I received this book for Christmas and my face was happy. However I turned the book over, read the back and immediately became sceptic. Alliteration can be a powerful rhetorical tool, but this striving for a comedic effect felt tawdry to me.
This feeling returned to me again and again as I was reading this book, Langley just seemed to be trying so hard. The book delivers pretty much what the title promises; it talks of Batman and it talks of psychology.
The book tries to be an in depth analysis of batman and the bat-verse, devoting significant time to defining just which Batman we mean when we say Batman. To be fair, and obvious, this is no simple task and sadly the rest of the book suffers for it. It tried to break down chapters into themes covering topics such as the trauma that made batman, the role of costumes, the mental health of criminals as well as batman’s close relationships to people that he cares for. This is sought grounded in various psychological theories awkwardly broken up by intermittent “case-studies” of various bat-villains.
I wanted this book to work. I wanted to learn about psychology through the wonders of Batman. But there is no clear, consistent angle we are approaching the bat-verse from and this left me confused and frustrated. Sometimes my knowledge of batman would be insuffient and at other times the psychology explained seemed superficial at best and at worst I was left wondering, why are we matching this particular area of psychology to this bit here?
In the introduction Langley mentions that his child wanted the book to be built around the bat-villains; one for each chapter and the more I read of the book, the better an idea it seemed. This would have offered a much more in depth view of various aspects of villains and the bat-verse than the cursory issues covered here.
I wanted to love this book, but I ended up reading it with half an eye. Everytime Langley took me somewhere I wanted to be he left me stranded with less insight into Batman and no insight into psychology. This left so much energy to be frustrated by the vague insights that frankly a highschooler could have pieced together from any popular batman comic as well as detours into “comedy” that feel so flat I literally curled my toes from embarrasment.
This book does not tell the story of Batman, it does not tell the story of psychology and it fails to be entertaining. Next time Langley should really let his kids write all his books.