Well, it’s been quite the journey from DC announcing in 2009 the 2010 release of Batman: Earth One. Which turned into 2011, then 2012 when the book finally got an offical release date and hit shelves everywhere. Really, I bought the book. I’m looking at it as I type this right now.
Were doing something a little different this time; when I got the privilege to attend an advanced screening of The Avengers I did a spoiler-free Q&A review [plug], it was fun to write and it got some good feedback, so I’m trying it again but this time with the gloves off, full on review, spoilers a-plenty.
So, was it worth the two and half year wait?
Well, when the Earth One OGN (Original Graphic Novel) concept was first announced we were told that the origins for Superman and Batman would be retold “on a new earth with an all-new continuity.” Which got fans like myself excited for new concepts to two overly-familiar characters. When Superman: Earth One came out though it seemed like anything but, at least for me; same Superman, same setting, different format. Now, I know it’s not entirely fair to judge something on it’s first pass but it got me concerned for Batman: Earth One, especially when it’s release date turned into a mystery.
That being said, THIS is exactly what I think everyone was hoping for. Worth getting excited about and worth the wait.
So it really is a retelling on a “new earth” with “all-new continuity?”
Oh yeah. Completely different.
Wait, completely different?
Well, not really (calm down) – it felt very much like an experiment to see just how much you could change to the classic story without losing the core of the character, which is refreshing. The legacy of characters like Batman (and Superman, and many others) doesn’t really allow for some of the founding elements to ever change or be adjusted, which is understandable, but it does seem to place a creative ceiling over them; here though Geoff Johns and Gary Frank bust through the ceiling and really only take with them what is absolutely essential to keeping this a “Bruce Wayne” or “Batman” story.
Interesting. So what’s the same then since so much is changed?
Well, Bruce is still the son of Thomas and Martha Wayne and they’re still rich.
Course, Thomas is about to win the election for Mayor and Martha has the maiden name of Arkham.
That’s kinda cool. Do they still…yah know…
Die? Yup. And Bruce still feels guilty for it.
Yeah, cause that seems like one of those “absolutely essential” things.
Exactly. Without this event Batman doesn’t exist. Although, Geoff Johns very subtlety adjusts his motivations for the whole “Bat” thing. No being beat-up in the library watching a bat crash through the window. In fact, it seems like Bruce is inspired partially by some samurai antiques that Alfred has.
There’s that “refreshing” you were talking about right?
Ok, Alfred. He’s really different right?
Very different, probably the biggest departure. In fact his introduction includes a Wayne butler opening the door for him, which I thought was a nice wink and nod.
Hahaha, alright, so no butler-Alfred at all then?
He’s an ex-Royal Marine who’s history involves saving Thomas Wayne’s life at some point, then Thomas helping him walk again at some point. And without knowing it he’s named the legal guardian to Bruce should anything happen. Once Alfred takes over for young Bruce, who’s a total jerk and very cocky, he tells him that he’s his butler, perhaps to help him cope better. So, kinda.
That’s a cool twist, kinda sad though that the Alfred of old is completely gone. Everyone loves Alfred.
But that’s the thing, speaking again to those “absolutely essential” elements, Alfred remains the fatherly figure for Bruce he’s always been while playing the role of mentor. Granted, it does seem convenient that Bruce would get left with an ex-Marine who can teach him to be all-awesome, it’s even more convenient that he’d disappear for an extended amount of time and come back all-awesome with no real explanation (and there are still gaps left in his origins here where going away for awhile could still have happened). I thought it actually worked quite well, basically Alfred is to Bruce what Master Splinter was to the Ninja Turtles.
But wait, Master Splinter was a giant mutated rat, are you saying…
Hold on – mutating ninja rats and teenage turtles is pretty cool – but this story is very grounded. I hate to invite the comparison but think Year One.
You said Year One.
I know, it’s no Year One, but just as Year One was meant as a modern origin for Batman this attempts the same thing but in a completely separate universe with some major differences from the one in continuity.
Ok, with Year One on the mind I gotta ask about Jim Gordon.
