Alan Grant’s Justice League of America: Batman: The Stone King

cover art for Batman The Stone KingThere are two problems with the GraphicAudio presentation of Batman: The Stone King, and neither of them are what you’d expect. The actual voice acting is fine, ranging from competent to quite good. Richard Rohan’s narration moves things along briskly, and if the production is relatively straightforward, it’s also not distracting.

No, the issues are more with format and with content. The format issue is a thorny one. Packaged as “A movie in your mind,” this 6-CD set is actually more of a graphic novel in your ear, and that’s a problem. Drawn from a medium that demands strong visuals, it instead posits itself halfway between audiobook and radio play, and ends up not quite having the strengths of either. The large cast is good, but since so much of the narrative is exposition, their appearances are relatively infrequent and thus occasionally jarring. Indeed, the format feels almost third-hand, as if we’re hearing actors portray written directions for a visual medium.

The other problem is with the book the production is based on. Author Alan Grant is a long-time and well-known comics scribe, and he has done extensive and noted work with the character of Batman. That being said, The Stone King is not a terribly good Batman story. Never mind the improbable way in which the magical maguffin (and the villain) are introduced to the story — exactly how many mysteriously buried pyramids can you hide around Gotham, anyway — the real issue is with the setup as a whole. It doesn’t give anything away to say that the plot is kick-started by a dam collapse, which scours away the dirt covering the aforementioned magical pyramid. No, the problem is that Batman admits to knowing the dam was poorly constructed, and to having waited until it collapsed to find the evidence he needed to go after the company that built it for having skimped on materials. Or, to put it another way, he risked the lives of hundreds of thousands of people rather than do some basic detective work, which is about as un-Batman-like a notion as you’re going to find. When that lapse then leads to the miraculous discovery of the pyramid and its supernatural contents, that’s when willing suspension of disbelief snaps with alarming speed.

It would be foolish to think that there’s no way to do a good audio play of Batman material. After all, of all of the major comic book heroes, he has the most in common with The Shadow, and Lamont Cranston certainly ruled the airwaves for long enough. But The Stone King is a graphic novel trying to be a novel trying to be an audiobook of a radio play, and as such, it’s best skipped.

(GraphicAudio, 2008)

Richard Dansky

The Central Clancy Writer for UbiSoft, Richard Dansky has worked in video games for 17 years. His credits include over 40 titles, most recently Tom Clancy's The Division. Richard has also contributed extensively to the World of Darkness tabletop RPGs, and is the developer of the 20th anniversary edition of seminal horror game Wraith: The Oblivion. The author of six novels, including the Wellman Award-nominated VAPORWARE, he lives in North Carolina.

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