Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Books: Batman: All Star Batman and Robin


Batman: All Star Batman and Robin
Written by Frank Miller
Art by Jim Lee


Available now from Islington Libraries
You can reserve this item for free here:

Ok. First came - in 1986 - The Dark Knight Returns - surpassingly the last Batman story: Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement to do battle with his foes one last time, it's amazing, it changes the industry, wins loads of awards etc. Then in 1987 there was Batman: Year One - the first Batman story: how Bruce Wayne became Batman and how it all got started, very moody, artwork by David Mazzucchelli (now famous for Asterios Polyp) one of the supposed inspiration for Christopher Nolan's Batman films, also very good (if a little short). Then: in 2001 we have the Dark Knight Returns sequel - The Dark Knight Strikes Again - which is the last, last Batman story - and introduces for the first time Dick Grayson (who it's fair to say seems to have some issues with Bruce Wayne): it sales well - but lots of people complain and say it's not enough like The Dark Knight Returns (oh well). Which brings us to this: All Star Batman and Robin. The prequel to Dark Knight Returns/Strikes Back and the sequel to Batman: Year One: and the story of how Dick Grayson got started. You don't have to read all of them other books to get into this (and the tone's vary wildly between them): but they do all refer to each other in lots of nice little ways and they're all well worth getting into. But anyway: what I wanted to say: judging from the shrill voices on the internet lots of people hate this book (even more so than The Dark Knight Strikes Again) and a lot of that can be reduced to one line of dialogue: "I'm the Goddamn Batman." (see: knowyourmeme): although the negative response that greeted that one line apparently just inspired Miller to use it in every subsequent issue (God bless him).

I know it's lazy to just cut and paste from other people's reviews but what the hey: "absurdly bad, faux-noir dialogue," "one of the biggest train wrecks in comics history," "a comic series that just spirals deeper and deeper into the abyss of unreadable. I understand Miller's need to re-invent, but this is just badly done and in poor taste... Frank Miller has stripped Batman of all of his dignity, class, and honour. This isn't the Dark Knight; this is Dirty Harry in a cowl. The worst part is that this is exactly what Batman isn't about.. "In one fell swoop, Miller has erased all the good he did for Batman with The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. All of that is just gone." Maybe these people have a point and it sure sounds like they had an awful time reading this book: but I loved it. I thought that Batman was supposed to be Dirty Harry in cowl. I thought part of the fun was watching him doing insane things and laughing his head off. And I thought that everyone already knew that he's ruthless, mean with a malicious fascist-streak running through the inside. (no? oh well). Like Batman: Year One the artwork isn't Frank Miller but instead is handled by superstar artist Jim Lee (one of the founders of Image Comics) and proponent of an art-style that was everywhere in 1990s and I like to think of as "American Manga": it's very in-your-face, arty and stylized and makes an ideal match to Miller's hard boiled and excessive writing style. Also - you should know that this was originally intended to be two volumes long - but - apparently because Jim Lee had problems sticking to the deadline - so it was put on "hiatus" - and well hopefully be concluded under the new name "Dark Knight: Boy Wonder."

Links: 4th Letter Posts on how "Frank Miller Owns Batman", Comics Alliance Article: The Grand Unified Theory of Frank Miller's Batman: Will, Hope and Tenderness, Jog The Blog Review, Atop The Fourth Wall Review of #1 and #2, Comic Book Resources Review, Sean T Collins Review.

Further reading: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Batman: Year One, Superman: All Star Superman.

Profiles: Frank Miller.

All comments welcome.

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