Yah know, of all the changes in this book Jim Gordon is still Jim Gordon, which speaks to him as a character I think. Frank Miller knew it in Year One and Geoff Johns knew it here, Gotham needs it’s stressed out and beaten down only-good-cop-left-in-Gotham James Gordon just as much as it needs it’s Dark Knight. Batman and Gordon are the opposite ends of what keeps the story and city in balance and while they’re lives are less intertwined here Gordon does play a significant role and there is lots of room for future development. It was a smart move.
Man, Gordon is so cool.
He really is. And speaking of Gotham’s finest Harvey Bullock is in here too.
Bullock is in this?!
Yup, and he’s a handsome ex-Hollywood TV host.
Whoa. Your weren’t kidding about all those changes.
Lucius Fox, Harvey Dent, his twin sister Jessica, Penguin, and Barbara are all in it. Geoff Johns touches a lot of the Bat-verse in a relatively short amount of time.
Just as Barbara. Well, until – um – I don’t want to give too much away.
Oh geez. Didn’t hear Dick Grayson in that list by the way.
No Dick Grayson. No Robin. With all the names John’s dropped in this book it’s pretty obvious he’s has plans beyond this and it’ll be very interesting because it really could go in any direction. Heck, maybe Damian is the first Robin.
Don’t be silly. Dick Grayson is the first Robin. Besides, how could they do Damian without Ra’s and Talia?
Hey, Harvey Bullock didn’t touch one doughnut in this whole story. Anything could happen.
Touché. So Geoff Johns killed it then?
I think so. Surprisingly enough for all his comic work (which is a freaking lot) he’s not done much solo Batman work, which they’re is just a little hubbub about and his ability to write the guy, but for the most part I think he nails it. All the reasons I love Batman are here, everything else Johns just has fun with.
What about Gary Frank?
It’s Gary Freaking Frank. He too kills it. And what’s interesting is just how Geoff Johns took liberty with the story, so did Gary Frank with the art. The most notable difference is Batman’s cowl which has holes for his eyes rather than lenses built in, giving Batman a bit more personality than usual. And because Mr. Frank is so good at expressions, a skill which is on full display here, you can usually get a sense for what’s going on inside Batman’s head without any thought bubbles or narration. And while superhero armor is back to being in right now Gary Frank is very intentional to streamline his Batman, keeping his body and suit grounded just as the story is. It’s similar to what he did with Superman during his run, which was also with Geoff Johns and is honestly one of my favorite artistic takes on the character ever. Like everyone else I was really excited to see what Gary Frank could do and he delivered in spades.
The book is beautiful.
The unique story is matched with it’s unique artistic choices and creator styles; the team up of Gary Frank on pencils, Jonathan Sibal’s inks, and Brad Anderson color’s is always worth it.
Dang. So I’m gonna like this aren’t I?
I think so. I did. A lot. And I’ll definitely read it again.
Sounds pretty great. But come on, your a comic book fan, you have to have some negative opinions.
I refuse to give into that stereotype.
Ok, if you really must pry it out of me -
I knew it.
It did seem to move fast, I even restarted reading it half way through because I wanted to soak it up more. And it may have been that it’s a whole arc in one helping or that I was so excited to read it that I was tearing through it but the story moves pretty quick. To some degree the book seems to service the plot movement more so than the characters, with the exception of the first 25 or so pages there isn’t a ton of emotional weight to the story.
And wasn’t their a new villain?
Yeah, The Birthday Boy, a serial killer who kidnaps and kills little girls.
Batman gets him though.
Well, I would hope so.
The big bag guy this time is actually Penguin.
Yeah, done really well too. And the ending. Wow, what an ending. One of John’s finest.
So you think there will be a Batman: Earth One Vol 2?
They’re better be.
Can you wait another two and a half years?
I hope the excitement surrounding this one speeds the next one up a bit.
Alright, I’m gonna go read this sucker, any last words?
It’s a Batman experiment done right. Something you’ll love reading the first time, will revisit again (probably right after your first read like I did), and is an excellent set up for the next installment. With as flexible and expansive as a character like Batman is it’s a waste not to venture outside his normal settings once in awhile. Batman: Earth One delivers exactly what it promised to with enough surprises to catch in your second or third reading. Good, fun, comic reading.
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|Beautiful art telling a different story, in a different universe with familiar characters – exactly what was hoped for. And the story ends with you wanting more right away.||A quick and fast paced story that lacked emotional anchors at times.|