This very odd 3-issue miniseries by Gerard Jones and Mark Badger came out in 1995 – as a Batman story it falls a little flat, mostly because you can guess who the villain is very quickly. The plot – surrounding a Charlie Parker analogue who returns after being presumed dead for 40 years – is an excuse for Batman to wander around letting a bunch of old jazzmen, mobsters, pushers and so on tell their stories. These stories are themselves vehicles for a series of angry digressions on music and the jazz scene.

Throughout the comic, jazz music is treated with reverence when opposed to almost any other kind of music, though it rapidly becomes clear that the story’s motor is a conflict over what jazz ‘should’ be, and that Jones disapproves of attempts to claim this or that practise as authentic: the murderer is one of few* comics’ villains to have r0ck1sm as their motive! Even so the belief in jazz – however constituted – as possessed of an unshakable, pure and spiritual essence is obvious, and I was delighted to find the story’s payoff a version of the old “If you have to ask, lady…” line.

Quite what Batman is doing here is never quite clear – there is a bit of hokum in which the Bird figure shows a mysterious understanding of Batman’s inner pain, and it’s made clear that Bruce Wayne is a jazzbo himself, but even so the scenes with Batman duking (“Duke”-ing, ho ho) it out with ‘The Brotherhood of the Bop’ are ludicrous. But Mark Badger’s art is stylish throughout and if you have an interest in how the comics treat music you could do worse than hunt this down.

*Garth Ennis’ “Muzak Killer” in Judge Dredd is another.