Sunday, January 11, 2009

Goddam Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder

Good things about All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder Volume 1:
  • Jim Lee's art is pretty (even if not particularly suited to the story).
  • The first time Batman said "I'm the goddam Batman," it was funny (even if less so each of the 47 times it was repeated thereafter).
  • It was amusing to see Batman and Robin exploit Green Lantern's weakness by painting themselves and the room they were in completely yellow (even if Frank Miller's obvious contempt for Green Lantern and anyone else who isn't Batman got really tiring after a while).
  • Miller's take on Robin--that Batman had been eyeing Dick Grayson as a future recruit for quite some time and the murder of the boys' parents simply moved his timetable forward by several years--makes more sense than the traditional take because honestly, Batman can't make every orphan he comes across his partner (even if Miller's take on the Batman/Robin relationship is otherwise disturbing and creepy).
And, yeah, I think that's about it.

Miller's The Dark Knight Returns in 1986 was revolutionary because it did something that hadn't been done before with Batman or with comics. His Batman: Year One in 1987 was great because it made Batman real in a way that previous stories had not. With those two stories Miller established who Batman would be for the next two decades, in comics and elsewhere.

With Miller's 2001 sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again and now this Dark Knight prequel/Year One sequel, he's simply gone off the deep end. Batman is no longer a grim and gritty, somewhat obsessed crimefighter. He's a psychopath and a sadist. Yes, perhaps in the real world any person who dresses up like a bat to fight crime would have to be like this, but if I'm willing to beleive that a man drives around in a car that transforms first into a plane and then into a submarine, I'm willing to believe that that man just might have some shred of human decency.

If not for the almost universally poor reception, I'd fear that this is what Batman will look like for the next twenty years. DC will continue to publish All-Star Batman and Robin so long as Miller and Lee's names continue to make it their top-selling title (and I suspect a good portion of those sales are from people like me who are just curious to see the train wreck everyone's talking about), but hopefully they recognize it's not the quality of the story or the likeability of the characters that's bringing in all that money.

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