The Old 52: Anarky

If you haven't read it, it's new to you. Every month I try to supplement the New 52 with a series from the Old 52. Series I've never read, but have always meant to.When it was new: Spinning off of his appearances in various Batman comics of the 90s, Anarky got a 4-issue mini-series in 1997 from his creators Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle. The story goes that while Grant felt he'd said everything he wanted to say in the mini, the mini's success, and financially-struggling Breyfogle's insistence, led to a monthly series in 1999. It lasted only 8 issue before being cancelled, though two other issues got as far as the pencilling stage.

Premise: Anarky is a 15-year-old genius who wants to topple corrupt governments (all governments are corrupt) and expose the truth about everything (because everything is a lie).

Occupy mindspace: I have to admit that Norm Breyfogle's art was the main reason I wanted to read Anarky. He's my favorite Batman artist of all time. And he doesn't disappoint here either, getting to draw some favorites like Batman and the Demon, but also characters he likely hadn't tackled before, like Darkseid and the Haunted Tank. What strikes me most about the two series, however, is how overtly political they are, and how they've become more relevant with time, not less. Anarky is best described as a one-man Occupy Wall Street movement, well-read and ready to debate philosophy, religion and politics with anyone who will listen (that's mostly his dog Yap). Each issue of the mini has a page where he does just that, a feature I missed in the monthly. In my work at a university, I've met a bunch of students that fall into the Anarky mode, reactionary in the extreme, but often all words and no action. Anarky takes it further, of course, but he has the same weaknesses - an unreasonable mixture of idealism and pessimism about the future. He's idealistic to think his methods will work and pessimistic about the world sorting itself out without his help. Alan Grant's story is a balancing act, making Anarky an articulate mouthpiece for the 99% and exposing some of society's biggest lies, while also having his protagonist learn that things aren't so simple as he imagines and forcing him to admit how he's one of society's "parasites" too.
One of the most pleasurable things about the Ararky series is that they act as political/philosophical tours of the DC Universe. Anarky has a LOT of balls. In the mini, seeking to discover the nature of good and evil, he summons a monstrous demon just to get Etrigan involved, and follows up by giving Darkseid an impromptu visit and calling him out. In the monthly, Alan Grant takes him out of Gotham City (an editorial mandate) and has him set up shop in a secret base under the Washington Monument, from where he can better bother the U.S. government. These issues have Anarky build a computer that keeps him honest, hack into the JLA's systems, fight a space-time anomaly that threatens to destroy the universe, come into possession of a Green Lantern ring, get on a senator's bad side, and fight zombie presidents with the Haunted Tank. His first-person narrative keeps his opinions at the forefront no matter how outlandish his adventures become. From the first issue to the last, there's a running subplot about Anarky's real father being the Joker, something DC would later balk at confirming or denying, and sadly, the senator's cabal calling in a patriotic stooge called Capital Eagle was never resolved (the pencils for the two last issues floating around on the Internet feature their battle). That's too bad, because Alan Grant is really good at creating crazy antagonists (Anarky is, in fact, one of them). Must come from writing a fair amount of Judge Dredd stories. Even his portrayal of established villains is great. I nominate the scene where Ra's al Ghul beats up a martial arts master while talking on his cel phone as one of the coolest moments I've read all year. Truly a book where you learn something while you're having fun.

Collected? The original mini-series was collected in Batman: Anarky, which also has some of his other appearances up to that point. The monthly was never collected, but DC could do worse than have the last two issues finished in a new trade sold on the back of the whole 99% thing. V for Vendetta masks can't be the only cross-marketing opportunity. Apparently Anarky is the main antagonist in the Beware the Batman cartoon, so there's another reason to do it. Also: NORM. FREAKING. BREYFOGLE.


abc said...

Anarky! I always got annoyed when other comics misspelled his name...

Anonymous said...

Great article (as always really).

I hope they do collect it in a trade paperback or even part of their Deluxe Hardcover series.

Although I still don't get why they haven't collected Alan Grant & Norm Breyfogle's entire run on Batman in general, such a great run and still one that holds up really well today.


Siskoid said...

Agreed. Perhaps when they do, Anarky will be a part of the omnibus.

Anonymous said...

The trade doesn't collect all of Anarky's pre-monthly appearances. There's a number of annuals, Robin issues and Green Arrow #89 (Crossroads arc). Of these, I would recommend the Green Arrow one the most. It's like a twisted epilogue of the GA/GL road trip.

Siskoid said...

Thanks for the details on the trade!

Anonymous said...

You're welcome. :)

-Anarky's biggest fan


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