Batman has once again had his origin and motivations realigned for a modern audience. Geoff Johns (DC Comics Chief Creative Officer) and frequent partner Gary Frank deliver a new classic Batman tale that is sure to fit on your self next to classic stories from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and Year One or Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s twisted The Killing Joke. Yes, Batman Earth One is on that level.
As we chant and wait for Dark Knight Rises to hit the screen later this month, DC Comics has strategically timed this second Earth One hardcover graphic novel to prove that there are no limits to different creative teams delivering their take on our favorite heroes and icons.
Superman Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Superman) and Shane Davis (Green Lantern) was released in 2010 under the Earth One imprint at DC. This was before the reboot of the New 52 — and mentioning that makes it more confusing. Straczynski gave us a Clark Kent that would be headed for Metropolis as a reporter in his twenties around the present day. He also beefed up the conflict of being the only son of Krypton and was a refreshing read, not defining Kal as too much of a goodie-two-shoes. Volume 2 is scheduled for November of this year.
Both the Batman and Superman books have been on the fan radar for some time. Reaction from the comic store crowd (if not the general fussy internet) was positive for Superman, and slowly we started seeing character designs from Gary Frank. The Batman costume wasn’t too different than the New 52 version, and his Bruce Wayne looked like the playboy he is.
Alfred looks a lot different and for good reason. This isn’t the Alfred Pennyworth we know. Earth One Alfred is a bad ass. He’s not making too many scones.
I don’t want to spoil this for anyone because the new clever origins of familiar faces are what drives this book. The relationship between Bruce’s dad Thomas and Alfred is based not on servitude but service in the military together. A fateful night at the movies (I projected the Waynes were out to see the Zorro “reboot” or “prequel”) was not without Martha’s pearls dropping everywhere in Crime Alley. Bruce witnessed the horrifying scene and spends time training with Alfred to become a fighter.
The notes and beats of the classic Batman origin are all there like in Year One, but under Johns have a reverence for real life reactions and societal infrastructure.
In this case, Bruce comes close to being put under foster care. Jim Gordon and his daughter Barbara are sharing an apartment and can barely make rent with a cop and a librarian’s pay. Lt. Harvey Bullock transfers from producing an Unsolved Mysteries analog in Hollywood to Gotham, only to find out that the scum of Gotham is a dirty and violent lot. Martha Wayne could be related to Arkham Asylum and Harvey Dent and his twin sister Jessica have known Bruce since he was a boy.
Geoff Johns and Gary Frank recently (pre-New 52) framed the Superman Secret Origin in a similar but distinctly different way. The Superman story cleaned up 70 years of continuity and ironed out some bugs from the post-Crisis John Byrne Man of Steel (1986) series with devotion to the source material. Batman Earth One creates an entirely new world, introduces a new villain and sets up the Batman for detective work beyond this volume.
If the separate visions of Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan define Batman collectively for fans like myself, Johns has just added his giant penny to the (notably absent from this book) Batcave.
Gary Frank‘s artwork should be noted as exceptional. Missing are the white lenses over Batman’s eyes. His acting is incredible and his line work is as delicate as that of Brian Bolland. Fans of Rags Morales (Identity Crisis, Action Comics) will delight in the realistic rendering of the facial expressions and also his action scenes. There is a reason Johns collaborates with Frank so often. He could be among the top artists to work on Superman or Batman in the history of the characters.
Keeping reviews spoiler free is among the hardest challenge for a comic journalist. Herein you will find a new villian, an old familiar rogue, twists and nods to multiple continuities along with one classic stand alone Batman origin story. Highly recommended for Batman fans in their teens and up. People will be talking about this book for a long time.
We’ll see some negative reactions from the purists but more than likely we’ll be pulling this from shelves once a year to revisit the story in perpetuity.
BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE! CHECK OUT LEAGUEPODCAST.COM — BOSTON’S COMIC BOOK AND POP CULTURE PODCAST — “Thinking about Comics since 2009″!
Odd-io Comic Re-post — Marvel’s Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles #1 — “The Face of the Future”
Celebrate Independence Day with everyone’s favorite patriot, and one of our favorite oddio comics ever! A re-post of our rendition of “Captain America: Bicentennial Battles — The Face of the Future!”
This episode chronicles one of Cap’s cosmic adventures as he is hurled through time and space by the mysterious Mr. Buda, in search of the American dream. Instead he finds work in a Hollywood musical (and gets really cheesed off!) He eventually takes comfort in the hearts of some fiddle music and ghetto kids, and is inspired enough to give a speech on the good ol’ U.S. of A. Actually, several speeches. It gets kind of tedious, really, but hey, it’s written by Jack ‘King’ Kirby. What did you expect?