Posted by: Brian Hibbs on July 6, 2012
I have complex feelings about BATMAN EARTH ONE.
On the one hand, I dislike a great number of the changes to the basic origin of Batman (no bat through the window, no cave, no loyal butler, per se) (though at least one of the things I didn’t like — the change to essential randomness of the Wayne’s murder — got reversed before the end), moves and shifts of characters (turning Bullock into Roy Raymond, say? Or the deal with Mr. Cobblepot), or just general “bad positioning” (the confusing title, etc.)
On the other hand, this is everything that I had hoped that the “New 52″ reboot might have been — there’s some serious thinking about the world the characters are playing in going on, and a lot of the same-yet-different stuff urgently compelled me to turn pages. The art is absolutely terrific, and the comic really isn’t about Johns’ Daddy Issues (yay!). A few of the changes are even surprisingly strong — Martha Wayne’s maiden name, for example.
On the other other hand, parts of this read like a Mad magazine parody of Batman — the opening scene, maybe, which ALMOST makes it impossible to take the character seriously for the entire rest of the book; or the main physical antagonist, who is built like the Hulk (in a book where Batman looks like a nerd in an ill-fitting mask), but wears a scarecrow-style bag over his head, topped by a jaunty birthday hat (!)
On the other(cubed) hand, I could actually see this working pretty well as a TV show pitch, which I sort of imagine is half of the reason for it.
Batman here is kinda Just a Guy — almost all of the Myth is stripped from the proceedings.
(What’s interesting is that I sort of can’t see Superman Earth One and this Batman working together even a little bit)
What I CAN say with a large amount of assurance is that it kept me turning the pages — not like SEO, which was an actual chore to read — so I liked this at least that much; I didn’t feel like my time was being wasted, exactly, and I wanted to see where it ended up.
However, I don’t think Johns had enough control of the longer format — captions of “now” and “then” stop and start throughout the book without any real rhyme or reason, and there are certainly places where a smidge more linearity in presentation would have done wonders. Big splash pages, which have a great deal of impact in a serialized format, come off as vamping here, and there’s a density you want to push for in a big book like this which I think is somewhat wasted. In other words, it reads more like a really long comic book, than a “graphic novel”, but I think it is OK for a creator’s reach to exceed their grasp in cases like this.
I think I’d consider this more of an extra-long Elseworlds (“What If….. Batman Was Just a Man?”) than anything else, and that makes it staggeringly inessential, though it is priced as a premium item, but in every way it was also a read with a lot of forward momentum and thought applied to it.
I prefer a lot more Myth in my Bat, and, at any time for any reader, I’d strongly recommend Batman: Year One over this any day of the week.. but this wasn’t as bad as it might have been (or it’s brother book was), and I thought it was a really strong OK, on the Savage Critic scale.
What did you think?