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No Myth, Just Man: Batman Earth One

Brian Hibbs

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?

-B

11 Responses to “ No Myth, Just Man: Batman Earth One ”

  1. Sounds like the sort of thing comic books do terribly. Pass.

  2. Good call on the Elseworlds thing, Brian. That was my first thought on reading the thing too: “This is just a shitty Elseworlds story.” And for an entire generation of comics readers who have no idea what Elseworlds even was, I suppose it’ll become some sort of gospel or something. But to anyone with a discerning eye, it’s just a really shaky, quite hamfisted pitch for a piece of live action media.

    All the myth is gone, all the power is gone, everything that made the thing more than just a half-crazy-man-in-a-bat-suit story is gone.

    There’s is literally nothing of worth in this book, except maybe Frank’s art. Non of the so-called updating of the story works any better than the stuff in the original did, and Johns’ fucking literalist fanboy tendencies to connect things that don’t need it is just tiresome (Martha’s last name, Bruce knowing Harvey Dent as a kid, etc).

    Basically, they should have just printed Batman: Year One again. As far as “Batman is a dude in a suit who’s just starting out and making mistakes” stories go, it’s still untouchable. Gary Frank is competent or whatever, but he’s no David Mazzucchelli, and Miller may be crazy, but Johns can’t even remotely touch the hem of his cape, here. No pun intended.

    On the Savage Critic scale: CRAP.

    But I’m sure it’ll sell amazingly and people will love it. Now excuse me while I go throw up.

  3. I honestly doubt this will sell anywhere near well enough for even a micro-generation of readers to consider this “their Batman”. In terms of the general culture, any throwaway off-the-cuff dialogue in The Dark Knight Rises will have more impact than the entirety of what Johns has done here.

  4. [...] Brian Hibbs, Savage Critics: “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.” [...]

  5. My copy will arrive at the end of the week from Amazon. I was on the fence, but most reviews were fair to good (not from those who commented on your review) and that along with the deep Amazon discount swayed me to order it. Bats is my favorite character, and I have always believed he works in several different milieu and varying interpretations. I look forward to reading this interpretation.

  6. I haven’t read “Batman Earth One,” just like I haven’t read “Superman Earth One.” I don’t intend to. Just like the Marvel “Season One” books, I am not its target audience and I feel like I am not missing anything. (Though I wonder why the DC “Earth One” books are garnering more publicity and newsworthiness than the Marvel “Season One” books?)
    I was satisfied with the original Bob Kane Batman origin story (and the various Marvel Origin stories) I read as a kid (back in the 1960’s), thank you very much. You can flesh it out like Grant Morrison has done in “Batman” and I am okay with that. Morrison is more about filling in the holes. But a whole new origin is completely unnecessary for someone who is already a fan.

    I suppose I would likewise tend to view this as an “Elseworlds’” story, for what it’s worth, which is probably why I am uninterested. Yet, I am (for the time being) interested in the New 52 “Earth 2” comic book by Robinson. Maybe because I’ve never seen a reboot of DC’s Golden Age heroes quite like this. (Is “Earth 2” supposed to be a counterpart to DC’s “Earth One,” because I doubt it?)
    Yet, Earth 2 doesn’t feel like an Elseworlds’ story (even though it does: What if Allan Scott were gay?) Though I question why DC would make Allan Scott gay only to have his “lover” die such a horrible death? Maybe he had it (gay) coming? It is as if DC wants it both ways: Look at us (buy more comics), we are tolerant and accepting of the gay community (Look at us, one of our C list characters on some alternate earth is gay) but if you are unfortunate enough to be gay, your lover is going to die a horrible death. Maybe this is nothing more than the Jean (we’re gonna rape your childhood) Loring syndrome. (Maybe DC hates gays as much as it hates women?) One way or another, either a non-essential gay or female character, or you the reader, (or both) is going to get what you truly deserve. Assuming that you are ignorant and unprincipled enough to buy this shit.

  7. Do people seriously like Frank’s art?

    Everyone looks like someone wearing their skin as a mask.

  8. I LOVE Gary Frank’s art, but I do admit he draws people with more frown lines these days.

  9. Grow up, Simmered. Just grow up.

  10. Or maybe, Robert, Alan’s lover was just an origin story death like the Waynes or the entire population of Krypton and it’s just your psychotic desire to be discriminated against that’s blowing it out of proportion.

  11. Or maybe, Robert, Alan’s lover was just an origin story death like the Waynes or the entire population of Krypton and it’s just your psychotic desire to be discriminated against that’s blowing it out of proportion.

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