Tag Archives: Superman Earth One

Batman Earth One review, (or, How to Build a better Batman.)

Batman Earth One

DC Comics

2012

$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.

 

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That which is not here yet, but soon will be…

I was looking through this month’s previews and found a few things of interest.

I tend to not bother much with monthly issues, as I really prefer to read all in one sitting, and they tend to clutter up the place.  So I generally get the hardcovers or the TPB instead.  As a result, there are a lot of books that I think about getting, sometimes I will pick up the first issue or 2 of the book or a particular storyline and then decide.  Will I get the trade or not?  Yes to all those pedants out there, I am the one killing the industry.  Nuts to you, I say.  I have a budget like most people.  And like most people, I spend what I can on fun things and that is all.  My wife would likely say I spend too much and she would be right.  But she has similar vices and pretty much lets me be, knowing that her next book binge may be right around the corner.

Using the hunt and peck method of finding reading material, Previews monthly is invaluable, that and Comic Shop News.  This month had a few things that caught my attention.  There are some interesting collections coming this summer and here are some that might be of interest.

Superman:  Grounded vol.1 HC on sale August 3rd 168 pages-$23

J. Michael Straczynski is an interesting writer, and when I heard that he would be on Superman’s eponymous title for a years worth of stories I was interested.  I picked up # 700 and liked it.  A lot.  Then things fell apart quickly.  It was dropped and I thought I would not bother with the trade or HC.  Then the news happened.  JMS was leaving the book after the success of Superman Earth One to focus on stand alone graphic novels.  I had read Earth one and liked it.  Was it all that new and groundbreaking?  No.  Sorry, but no.  It was a great start, but it was no game changer.  It was no Dark Knight or Watchmen.  So JMS “reassured” readers that the story he started will still play out with G. Willow Wilson co plotting and scripting.  Fanboy panic/betrayal/snotty indignation/I told you sos commence.  Well I’m not so sure that might not be exactly what is needed here.  Grounded looked like an interesting idea in plot form and a great opportunity to explore some new ideas and motivations for the most well-known and iconic figure in all of pop culture, if not all literature.  Where it failed, at least for me was the details, so I for one am looking forward to reading it in long form with a new addition to the writing staff and giving it another chance.  It was arguably one of the more scandalous stories behind the scenes in comics in 2010, so I will probably review it here after.

There are 2 big “events” coming this year, at DC it is Flashpoint and Marvel has Fear Itself and frankly up to this point, I have not had any interest in either.  Marvel’s entry into the summer events season looks like a bland idea that might actually succeed, if only due to some superior talent on the book, not least of which is Stuart Immonen.  Yes, sometimes great people involved can save a bad book.  Hopefully Marvel’s track record with “events” will improve.  They have failed in recent attempts as often as the have succeeded.  Scheduling problems and an unsatisfying ending (Civil War) to a ludicrous attempt to clean up continuity and fan gripes ((Secret Invasion) to the other end of the spectrum with more successful ideas like House of M and the various levels of quality of the Disassembled stories Marvel has limited success with the big events.  There were things in each of those to like and dislike, all of which are completely subjective, but fan reaction, as fickle as it can be, is a good predictor of what will work and what wont.  I’m betting Fear Itself ends up not being very interesting.

At DC they have had more success recently.  Like them or not the various Crisis series have been very popular and the rainbow war (Blackest Night and Brightest Day) actually made things happen to move the DCU forward.  Or at least as forward as you ever get in comics today.  War of the Green Lanterns will likely get very little attention over Flashpoint and I think that is where both companies will really fail.  Yet again.  Neither company has been able to translate big summer movies into more sales.  By more sales I really mean people who walk into a comic shop to by more than just whatever the immediate movie tie in is.  There really seems to be no effort anymore to bring in new fans on the inroads created by the new Batman, Iron Man, Superman and Spiderman films, to name just the biggies.  That is too bad.  It reveals a sense of accepting the futility of growing the medium.  But I think that will be a topic for another time.

Another collected edition worth looking out for later this summer is The Definitive Irredeemable vol. 1 HC.  This book collects the first twelve issues of one of the freshest new books in several years.  Mark Waid (Kingdom Come) brings another perspective to the archetype of the Super Hero.  The worlds greatest hero snaps and literally overnight, becomes the words greatest villan.  And that is before the first issue has even started.  This is not about just “how do we stop our friend?”  It is a story that reveals the fragile mind in anyone with people around them, expecting them to be a certain way, and delves into what can really happen when those expectations and the power of a God are placed on a man as fragile and insecure as any of us.  Part of me wonders what this would be like if it were at DC, but then reality kicks in.  It would never work.  The reader would always expect the story to be imaginary or the resolution to be the eventual revelation the character was under an evil influence.  As much as the fanboy in me wanted this to be a Superman story, it would never have been allowed, let alone worked.  Real story and character developement is only found in the creator owned works like this.  I have enjoyed this series a lot in TPB form, so I will not be getting the HC now, but anyone that has not read this or has only dipped their toes in this pond should jump in with both feet.  It is as good a work as Mark Waid has ever done.

Cover to the third TPB volume of Irredeemable

Coming next time, a trip back to the 1980s and one of the best books from the B&W explosion, just realeased in TPB form from IDW!

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