Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Batman: Earth One Review

Read Batman: Earth One, which is intended to be a "modernised" take on the character for a "new generation" of Batman fans. Like what All Star Batman was meant to be before Frank Miller went Wiseau and claimed that it was actually a comedy.

It fairs better than the Superman: Earth One comic, where Superman was reimagined as a gloomy hoodie wearing teenager in a move apparently targetted at the Emo or Twilight fan set, though maybe that's because a dark and brooding Batman is the standard model while when you try to write Superman the same way... things get weird.

Basic plot? Batman begins his campaign to investigate the death of his parents, mayorial candidate Thomas Wayne and his wife/campaign manager Martha Arkham-Wayne, who were killed in the middle of the election against theovertly corrupt mayor Oswald Cobblepot (never called the Penguin in-story, though they do reference him wearing a " trademark Penguin suit"). And while this is going on, former celebrity cop Harvey Bullock arrives in Gotham and is partnered up with the thoroughly beaten down Jim Gordon, loudly announcing that he's going to solve the Waynes' murder and get himself back in the limelight...

Overall, non-spoiler review? The art by Gary Frank is good, though occasionally a little dead-eyed, with the decision to actually show Bruce's eyes while he's in the costume actually improving how he emotions for the most part. The characterisation and dialogue worked for the most part, though there are some questionable things there.

 Some parts worked, some didn't, and you could really tell that it was written by Geoff Johns in places, considering some of the stuff inserted into the story to make it more "mature". Brings some new things to the table and presents them in such a way that they work in unexpected ways. Would read again, though I'm looking forward to the sequel more, considering the hint that they dropped about various characters.

Spoilers Follow

Parts I liked...
- The art, as I said.
- Bruce having a direct connection to the Arkhams, which both tied him into the families' look history of madness and actually gave his mother more relevance to the plot than most Batman stories do.
- The depiction of Alfred was... different, seemingly being more inspired by Sean Connery in most of his mid- to late Nineties filmography than his previous incarnations, being a security consultant who knew Tommy Wayne from back in the first Gulf War who ended up being roped into caring for Bruce as he was signed up as his legal guardian, with him reluctantly adopting Bruce as the alternative was foster care. The depiction was different to previous ones, but it works in the overall setting, as his special forces background actually assists Bruce in his mission (even though he's annoyed that he won't do the sensible thing and carry a gun).
- Similarly, the depiction of Batman here is also different from his previous versions, being more of a driven, arrogant sort even when he was a child. Whose behaviour actually was a deciding factor in his parents' deaths, though considering if they'd gone out another exist they'd have been murdered by  Cobblepot's men it was really a no win situation. His relationship with Alfred is well done though, with the older man being reluctant to fill the parental role and Bruce hating this random stranger telling him what to do after his parents had just died, with the two eventually seeing each other as father and son.
- The Penguin actually made a pretty good villain overall, though just how he manages to maintain control gives the impression that Geoff Johns had been watching Sin City while writing this. Expand more on this in the stuff I didn't like section.
- The concept of Jim Gordon as a beaten down cop who slowly regains the attitude that he used to have was interestingly done despite, again, being different to previous versions. How it was handled though... I'm not sure. Seriously, how does him signalling becoming a good cop again by beating up an unarmed drug dealer with Harvey Bullock while the pair are armed with a baseball bat and crowbar make them heroic? Seems that Johns read parts of Year One and decided that he could do them better.

Things I didn't like...
- The Penguin keeping control of officials by having a literal serial killer on staff, paying him with kidnapped teenage girls. Now, there are several reasons why this won't work, beyond the aforementioned Sin City reference. One, wouldn't people realise that the children of judges and the like suddenly going missing be kind of a big deal? Two, even though Cobblepot had been using his connections in the police to stifle investigations (making them write off the disappearances as runaways), considering the killer's taste in victims and the media pandemoneum that surrounds just ONE missing teenage girl, how exactly would the disappearance of dozens not be national, if not international, news?

- Keeping with the above complaint, although Barbara fairs better than the other teenagers do against a seven foot tall guy whose built like a dumptruck, it really does seem that the only reason why the guy even exists is to justify Babs being in a damsel in distress situation for the male characters to save her from. Seriously, although controling people through kidnapping their kids isn't exactly unheard of in comics (Hub City's officials did it in Dennis O'Neil's Question series), there must have been other things to enforce Penguin's rule than the constant abduction and murder of 15 year olds? The implication that he just had some goons kidnap some random girls if his targets didn't have kids doesn't exactly help the situation either.

- My other dislike in the story is more of a pet peeve than something serious like the above complaints. Although Geoff Johns is all for explaining the behaviour of certain characters in certain ways, but really having the explanation for Harvey Bullock's slobby behaviour be the trauma of falling into said killer's victim corpse-pit is really kind of... I don't know. Because the only reason why a guy would be fat and unshaven is they're suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, right?

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