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This was the first book we ever reviewed on this site. Now that I’m going through the DC timeline and have reached the westerns, I wanted to take the opportunity to rework this post, mainly to add some images to what was once an entirely image-free review. Which was totally boring, right?
Showcase Presents: Bat Lash. Lets get the facts right outta the gate: It’s small for a showcase volume, weighing in at 240 pages, which is about half of your average Showcase. On the flipside, it’s cheap – only 9.99 meaning you can probably find it for around five dollars.
I’ll say right at the top that I think it’s worth your money, be it full price or used. It’s an enjoyable little Western romp, nowhere near as brutal as Jonah Hex, good for quick evening’s read or a few short stories caught in your free minutes during the week. I won’t lie, I read it in the bathroom between all the other things I’ve been up to lately.
This might be surprising, because he’s not particularly fleshed out – written in that hamfisted catch phrase spouting way. In any given story, he’s going to either pull a flower from his hat or put one into it, or both. He’s going to admonish some roughneck for exposing him to violence, because he hates it, and then either kill them or beat them senseless. He’s going to kiss a lady and leave her standing there thinking about what a rouge he is… in that dashing way.
He’ll do all this with a smile on his face and greed in his heart and somehow remain likable, for a misogynistic bastard. Similarly, though the book is chock full of ethnic stereotypes and terribly written women, it somehow slides by because at 40 years old it’s practically a historical text. As a reader, I just had to smile and nod. “Yup, comics are awful. But fun.” It’s not as bad as plenty of its contemporaries – not to mention some really slimy stuff that would come years later.
There are some weird moments. Because the volume collects stories written over a large time range, the latter stories feel very different from the earlier ones. Bat Lash is less of a wanderer and more of a gambler in the last three – he’ll have the same phrasing and flower, but the rest of him somehow feels off. I think I prefer the earlier work, mostly by Sergio Aragones, to the stories written by Len Wein.
The art, however, doesn’t feel dated at all. The styles are obviously that of their era, but the work is excellent!
It doesn’t feel lacking for being black and white. In fact, the crisp linework is downright enjoyable. Nick Cardy rocks it out with expressions that are full of life and humor and the inked art never falls flat.
In fact, I was sometimes surprised by dynamic layouts and some very interesting artistic choices. I shouldn’t have been, seeing as many of the contributors were also featured in MAD Magazine. I was often reminded of some of my childhood favorites from that publication.
It’s not quite as rough as DeZuniga’s work in Jonah Hex, which makes sense – Bat Lash is a more cartoonish character – a dapper dandy compared to Hex’s tortured gunfighter.
To sum it up, the book was both what I expected and a pleasant surprise. I knew I was going to be reading a western, so I was prepared for a white-male-centric ode to violence, but the text on the back didn’t prepare me for the slapstick action and frolicking pacing.
No. Bat Lash isn’t ever a big character much elsewhere, and I’m pretty sure his presence doesn’t need much explanation.
What Should You Read First:
This volume stands fine on its own. It works as an introduction to DC Westerns of the period and doesn’t feature any characters from prior publications. I’d say it’s an excellent companion to Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex. The two shared publications at times and together represent a good sampling of the Bronze Age.
What Should You Read Next:
Probably the modern interpretation, Bat Lash: Guns and Roses, which I’ll be getting to soon as I work my way through, or of course, Jonah Hex. Bat Lash does show up in later volumes.