Batman: Earth One Review

July 12, 2012 at 2:00 PM | Posted in (All Posts), Comic Reviews, Reviews | Leave a comment
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Batman: Earth One
Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Gary Frank
Release Date: July 4th, 2012

Trying to reinvent Batman for a new universe really is no easy task — especially when you’re putting it side-by-side with Superman: Earth One (which was written by J. Michael Straczynski and with art by Shane Davis).

The DC Universe had it’s own relaunch of sorts with the New 52 released in September of 2011, but one year prior, DC began ushering another universe (comparable to Marvel’s Ultimate Line) called “Earth One.” The only titles announced initially were Superman: Earth One and Batman: Earth One. It’s taken two years, but we are finally seeing this universe begin to grow with the induction of Batman: Earth One from Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.

Superman: Earth One made me a Superman fan. It put him in a college-age setting while moving to Metropolis with a lot of questions in his life and insecurities about his family and his power. By the end of it all, he had accepted his role as Superman and had gone through a character arc that made me relate to him in a way I never knew I could.

But Batman has been done so well in so many different forms of media. We have seen Batman’s origin time and time again.

Johns and Frank were tasked with telling that same origin again but making it fit into a totally modern setting, all while telling a good story that wouldn’t feel like we’ve heard it dozens of times before.

And they achieve it. Mostly.

Even from appearances, there are some notable differences with Batman and the characters we are used to seeing. Probably the biggest difference is that of Alfred — both in physical appearance and with his personality.

Alfred Pennyworth in the Earth One universe is an angry war veteran who is a lifelong friend of Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father. Alfred and Thomas served together in the Korean War (implied), and an injury during the war resulted in Alfred now walking with a prosthetic leg. The first pages that introduce Alfred make him seem cold and distant compared to the loving butler most Batman fans have come to know, but he is still just as knowledgeable and a driving force in Bruce becoming Batman (although he at first disapproves).

Bruce himself is different in multiple ways. Without spoiling much, he is somewhat more responsible for the death of his parents than with the typical Batman origin, and Bruce’s reasons for wanting to take up the mantle are much more selfish.

However, much like Superman: Earth One, this book ends with a feeling of everything coming “full circle” and establishing the status quo, but the path taken there is like a breath of fresh air.

As for other characters in the book, James Gordon takes up much of the spotlight, as does his newly assigned partner on the GCPD Harvey Bullock. Gordon’s character differentiates in the sense that his character seems to be a cowardly cop at first. Bullock, who is a young and handsome reality show cop who transfers to Gotham in the belief that he can clean up the worst crime riddled city in the world, seems quite brave in comparison to Gordon, who lets  gangs run the streets in fear of what will happen to his family.

Other characters play large roles in the story, such as Barbara Gordon and the mayor of Gotham (who certainly is someone noteworthy).

But is Batman: Earth One worth reading? It’s hard to say. I love the writing of Geoff Johns and the artwork of Gary Frank in any other example, and I love it here too, but it doesn’t feel quite as necessary. Granted, redefining the origin of a character who has a near perfect origin (that has been seen countless times) is a cross that I don’t know Johns and Frank could bear. But do they make it different and interesting?

 

Yes — but — that being said — when I read Superman: Earth One, it made Superman feel relatable and fresh for this day and age. Batman: Earth One makes Bruce seem like someone thinking only of himself, and it gives a fresh take on other characters, but I can’t help but wonder why or how he was motivated to become Batman.

We see a few brief pages of Bruce running during a storm not long after the death of his parents and he comes upon one of his father’s old trophy rooms, where he sees a feudal set of armor that resembles a Bat. Bruce is frightened by the sight, and thus we are to believe this is how he came about the idea for the Bat mantle.

I can’t say I would want to see pages of Bruce stitching the first suit or training abroad in various martial arts, because that has been seen again and again with Batman’s origin. With Superman: Earth One, the reader saw Clack struggle with the identity of Superman and have to overcome his selfish reasons and eventually accept who he was meant to be. Batman: Earth One has Bruce using the mantle for selfish reasons, and he only comes to accept something more after seeing that the city needs a change. I just couldn’t find that quite as interesting.

I can’t help but relate the two Earth One titles and compare them, and that is probably where my fault lies.

I think the ideal reader for this book might be someone who wants to read a new take on the origin of Batman (and other Bat-family characters as well). I do enjoy this new take on the Dark Knight, but it’s not as groundbreaking as I had hoped it could be.

On the positive side, it reads very well and the art from Gary Frank is awesome as always. I have some minor complaints (like Alfred’s haircut), but all in all everything looks beautiful and I especially love the final suit design that Batman dawns in the second half of the book. And I can’t finish this review without talking about how much I loved the character of Harvey Bullock. Seeing he and Gordon come together and police partners is great. There’s a panel where they finally decide to “take the city back” from the gangs that have been running the streets, and seeing them side by side looking at the viewer is pretty awesome. There’s more to it that I don’t want to spoil, but you’ll know when you see it.

Despite how it may sound, I really enjoyed Batman: Earth One and I don’t regret my purchase in the least bit. The Earth One universe is setting the bar very high with two great books. I feel like most fans aren’t looking for a new Batman origin story, but this is a new take that is well handled and just different enough to pull you in.

I would have to give Batman: Earth One a very solid “B” as far as grading goes. I can’t say it goes above and beyond, but it’s very good all the way around — and definitely worth picking up.

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