Gary Hoggatt's Reviews > Batman: Earth One

Batman by Geoff Johns
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Aug 24, 12

bookshelves: all-fiction, comics
Read from August 22 to 23, 2012

Batman is one of the most popular characters in the modern mythos, and his origin story is frequently retold. The gold standard for Batman's origin is, of course, Batman: Year One by writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli. In their 2012 effort Batman: Earth One, writer Geoff Johns and penciller Gary Frank try a new spin on the story, but it's only partially successful.

The main angle Johns and Frank attempt to take is to depict Batman as more human. He can fail, you can see his eyes, he's only interested in solving his parents' murder and not ridding Gotham of crime in general. All of that is fine. But to set this story apart from established continuity, Johns changes pretty much everything at least a little, and sometimes a lot.

Bruce / Batman seems shallow. Not just "Bruce pretending to be a playboy" shallow, but just not developed. Other than effectively depicting him as a spoiled kid, he just doesn't seem fleshed out as a character. Perhaps it's that there's so little dialogue in the book, and that he's on screen as Bruce so little. There's an emphasis on action, and you'll frequently go several pages of big action shots with hardly a dozen words. I'm all for action, but when trying to tell an origin and establish how this take on the character is different, you need more words.

The changes in the supporting cast are hit and miss. I liked this take on Jim Gordon, and thought it did a good job of adding human depth to the character in a way different than in Year One. Giving a larger role in Gotham for Thomas and Martha Wayne is great. Barbara Gordon is fun.

Alfred, on the other hand, just didn't work for me. They give him a past in the Royal Marines, which is fine (in fact, I enjoyed the Batman: The Animated Series depiction of him as a former MI-6 intelligence agent), but his relationship with Bruce didn't make much sense to me. It's just too far off the established character, and there's no sense that this Alfred really cares much about Bruce. In fact, he doesn't even meet Bruce until the night of his parent's death.

Where this book shines is the art. Frank does an excellent job depicting the inexperienced Batman, and the character design, with one exception, is very well done. It's a different, more realistic / modern artistic style than Year One, which is fine. I love the Year One art, but if you're telling the same story, you need to differentiate the art, and I think Earth One does a good job of being modern and realistic without veering into the hyper-detailed and technical territory of the current Christopher Nolan films, either.

My main issue with the art is, like with the writing, Alfred. His new look, combined with his new, more active past and rougher demeanor, kept making me think of Kevin O'Neil's depiction of Allan Quatermain in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen more than anything. I kept expecting Mina and Nemo to pop up.

Overall, Batman: Earth One is a solid take on Batman's origin, but there are too many rough patches for me to endorse it too highly, and it has a hard time getting out of the shadow of previous versions of this story. The art, though, is great, and it's certainly a nice book to look at.
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