Project Wonderful

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Guest Review of Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul with Shannon O'Neal

Because you don’t know me the first thing I should tell you is that I’m a nerd. I don’t know very many people who read philosophy books for fun, well I do. When I first saw the philosophy and pop culture series several years ago, I was intrigued. Mostly because the book I picked up was about one of my favorite movies, The Matrix, but also because I saw there were others like it. You like “The Family Guy”? There’s a book for that. What about Metallica? There’s one for that, too. The Office, 30 Rock, The Daily Show, Lord of the Rings, The Legend of Zelda, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Baseball, Bob Dylan, Monty Python...I bet you didn’t expect that, kinda like the Spanish Inquisition, all have books in this series. Each book is broken down into a series of essays written by a philosopher, normally a professor, who uses examples from the topic of the book to make his or her argument. The essays are written in a fairly simple way, so that one does not need a huge knowledge of philosophy to understand the concepts, just the desire to learn something new.

Now, let’s get to my review. Of the 6 books in the series that I’ve read, to me this one is the best. The articles are more cohesive with some of the issues the Dark Knight faces and it seems that the writers are not just people who know that Batman wears a cape and cowl, but actually think about what he goes through while fighting some of Gotham’s worst. The articles cover topics ranging from if it is right to make a “Robin” to whether or not the Joker is morally culpable for what he does, there’s even an article about Alfred.

While the writers do seem to show a good bit of Bat-knowledge, the focus of the essays are on just a few of the stories in the Batman collection. Batman: Year One, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and The Killing Joke get most of the references, with the movies and comics and television shows sprinkled throughout. Some of the philosophical arguments reach quite a bit for the point they’re trying to make, but as you learn in philosophy making that reach is part of the fun. One essay I found to be quite poignant compared the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to Gotham City throughout the “No Man’s Land” crossover comic from 1999.

The only issue I had with the book is the only villain the book was ultimately concerned with was the Joker. As Kevin will tell you, I’m pretty much obsessed with the man myself, but there are other villains in the Batman world that I feel could have been used to write articles, such the relationship between Batman and Catwoman or how duality of human existence is really portrayed through Harvey Dent.

All in all, the book was good and can be picked up by anyone and as I said earlier, understood easily without any formal philosophy training. I would also suggest the other books of the series, while I haven’t read all the books there are (probably over 50) I’m sure there would be something to interest anyone. I’m going to give this book 3 Harley Quinn’s.

- Shannon O'Neal
Copyright © 2010 Shannon O'Neal

Batman & Philosophy: The Dark Night Of The Soul image copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons Inc. and is used as Fair Use Review image only. Image will be removed upon the request of John Wiley & Sons Inc. Batman & Harley Quinn images copyright © 2010 DC Comics and is used as Fair Use Review image only. Image will be removed upon the request of DC Comics.

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