Saturday, July 14, 2012

8bitSpit Review: Batman: Earth One

The story of Bruce Wayne becoming Batman is a familiar one.  It has been around for a million years (well not that many.  More like 72 years.)!  We've had versions where Joe Chill was the killer of Bruce's parents and versions where the killer of Bruce's parents was never brought to justice.  Through it all, Bruce still became Batman.  DC writer and CCO Geoff Johns (Green Lantern, Justice League) and artist extraordinaire Gary Frank (Supreme Power, Action Comics) re-teamed to give us a modern take on Gotham's Dark Knight's origin.  But they didn't do it in the current DC 52 universe.  They gave Batman the Earth One treatment a la Superman in which whatever happens in this story is its own contained universe that won't affect the DC Universe proper and where anything can happen.  And boy, does anything happen in Batman: Earth One!  The rules that we are accustomed in the Batman universe don't apply in this story.

It always breaks after the warranty expires!
Johns and Frank deliver an angry Batman that is fallible.  He isn't the Batman that is driven by protecting the innocent or bringing evil doers to justice.  Batman is driven by vengeance.  He is after those responsible for the murder of his parents.  Everything else doesn't really matter.  Batman also isn't as smooth and slick as the Batman we are use to.  His "wonderful toys" don't work properly.  He is constantly making mistakes resulting in injuries to himself.  This is obviously not the Batman we know, but a very interesting Batman nonetheless.

Tag! You're it!
As far as the story goes, Johns weaves an interesting tale that freshens up the Batman mythos.  It really plays out like a comic book version of what Chris Nolan's Batman Begins but with different twists and turns.  E1 Batman seems to be the only vigilante in the world that relies in the same "hyper reality" that Nolan's Bat-films take place in.  There are no other costumed vigilantes or eccentric villains.  What we get is a re-imagined villain that works within Batman's E1 universe. Everything is very street level and city corrupted-oriented.  There is no Batmobile (or Tumbler).  Just a man in a bat suit driving around in an unmarked car.

Frank's work on B:E1 is good.  At times it does seem like he rushed through his art.  He has moments of brilliance and as soon as you turn the page, you start wondering if it's still Frank drawing B:E1.  It just doesn't seem to flow too well at certain moments.  But it doesn't really take away from the pacing of the story, either.  I like Gary Frank's work, don't get me wrong.  It just seemed that with all the prep time he had, the artwork could have been a bit less uneven.  Frank's design for B:E1 Batman works because it is so simple.  There are no lenses protecting his eyes or wires running through his suit.  It is just a vengeful man in a bat suit out for revenge without putting much thought of the ramifications it might have.  The one thing I would change is the oval bat emblem.  In order for the costume to be slick and simple, it doesn't need to have a big yellow oval in the middle of all that darkness. They should've stuck with the simple bat symbol from the beginning.

The Dodgers need to sign these two ASAP!
As great as the characters of Alfred and Batman are in this story, to me that stole the show was Johns' re-imagining of Harvey Bullock.  I really liked the way Bullock progressed and changed in the story.  We saw first hand what Gotham City does to someone who is unfamiliar with how things work and how dark things are and how that changes them forever.

"I am not pulling your finger Alfred.  Fool me once, shame on you."
Batman: Earth One is a great beginning to what can possibly be a great run for Johns and Frank.  They were both able to give us an all new Batman that that seems fresh and modern-- a Batman that isn't bogged down with over 70 plus years of history and is poised to start his own path towards becoming Gotham City's Dark Knight.  Even more so, Johns and Frank have set many parts in motion that we will hopefully see in the second installment.  I am curious to see how different this interpretation of Batman ends up.  Everything is up for grabs!

"Despite all my rage I am still just a bat in a cage!"

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