Initially announced…a very long time ago, this graphic novel (yes, it is a graphic novel) written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank has finally been released. This is an origin story, setting up the Batman of Earth-1. (I assume the Earth in the monthly titles is still called New Earth.) I had mixed feelings about this book. I liked it, but I felt it could have been better.
It seemed like the main thing this book was concerned about was building the world in which it existed, and I think this is what hurt the book. Johns simply tried to shove too many things into the book. I do commend him on wanting to change so many things, but I felt spreading them out would have been better. Here’s a list of what he did, spoilers bellow:
- Thomas Wayne was running for Mayor when he and Martha were killed.
- Alfred was a friend from a war that Thomas saved, and was brought in to be in charge of security for Thomas Wayne.
- Wayne Manor was actually built by Martha’s family, the Arkhams.
- Oswald Cobblepot is the current, corrupt mayor.
- Harvey Bullock was the star of a reality cop show before becoming a detective with the Gotham PD.
But with those changes, the fundamentals are still in place. Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed, and this action prompts him to take up a life of fighting crime. Jim Gordon is still a cop, and still has a daughter named Barbara, who wants to become Batgirl. On a side note, there was no mention, or even a tease, of Robin appearing.
There is a token amount of story. Batman and Harvey Bullock are both trying to solve the mystery of the Wayne murders. Throughout the entire book, it’s treated as if it was some big conspiracy involving Mayor Cobblepot. However, (spoiler alert) it turns out that it was just a random murder. Cobblepot was going to kill the Waynes, but they left the theater through a back door, so his person never got the chance. But anyways, it’s still taboo to look into the murders, so when Bullock does it after using Gordon’s “authorization,” Barbara Gordon is kidnapped. Batman and the detectives paths’ cross during this, as they rescue her from her kidnapper, a large, child-killer named Birthday Boy. During this, Harvey sees some things he’d rather forget, and takes up drinking.
So yeah, not a lot of story, but the ample amount of characterization makes up for it. I also liked bits of humor that opened the book. There’s a sequence where Batman is chasing one of Cobblepot’s men, and nothing goes right for him. His grappling hook line jams up, so he tries to just jump across the buildings. He ends up shorting the jump, and crashes down to the alley. There’s also a point where the costume changes. There’s no in story reason given for the change. It just kind of does. That confused me.
Gary Frank’s art is wonderful, as usual. Don’t really have much to say about it. Of course, I never say too much about the art. I either like it or I don’t. Not being an artist, I don’t really have the tools to go into a more in depth critique of why I did or didn’t like it.
In the end, I would recommend that you read this title. Maybe wait a few months for the paperback edition though.