Paul Pope makes comics that hurt. His work comes out, sporadically, (not sporadically like a Fugazi album, sporadically like a Sopranos season) and forces you to read it, to bend it back and forth, to flip it upside down and read it right to left--what the hell is that, why's it there, what's he doing? His art, his aggro-sex storytelling, all of them are the kinds of things that would make him welcome on any comic, anywhere. You look at enough of his work and you start fantasizing about how exciting a book this cat could make--if he wanted to, Pope can convince you of just about anything. (Try asking any self-respecting man or woman where their disposable income went after Pope drew life size ads for the New York Diesel store--and that was for Diesel, who's clothes are well-known to reduce the sex-drive of dead people.) Pope's a living embodiment of the change in talent since the inception of comics: if you get good enough, you'll quit working on the studio's property. Nowadays, when a successful creator wants to make a whole lot of money, they'll helm one of DC or Marvel's big guns--a Batman, a Captain America, etc. When they want to experiment with art and ambition, they do it on a book where they'll own the character. Safely put, Morrison's work on Batman and Superman is in line with the Japanese Caloriemate commercials featuring Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer--they're what you might call "boat" money. (Although it's hard to imagine Morrison owning a boat, he certainly could--he could call it the LoxSet 9th Dimension World Wind.)
That's what makes Batman Year 100 such a thrill--it's totally Batman, yet it's totally Pope at the same time. Like Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers, it's a project so immersed in an artists love affair with genre that it bleeds inspiration and admiration. Whether it's the little twists (like the grotesquely frightening mouthpiece that Batman wears) or the layers of filth and darkness that coat every piece of the landscape from the characters to the furniture, Batman Year 100 is one of those rare pieces of superhero comics--a work that's been fully realized from beginning to end. There's nothing wasted in it, nor is there a willingness to acclimatize the work to the readers taste: Pope absolutely refuses to do anything here than tell his own Batman story. It's a work uninterested in interesting new readers, it's a work uninterested in motivating happy readers to purchase any other comics work (try saying that about any of 2006's superhero "graphic novels") and it's a work that is necessitates re-reading. It's an art comic masquerading in spandex, or vice-versa. What make it even more surprising is how enjoyable it is just as a stand-alone work--the most un-hero comic to be enjoyable as a hero comic. The only bad note it strikes is that, if anything, it increases the ticket price for Marvel and DC to get Pope to sign the contract--and those boys are loath to part with pocket cash.
-Tucker Stone, 2007