Hello everyone and welcome to the World of Bats, the Batman Book Club! And you read that right, this entire month of April we have another Casefile, where we look at a large batch of comics that would normally be too much for one week.
And what a batch we’re covering this month! Written and drawn by two of the biggest titans of comic books, this famous series, which ran for over four years, has been talked about for decades since and is considered one of the most influential takes on the character of Batman and his universe since then.
(Okay, maybe it would be better if they’d actually finished it!)
But no other comic quite captures just how absurd Dick’s Golden Age origin story is. Like, what kind of loon just abducts a child from the scene of his parents’ murder and enlists him in a war to exterminate criminals? This kind of loon.
I don’t know if I’d say BEST, but there are parts of the book I do genuinely like.
And it’s definitely absurd, and one of those stories that could turn out HORRIBLY very easily, which I think is sort of the point of the story. I’ve heard people say in the past that say Miller wrote this as a satire, and while I think there is some element of it there, I think this is Miller taking the “Batman needs a Robin to balance his darkness” idea we had for the past…at that point 30-ish years and took it to it’s most logical extreme.
I remember picking this up monthly and then…well they made the decision for me not to pick it up monthly. Then I saw it at Ollie’s a while back and it is rocking out on my shelf. Between this and Teen Titans: Year One I will be slowly clearing out that backlog of books that is always growing!
I am about to get up and pull both books out and put them on the top of the books to read stack this month.
I have that too, in hardcover! I think it was released shortly after the release of #9 with the idea that it would continue. I went to see if there was an addition that had all the issues, but it looks like the version that’s still in print only has up to 9 issues. Which is odd because when I was looking online for a good photo for the topic I thought I saw one that had the “DC Black Label” marker, as if they reprinted it under that label like they’ve done with other work like All-Star Superman.
Just finished all 10 issues. I don’t even know where to start with this Batman story so I guess I will start at the beginning and my own experiences with it. I got back into comics around 2005 maybe 2006 but 2005 seems more likely. Anyway, I remember picking up All-Star Superman 1 reading it and loving it. All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder 1 was coming out the next week or maybe two weeks. My hopes were high for this series. After all, DC promoted the All-Star line as a huge thing and the Superman book was and remains excellent. I ended up picking up All-Star Batman when it came out. That glossy cover had me excited. Then I started reading it. I was all in as the first issue had me excited for what was to come. What no one was expecting was that All-Star Batman would become the fiasco that it did. Years to be completed and I am using that word as loose as I possibly can. I picked up the trade because I didn’t keep up with the random releases and I figured the story was finally finished.
I open the first pages of the TPB and read the beginning from the editor. It was two pages about trust. About how he has trusted Miller and Lee and how they came through and how the reader has put their trust because of the creators great runs. It was the weirdest “sorry, we fracked up” I have ever read.
These are the most uneven 10 issues I have ever read from established comic creators. Some of it is great and some of it is pure dribble. I understand why DC was excited about this book. It has ties to Year One and Dark Knight Returns. I get it. Still, I wonder if they even noticed how much Earth-31 butchered properties. Wonder Woman in this book is the absolute worst. Batman is a selfish psychopath. Superman is lame pushover. Robin is suffering Stockholm Syndrome. I am not sure if I would be complaining about any of this if there was an actual payoff. Instead, each issue is like a stream of conscience that doesn’t flow with the previous or later issues in this series. Every now and then there would be moments where reading one issue would matter 5 issues later.
I can finally say I have completed this series, so there is an upside. Oh and I never thought I would be able to compare a comic book to the Mueller Report but issue 10 might as well as have the word redacted on each page Batgirl is on. So many black lines over words!
I recently reread this series (in the last year or two), and I was struck at just how jaw droppingly gorgeous the art is, and how mind-bendingly horrible the plotting/continuity (with itself), and dialogue is. There’s hints at the master Frank Miller is, but it’s mostly lost in the self parody. But Jim Lee’s art, with Alex Sinclair’s colors, is truly out of this world. I just wish it were for another series. It puts even Hush to shame.
I’m just 3 issues in, and the artwork is the only thing about it I like. The women are way too sexualized and that’s uncomfortable. Batman is throwing out the “R word” and other inappropriate language in front of a 12 year old child who just witnessed his parents’ murder. I’m planning to finish reading it more so because I can be a bit of a completionist (when it isn’t too inconvenient for me) than any enjoyment I expect to get from this title.
Yeah, I’m on issue 3 of my rereading right now and I think the cardinal sin of this book more than anything is how it meanders.
Issue 3 is mostly focused on the Black Canary snapping and turning into a…superhero, I guess (though she mostly just beats up and mugs guys who may have been crooks but we only just see them as drunken a-holes) and steals a guy’s motorcycle. A VERY COOL sequence, excellently drawn by Jim Lee, but is it really necessary? It doesn’t really progress the main plot of the book, such as it is, just gives us context for when we see her again a few issues later. She might have had more of a plot later on in the story, but because of the scheduling snafu, I don’t know if we’ll ever see it.
Same thing with his Wonder Woman. His take on Wonder Woman is interesting here because we know there’s going to be progression with her. After all, she isn’t calling everyone “sperm bank” in The Dark Knight Strikes Again and DK3. Another thing to note is that outside of Dick Grayson, in the 10 issues we read, all the people that Batman inspires are women. We see it in the woman he saves from being assaulted, and even just from hearing about his deeds, like with Black Canary or Barbara Gordon.
I wonder if maybe Miller was purposefully doing this, and it would have been part of Wonder Woman’s arc and how she decides that Man’s World isn’t too bad.
Oh! You wanna know the fun thing about that? In the initial printing, the black bars were somewhat opaque, so everyone was able to really read what they were all saying. DC recalled that entire first printing and it was fixed in subsequent printings. I bet that first printing is worth a lil’ something.
I don’t know if “parody” is the right word, but I think with a lot of Batman’s actions here, Miller is taking the thing that concept we accept of “Batman needs a Robin to save him from his own personal darkness” and cranks that bad boy to 15, let alone 11.
I definitely agree about Lee’s art here – Hush is amazing, but Lee himself has said that he was finding his ideal Batman as he was drawing it. I could definitely see an argument that this might be Lee’s peak as an artist.
That’s fair. I think Miller’s style kind of sexualizes everyone (I mean, Alfred get’s his own harlequin romance cover moment), and I think he doesn’t let that get in the way of their strength in character. Yeah, we get a lot of shots of Vicki Vale in lingerie and lingering butt shots, but she’s also a hard-boiled reporter who steals Alfred’s car and chases after corrupt cops not just for a story, but to save a child’s life.
But that’s just me, people’s milage can vary on it, and I hope you find something worthwhile from this. Remember we also have the Batman: Universe mini-series going on as regular reading, if you need something that’s way different from this.
Why even censor it? Furthermore, why not just use the normal comic censoring like #@$%$ or whatever. From a reader’s standpoint, it is just annoying. Also, that is hilarious that they messed up, which I highly doubt was a mistake until an upset mother or 100 called/emailed DC.
I’ve finished the reading and 99% of it just wasn’t my cup of tea. One scene I liked was when Batman finally let Robin grieve and the had a moment at the Graysons’ graves. I would have liked more of that and less of this hyperviolent Batman that gleefully maims people and stalks children. It’s possible that anything Miller wrote after Year One just isn’t my thing.