Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Batman: Earth One Review

Batman: Earth One
Because it's not a Batman book if we
don't talk about dead parents.

Writer: Geoff Johns

Artist: Gary Frank

Background Information:

So, DC released a graphic novel called Superman: Earth One a few years ago. It was a critical trainwreck, but sold enough copies to justify two sequels and now it seems to be Batman's turn for a Earth One story.

In other news, I'm making a Batman game. Did you know I'm making a Batman game? Totally making a Batman game.

Review:

It's tough to keep tabs on what exactly Earth One's pitch is. For Superman, it was all about putting Superman in the real world, but Batman is about as real world as it gets in DC. What currency could DC possibly be trading with here?

Like all Earth One first volumes, Batman's is a origin story. Spoilers: Bruce's parents get killed, so he puts on a bat-like suit and fights crime. It's the same kind of story you've seen in Batman Begins, Year One, and the more recent Zero Year.

Anyone who doesn't respect Alfred is someone
I don't care for as a person.
Remember how I asked what DC was trading with in Batman: Earth One? The answer seems to be aZero Year and Batman Begins, Batman: Earth One isn't beholden to anything done in Year One. Alfred isn't the doting butler, but an ex-soldier. Thomas Wayne is less doctor, more political candidate, and Harvey Bullock is young and enthusiastic.
level of originality not seen in any Batman origin you've seen before. See, unlike both

Batman takes to the streets not to stop crime, but to bring the down Mayor Oswald Cobblepot; the man Bruce believes the murderer of his parents. In the meantime, young women have been getting abducted and killed by psycho hulk called the Birthday Boy. As all this is being investigated by grizzled, Harvey Bullock and his new partner, the disillusioned Jim Gordon.

Like I said, this is a very different story and that's the most enjoyable part of Batman: Earth One. Even Bruce is different here. As a kid, it was his selfishness that ultimately killed his parents, and he feels the guilt of being responsible for it. That's interesting and an excellent way to build character, but it's hardly the best thing about the book.

No, that award is saved for just how inexperienced this Batman is. The book starts with Batman failing to catch a criminal and we later see Batman get punched.

Hard.
Yep, this is what a beginning superhero
looks like.

By bad guys who aren't supervillains.

So many writers pain Batman as invincible and it's kinda tiring. Much of this story is actually held up by Batman's mistakes. He's not the world's greatest detective here. He's not even that much of a fighter, and rather than ruining the character of Batman, this actually raises the stakes in a significant way.

All of it is held up well by Gary Frank's art. It's dark, realistic and completely in keeping with the Earth One atmosphere. Sure, Batman's costume could use more detail- the body suit in particular looks too monochrome, but this is a genuinely good-looking book nonetheless.

I can't really fault anything in Batman: Earth One, and as such, it gets a perfect five out of five Batman games.

Seriously, I'm making one.

*****

+ Plays on expectations.
+ Humanises Batman and raises the stakes doing so.

Alternate Option: Batman: Year One

Okay, if it's that important to you, have Year One. Personally, I hate it, but each to his own.