Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Broken Bat

My Newsarama editor had to go and pull rank on me and snag review duties on DC’s All Star Batman & Robin the Boy the Wonder #1 for Newsarama.com, but since this is my space, I’m gonna tell you what I think of the book.

For starters, I hope what we got from the first issue is not what pervades throughout the series as a whole. If not, Frank Miller is going to only have two good Batman outings under his belt (Dark Knight Returns, Year One) while three others were creative misfires (DK2, Batman/Spawn, and now this). From this opening chapter at least, it looks like Miller is taking Batman in a SIN CITY sort of direction, and it doesn’t necessarily serve a superheroic retelling of the origin of Batman’s sidekick, Robin. This SIN CITY idea mainly comes from how we are introduced to Vicki Vale. I have no qualms with her being portrayed as a take-no-prisoners Gotham City society columnist, but the way she’s gratuitously rendered in her unmentionables while dictating a story is bliss under Jim Lee’s pencils, but borderline insulting as a longtime Batman fan. In interviews preceding the release of this high profile book, Miller promised guest appearances from Black Canary and Wonder Woman, not exactly regulars in regular Batman series, so one wonders if we’re going to get the same cheesecake moments from them in instances that contribute nothing for what Miller himself called “Batman: Year Two” (or is that “Robin: Year One”??).

I also wasn’t too keen on how Bruce Wayne was portrayed in All Star B&R #1. If this is what we get for another five to eight issues (the series’ run is up in the air at this point), I am ready to fully embrace the bitter Dark Knight we have in the mainstream DC books out right now. What’s most unsettling about this Bruce who in assessing Dick Grayson just before his parents are ruthlessly assassinated refers to the boy as a “brat” is that it doesn’t even sound like the Bruce we got in Year One and Dark Knight Returns. Instead it’s the one from DK2 who seemed to positively despise his first and most legendary sidekick. I swear in reading that sequel to Dark Knight Returns in 2001 that it seemed like Miller absolutely hated the mere notion of Dick Grayson as a character.

Ultimately in this first part of the story, the highlight has to be the murder of Grayson’s parents. In reimagining the story, Miller & Lee really only alter the scenario in that the Flying Graysons successfully perform their acrobatic trapeze show in Gotham only to be gunned down as they accept their applause (originally it was rigging the ropes to fail resulting in a fatal plunge during the performance). This leads to Dick’s first meeting with Batman, the concluding page to issue #1 (“You’ve been drafted into a war.”), and that’s about it. Vicki Vale logs in more page time than Bruce & Dick combined. Should this continue in the subsequent chapters of this story, we have a problem, but I’ve been reading comics long enough to know that an opening chapter is rarely the measuring stick for a series. I’m ready to give All Star Batman & Robin a couple more chances. With the movie Batman Begins kicking all kinds of ass this summer, it would’ve been nice to see this well publicized series get off to a better start, though.


Anonymous Bruce said...

DK2 is definitely the Anti-Dark Knight Returns, much the way the Star Wars prequels are the Anti-Original Trilogy. But while the SW Prequels properly shifted the SW movies from mainstream monsteroid to more of a minority, hard-core fan obsession (e.g. Dr. Who, Rush), DK2 attempts to completely destroy the shadow of the Dark Knight Returns so thoroughly that one cannot even attempt to compare it to the original series.

Besides, Miller finally shows Superman for what he is: a freakin god/ruler of Earth!

2:06 AM  

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