Batman: City of Light #1-8 (December 2003-July 2004)
by The Pander Brothers, Mark Paniccia, & Alvaro Lopez

The weird artwork of City of Light is hard to pinpoint as either a bold new extreme in comic art, or as simply being aimed at young kids—it's exaggerated and extremely cartoony, yet consistently surprising and kind of dark. Coupled with the strangely sci-fi plotline (involving a psychotic archtitect whose buildings contain his DNA, and so can live and breathe as he wishes), the result is certainly quite goofy, but I must admit I found it more engaging than most recent Batman comics, which seem to be in perpetual retread.

The story involves the aforementioned architect trying to rid Gotham City of darkness by covering over every square inch with his living light—the reasoning being, if Gotham is made of light, there will be no crime. But if there's no crime, there's no need for Batman. Hence, Batman must take the guy down.

Though I found myself rooting more for the architect, as the story pans out, he's revealed as a crazyman, and his "City of Light" concept is shown to be a misguided attempt to purge his own demons.

The literal light-vs.-dark theme should seem hackneyed, but the writers use it to force Batman to delve into precisely why he needs to live so much in the darkness. After a conversation with a young artist, Batman realizes he must truly become the Beast before he will understand how to balance his light and dark personae. He's always struggled to keep from being overcome by the dark side, but now he sees he must actually go through it to attain wholeness.

Nice to see Carl Jung creep into Batman comics more and more. The actual scenes of Batman "becoming the Beast" start getting ridiculous after awhile (his grunts and half-articulated dialogue is clunky in print), but it's kind of cool to see Batman going through, like, his version of a New Warriors weekend!

A nice subplot traces the new Batgirl as she struggles to balance normal teen stuff like dating with her high-flyin' crime-fightin' nightjob. Sissy that I am, I was most interested in reading about Batgirl's normal life … I'd probably read Batgirl if it focused more on that than, like, Batgirl fighting ninjas.

At eight issues, City of Light is way overlong—the story could (and should) have been done in, like, four. The last few issues are so belabored (and filled with silly Bat-grunts) that I almost bailed. But nothing good ever comes from me not following a series to completion … after all, I spent two years in a mental hospital after George Michael didn't end up releasing Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2.

Review by Shinbone Shiny