Holy verisimilitude! Where's the Joker when you need him?We’ve been hearing about it for over a year. Now, DC Comics has produced the first book in its Just imagine Stan Lee Creating series. The concept: Marvel Comic‘s main man gives a fresh interpretation to classic DC heroes like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. DC gave Lee a free hand, setting his stories outside the DC continuity and allowing him to get as wild and original as he wanted to be.

Lee’s Batman book arrived last week, and I have to say I was pretty excited. Started reading right away.

How can I put this? Imagine getting up Christmas morning, running to the living room, looking under the Christmas tree, and finding your old Halloween candy. It’s still as sugary as ever, but that’s not the point–you were hoping for something new.

Well, you won’t find it here. Lee’s Batman’s book tells a straightforward little revenge story, the kind that will be painfully familiar to comic book readers: Wayne Williams gets framed for a crime he didn’t commit, serves time, and returns from prison ready to kick the ass of the bad guy who set him up. Guess how it ends?

This is tired comic book fare, shuffled around to no particular effect. Lee’s Batman’s costume makes him look more like a real bat (as opposed to the classic Batman, who looks rather like a pimped-out Count Dracula). But who cares? Lee’s Batman is black, but so what? Back in the 1970s, Marvel was doing stories with black characters who were more edgy and realistic than this guy. This Batman works as a wrestler, same as Spider-man in his earliest days. Is Lee paying homage to himself, or has he just not had a fresh idea in 40 years? It’s not worth puzzling over.

Maybe it’s not fair to pick on Lee. The guy’s like 200 years old, and appears to be composed entirely of sunglasses and dentures. I don’t care. Stay away from Lee’s Batman, and approach the rest of the “Just Imagine” series at your own risk.

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