Friday, July 6, 2012
Batman Earth One
Artist: Gary Frank
Company: DC Comics
For DC, Elseworlds have always been a mainstay in their arsenal of entertainment. The re-imagining of their first tier characters, their heart and soul changed or tweaked to bring something new to the table that is unexpected, is a genre unto itself that has been going for as long as I've been reading comics. The Earth One series, if two graphic novels (one Superman and now Batman) can be called a series, takes this stance and proceeds to launch itself in a sideways like motion into unseen territories. The only problem with that is that with Batman, a lot of territory has already been covered. I mean A LOT. Hell, he's been a Vampire, a Pirate, a Victorian Era Crime Fighter, a Reverend, and a Scotsman to name just a few off the top of my head.
I know I'm forgetting a sack-full of others too, but I'm straying from the point. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that it's hard to bring something new to a character like this. Or to put it a little more concisely, Batman Earth One is a bit of a mixed bag.
At the helm of this endeavor is Geoff Johns, Chief Creator Officer and prolific DC Comics writer extraordinaire. He's been the man with the plan and has brought great re-imaginings to countless characters, chief among them being able to take a block of wood like Hal Jordan and whittle and cut and bring him to life like a Ring Slinging Pinocchio. He's never written a full on Batman story, so the possibilities seemed endless.
The other man at the wheel, Gary Frank, first caught my eye with his work on Midnight Nation with JMS years ago. He always brings his A game though and since then he's worked and brought to life Supreme Power and Supergirl and working with his partner in crime Geoff Johns, Superman: Secret Origin. Here, like always, he riddles the pages with beauty. His realistic and detailed style goes hand in hand with the story, punctuating the beats with such skill. His ability to provide depth in his characters, both visually and emotionally, is one of his best qualities and he goes to town in just about every panel that is on the page. You feel and see the pain that is being inflicted and the action scenes are just as all consuming. The realism here that he gives the book, the way that Batman literally looks like a man in a costume (something resembling Adam West via Frank Miller) is intriguing and a bit disturbing, but it works.
Like I said at the beginning of this article, Batman Earth One is a mixed bag. It has various highs and lows to offer, of that there's no doubt. However, ultimately the darkness mingled with the origin story then mixed with a less than stellar villain (not who you might expect)...The numbers just don't add up to a very memorable tale. Which is too bad.