Comic book crossovers between companies don’t tend to gel well in my opinion. It often relies on fanservice and a lot of storytelling shenanigans in order for the crossover to work. So when I see a comic that is doing this, I tend to avoid it, which is what I did for a while with the first Batman/Predator crossover. That was until I discovered that Dave Gibbons (Watchmen artist) wrote the story and the Kubert brothers, Andy and Adam, drew and inked it.
Suddenly, it piqued my interest.
Made in the early 90s, this Batman/Predator is one of the finest examples of how to make a crossover between two established franchises and make it work within both continuities without too many issues. And between the action and sheer heroism, it’s one of my favorite depictions of Batman in the last thirty years.
What is Batman/Predator?
The story for this crossover is actually very simple and I believe it’s patterned on the original Predator film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (more on that later). A mysterious creature is stalking Gotham City at night, murdering some of the strongest and most powerful men in the city, including the two best boxers and some of the elite.
As that is going on, Batman is dealing with a war among mobsters and gangsters that have control of different crime sectors in the city. But both situations end up clashing with each other and the Caped Crusader has to deal with this beast from another world, one of the most powerful creatures he has ever faced in his entire career.
How was it?
The best two Predator movies, which are of course the first and the second, have very similar patterns, and even without the presence of the Predator we already have a defined storyline. The first one is a military adventure in Central America, while the second is a buddy cop film in a city consumed by corruption. And in both cases, the Predator shows up and everything is amped up a notch.
What makes this comic work so well is that Gibbons understands how the Predator franchise fits so well with the Batman universe: a horror-themed villain that stalks the night and kills every living thing he deems as a “champion” until finding its biggest prize, the Batman. The gothic, dark and horror elements of the Batman universe fit well with this kind of threat and Gibbons implements it as a full-blown, violent horror story that works like a charm.
Sure, it’s a very straightforward story (Batman fights the Predator… that would be the whole summary), but it’s done in a clever manner. Batman is pushed to his limits to fight a creature that can overpower him with ease and he’s forced to lick his wounds in order to create a better plan as Gotham falls to ruin with the Predator loose.
Gibbons manages to show (and perhaps this is me reading too much between the lines) why Batman is so vital to Gotham: he is the only one capable enough to deal with this threat and he is willing to put himself on the line to make this happen. I think this heroic side of Batman and this aspect of him showing willing to go beyond the pain to protect his city, is an element of his character that is sadly missed these days. He is shown, in more and less obvious ways, as Gotham’s knight fighting the evil beast. Thematically speaking, it feels like an epic myth of sorts, which is not surprising given that superheroes can be viewed as modern mythology.
Leaving symbolism and themes aside, it’s simply a fun action blockbuster. The story flows in a very natural manner, the established characters behave in their expected manner and there is an element of excitement that is fun to read. Gibbons makes the Predator feel like a natural part of Batman’s gallery of rogues and the challenge he represents is very interesting because the Dark Knight needs to do everything in his arsenal to level with him.
For such a simple and short story (it’s three-issues long), it manages to do a lot with the short time we spend together.
How does it look?
Andy Kubert is one of my favorite comic book artists and while I think he has always done quality work throughout his career, I’m more of a fan of his early 90s work. It was rawer, more intense, and had a lot of kinetic energy to it. He added a degree of drama that fit with his X-Men stories and this Batman/Predator crossover.
Here he is backed in the inking department by his brother, Adam, and I think he helps a lot to give the book a darker and more sinister feel to it. The key to writing good horror is to convey a certain atmosphere and the Kubert brothers definitely did that here.
For all the criticism that the Image era of comics had throughout the years, there’s a certain quality in the art: it feels powerful, dramatic and over the top, which fits very well with a bat-themed vigilante fighting a murderous alien in the middle of a rainy night. I honestly don’t understand people that prefer a more modest approach to such big concepts.
What does it represent?
Batman/Predator might not be a masterpiece, but it is a fine example of how to make comics, of how to tell an exciting story and of how impactful and valuable quality art is. It demonstrates a great understanding of franchises you are working with and overall shows respect for the medium as a form of entertainment.
I don’t know how easy it is to find this miniseries (after all, there are a lot of business complications between DC and Dark Horse), but I highly recommend you read this story because it’s a wonderful example of the Batman and Predator franchises in their absolute prime.