Sometimes you buy a comic and it just doesn't sit right with you. Maybe you finish reading it; maybe you just give up and toss it in a long box and don't think about it for a while. Apparently, I did something just like that back in 2000.
Batman: Fortunate Son has sat in one of my long boxes for so long that I actually forgot that I even owned it. I'm a little embarrassed to admit it now, but I don't think I really understood how good Gerard Jones' story was back then. I was already a 25-year-old father of two by the time, so saying the story was too mature for me to appreciate upon release is cause for some concern. (Don't worry, my kids came out of it just fine.) I've been on something of a trade paperback and graphic novel-buying kick recently. I rediscovered this gem in my collection by accident while trying to find a way to organize all the new purchases into my ever-shrinking available space.
I probably first bought Fortunate Son because of the art by Gene Ha. I had been of fan of the work he was doing on Top Ten with Alan Moore. (***Side note: I also found my copy of the super-awesome Top Ten: The Forty-Niners in the same box...SCORE!!!***) Now that I've reread Fortunate Son, I can confidently say that the art is indeed awesome. More importantly, I really enjoyed the story.
A rock-and-roll story featuring Batman and Robin is probably a hard sell for most people. Their trepidation is totally valid. I have to admit that I most likely did not give this book the chance it deserved. In fact, even today, I might have passed on picking it up if that was the description I was given about Fortunate Son. Luckily for me, seeing that old school DC bullet hit me right in the nostalgia sweet spot. Plus, the art drew my attention once again. I gave the book a second shot. Totally worth it!
The relevance of Fortunate Son to this blog is the fact that it tells a story set in the early days of Batman and Robin's pre-Flashpoint careers as heroes where Dick Grayson is Robin rocking the bare legs and pixie boots. Fortunate Son highlights the differences between the two protagonists, pitting them against each other in an ethical conflict over what to do about an increasingly unstable, violent rocker who believes he's lost touch with the pure soul of his music. Jones makes a point of playing up the rocker's growing insanity by having him fully accept that the ghost of Elvis Presley is leading him around on his mission. (Like I said, this book might be a bit of a hard sell.)
Just so there is no confusion, Batman: Fortunate Son is not a perfect piece of modern fiction. A couple of elements plant the book firmly in a particular window of time. For example, fans of the animated Teen Titans, Go! would be uncomfortable seeing Robin so dedicated to rock music and a rock star since he has shown a definite affinity for hip-hop on the show. Also, as Robin very accurately states, the few hours that Batman spends locked in a booth listening to multiple artists simultaneously while also reading God-only-knows how many articles about rock-and-roll, would not make him an expert on the music. I think it would just drive someone crazy, although having the articles in the art and seeing them become increasingly incoherent as he continued to read was a really nice touch. I also have one minor quibble with the art. The ears on Batman's cowl look tremendous; like they-should-be-throwing-off-his-balance tremendous.
I chose not to call this article a review because it falls outside the boundaries I set for myself when I started TKF. It's a “lost” story of Batman and Robin set before the New 52 came along. That said, it's also worth trying to find if you've never read it or giving it a second chance if you didn't dig it the first time. I'm glad that I did.