$23 cover price
I enjoyed Superman Earth One and look forward to the next book in that series later this year. This book by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, with Jon Sibal, is something very different. Where Superman felt at times like it was trying a little too hard, both to STAY Superman and be something different, this book suffers from nothing of the sort.
Superman’s sci-fi origin has aged fairly well and required very little tweaking to update, Batman’s however has actually become a little odd to modern viewers. Suspension of disbelief is a seed that the writer plants, but without the reader to water it and nurture it, it will die. Batman’s key origin points don’t work like Superman’s. Grant Morrison summed them up perfectly in All-Star Superman: “Doomed Planet–Desperate Scientist–Last Hope–Kindly Couple” Boom. That’s it. That was wher JMS jumped off for his Earth one story because it needed very little alteration at its heart. There was change in the background a bit; it had to be fleshed out, but the essential concept of Superman did not get real change until later in the story as Clark grows into his new role. JMS’s story seemed to struggle at time to find that balance. It was not to the story’s detriment really, but the fan baggage was harder to overcome there. For Batman it is different. There are elements that have not rung true for many years: Random violent street crime is harder for the modern audience. We see random acts of terror, but we feel street crime is more targeted. The first thing many of us think when we hear about a crime is that the victim may have been involved in something they shouldn’t have. (This of course, excludes the accidental victims of violence) Very few random crimes turn out random once the information about them is revealed. Bruce’s parents being randomly gunned down is not erased, but it it made more believable. It is still random, but just below the surface, there is more to it. Rich doctor/indusrtialist? Nope, that is now made more correct for a modern reader. It is just a line or two of dialog that makes these things work, and that is the value of the approach taken here. They are not over-thinking the ideas, just filtering them through a modern view.
The most important change alters what had, in the current continuity become a little creepy; the bizarre enabling behavior of butler Alfred. It always seems a little odd that a butler with a long history with the family would aid, or even allow Bruce’s obsessive path. Here that is made far more palatable, by simply changing Alfred into something that fits the mold of the role he would play.
The city of Gotham is there with all the usual players, some in much different roles. Gotham itself is more real and much darker, and the character beats that need to be there to keep this from being something other than a Batman story are there, again just more believable.
Geoff Johns is a dependable storyteller with a real grasp of why the classic characters work. On this book he never misses a beat and the result is an outstanding book. Gary Frank’s art is great as always. A little looser and more relaxed in the the approach it seems, but a major part of the feel and flow of the story.
The packaging is staying with the format and visuals of the Superman book, but seems a little less appealing here, but the overall product is everything that we had been hoping for. Anyone wanting something better than the New 52, or other attempts at rebooting Batman, free of heavy continuity should look here. Unlike most other attempted re tooling of classic characters, this one is top notch.