellipsis. Much like reading Comics Vanguard! However, whenever you read aloud the dialogue from this comic, it’s quickly apparent that Adams has put his stresses in the wrong place every single time. So when Batman shouts out loud “WHO IS WITH ME?” what he actually shouts is “WHO…. IS WITH ME?” The drama is imploded by the unnecessary ellipsis partway through. There are also a number of people round the edges of Batman’s army with razor-sharp teeth and odd forearms.

Not that the art isn’t decent. Adams remains a gifted storyteller, and manages to add character to even the bland gnomes. The only problem is that the art and dialogue do not appear to complement each other whatsoever. As the story progresses, Batman witnesses his colleague break both arms of a poor gnome, so the gnome will then run off to his master and they can find out where the secret hideout is. Only, the gnome runs down the right-hand tunnel, and Batman instead declares that he’ll go down the middle tunnel instead. So if Batman was so aware of… why did he let the gnome get tortured… what!?

“You may wish to take them. Our master does not want you to!”

The central villain of this story, Sensei, is a classic Fu-Manchu villain who hires only non-white people to be his minions. That’s how you know he’s evil. He wears a karate kimono throughout this issue, as he demands his “heavily armed berserkers” (which I don’t believe we ever actually see) stop running away from battle, and instead run back into battle. And apparently they go ahead and do just that. Don’t forget that Batman’s mission here is to “save all the women”, who are being held captive. So, Batman decides to inspire his troops into war, even though his troops are “neanderthals, engineers, dinosaurs and even demigods”.

He later declares that he wants this mission “done within the hour”, as apparently he’s got better things to be getting on with. So after rescuing his dinosaurs from the military, he then ignores them and walks on foot to where the villain is staying. His companion Jamroth engages in a fight with gnomes, and in the middle of a fight has a thought bubble stating “sweaty, slimy, naked cruds”. This has BARELY ANY CONTEXT TO ANYTHING ELSE, and is incredibly creepy. In fact, Jamroth spends most of the issue declaring things on behalf of the reader, when the reader wants absolutely nothing to do with him. He’s a terrible character wearing what appears to be Huntress’ costume.

“Bones break, men eat through straws”

So, Batman confronts the main villain by shouting loudly at him, before taking his mask off for no reason whatsoever. So now a load of trolls know Batman’s secret identity. There is literally no chance that anything in this book is ever going to enter continuity. After capturing the king, Batman makes it even more clear that this book should’ve been released in the 1950s by declaring “you have Talia and Tatsinda…. and they are ours!” Ever the romantic hero, that Batman. After rescuing the girls, a last-minute retaliation attack is formed and Batman thwarts it with the help of a blonde Robin called Primus who seems to have been invented just for this comic. The gnomes are roundly defeated, leaving Batman free to go after Sensei and Ras Al Gul (he’s involved in this somehow?!) in issue 6.

I’ve read through the comic several times now, and can still only approximate that this is what happens. It’s utterly surreal, and actually works rather well as an elegant satire about the comic-book industry. Given that it’s meant to be pretty serious, though… Batman Odyssey is…. Nonsense!! In – comic book…. Form!


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