No one would dispute that Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns was a powerful story that revamped the Batman character into a darker, more fearsome hero than ever before. It is because of this lightning-in-a-bottle story that Miller's value as an artist and writer went through the roof. When it was announced that he would be returning to a new Batman title with superstar artist Jim Lee handling the artwork, it was a one-two punch that was guaranteed to sell. We had all seen how Miller handled the twilight of Batman's career, but how would he handle the dawn of it?
All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder Volume 1 came out recently and it was my first introduction to the whole story. I had purchased the first issue when it came out, but wasn't impressed. Since I've already mentioned I'm a thrifty buyer sometimes, I jumped on the collection to see if it was as good as the hype said it would be. I mean, you have one of the biggest artists in comics today teaming with a star writer...it would be impossible to mess that up, right?
DC found a way.
Miller's interpretation of Batman in TDKR was brutal and scary. It was a Batman we'd never seen before (though he still didn't kill). For this All-Star story, we are given a Batman who is not just scary, he's downright mean and psychotic! It's like Miller wanted to show the world he could write a tough Batman just because his sequel to TDKR (The Dark Knight Strikes Again) flopped horribly. This story is filled to the absolute brim with unnecessary profanity and over-the-top violence like you wouldn't believe. The phrase "G- D- Batman" is used more than 2 dozen times here. It's almost as if Frank Miller thinks Batman cursing makes him tougher. To me, it's just lazy writing.
Instead of the heroic figure who takes in the newly-orphaned Dick Grayson like he did in the old comic books, Batman snatches him and takes him to the Batcave (making sure the kid understands he's "the G- D- Batman!" about 8 times during the trip), then leaves the kid in the cave with no food or water and wants him forced to eat rats. Batman should have been a grief counselor, obviously.
Throughout the book, he calls Dick "retarded", "stupid", a "snot", and other warm, loving phrases any kid who had just watched their parents get shot in front of their face would love to hear. The funny thing is, I don't remember seeing Alfred grab little Brucie after his parents murder and say, "You stupid little snot, get up and fix your own @$%& sandwich. What are you...retarded? I wish you were dead, you little sniveling piece of &#%@." So where did Batman figure this is how you treat kids?
The Justice League makes an appearance. Superman and Wonder Woman are caricatures of themselves, while Green Lantern is the only one to truly get any action time. He gets the privilege of smacking Batman around while cursing at him with every breath. Yep, that's the Hal Jordan we all know and love. On the bright side, Robin seems really concerned about Batman during the whole fight, doesn't he? He looks as bored with this whole thing as we all are.
Eventually, Hal gets beat down by Robin, prompting yet another stupid tirade by Batman on the Boy Wonder. This time he calls the kid a "Stupid snot", while beating the tar out of him! And this is supposed to be a hero? I wouldn't have been surprised to see Robin running to the Joker for love and comfort! The clown is a lot saner in this story than the Batman!
Batgirl, Catwoman, and the Joker make very brief appearances here. Black Canary appears a good bit, but it's mostly to set the stage for her to do the nasty with Batman on a pier in the rain. It's so romantic it should have been a John Cusack movie moment. Yeah, right.
Sad to say, but it could be possible that Frank Miller had a few good runs on Daredevil and a nice Batman one-shot story in TDKR, but that was just all he really had in him. I know he's moved on to movies now, and that's probably a good thing. If this is any indication of how he's planning on writing comics in the future, we won't miss anything.
In Volume 2, I'm rooting for the Joker.
Don't forget, on Friday we're looking at some of the best costumes out there. You know you've got your favorites...let's see if they're on the list!