White-hot on the heels of my review for The Amazing Spider-Man, I present to you another review of a superhero origin being retold for a new age. This week DC Comics release Batman Earth One, a graphic novel with a different approach on the familiar story of the birth of the Caped Crusader. Unlike last year’s Superman Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski , which was described as “a Superman for the Twilight era,” this alternate Earth tale is filled with more gritty realism, which is inherently Batman. Writer Geoff Johns crafts a tale that is up there with Frank Miller’s 1987 classic Batman Year One in terms of its tone and respect for the Batman legend.
Batman Earth One is a lot like the early portions of Christopher Nolan’s film Batman Begins, with a Batman who isn’t the finely-polished crime fighter that we expect to see. This Batman is an amateur; his gadgets fail and he clumsily crashes through windows at dinner parties. Since this isn’t a reboot but rather a completely different Earth, Johns takes liberties with familiar characters from the Batman universe: traditionally lazy fat cop Harvey Bullock is presented as a good looking, kiss-ass Hollywood golden boy, the Wayne family’s history is deeply tied to another infamous Gotham name and most importantly everyone’s favorite butler Alfred has been retooled as a friggin badass marine vet. Johns wisely chooses to leave the Joker or any other famous villain out of the picture, instead inventing a creepy serial killer named “Birthday Boy,” who fits well into the crooked structure of the city that Johns has created.
This book has been in production for a while now, but the wait has been worth it. Penciller Gary Frank draws the hell out of this book. Frank’s work is always spectacular and this book is no exception. He’s certainly got stock character faces but man, are they expressive. You don’t even need dialogue to see that Bullock is a wormy brown-noser or that Alfred has seen a world of sh*t in his lifetime. Another essential element of this book that brings to life Bruce Wayne’s flawed nature is Frank’s drawing of Batman with his blue eyes visible underneath his cowl; something that is rarely seen in comic book versions of the Dark Knight. If you’re an avid DC Comics fan, this is a must read. Geoff Johns’ material as of late has been hit or miss, with his ongoing titles of Green Lantern, Aquaman and Justice League. Batman Earth One reaffirms why he is one of the most successful writers in the business today. If you aren’t that big of a comic book fan, I still really encourage you to pick up this book. There is little pretense involved that might scare away non-comic book fans. This is just a damn good Batman tale, and if you love the character (who doesn’t?), then you will certainly enjoy this story of a city that corrupts, and a fallible man who tries his hardest to be something more.
Final Grade: A