Subtle Changes

Batman: Earth One

Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, Jon Sibal (Does he give everyone the weird teeth in Gary Frank comics?), Brad Anderson, Rob Leigh. Batman created by Bob Kane & Bill Finger

DC Comics, 2012

This reads like Geoff Johns notebook of ideas for what to do with Batman after Christopher Nolan leaves.  He might be able to have one or two more of these books out by the time Warner decides it’s time to reboot and he can go, “here you go, make this.”  What Johns does well, what he has always done well, is reset character concepts and tighten up connections.  His universes are pretty internally airtight.  His stories in the long term unfurl with clockwork precision, new information at the right time.  It is his actual issue to issue storytelling that has been a problem since he quit The Flash the first time.  Given the expanse of pages in Earth One you’d hope he could surmount this problem.  Not so.  Page after page I was agreeing with the resets of characters and base ideas he was putting out, “that’s a good idea, that’s a good idea, that’s a smart choice” ideas I could only acknowledge contrasted against what I knew already because I read Batman comics.  I can’t help, I always do this, but to think how a new fan would read this.  If the fan doesn’t know what new ideas are being brought to the table it just leaves the story. This is the story of Batman and some cops fighting a body-builder child molester and the mayor.  It’s a little boring and badly paced.  A lot of short scenes that needed more space and long scenes that could’ve been clipped, the Arkham stuff was odd and then easily dismissed, the “fight” between Alfred and Bruce could have been much shorter…I don’t think the new fan would like this. Especially in a world where Batman: Year One exists. Tell them to read that.

This and “Amazing Spider-Man” had a lot of structural similarities I realized after I put it down.  The difference between why I loved that and was lukewarm to this was that it, Spider-Man, had rounded out it characters as a trade-off to the plots it had left for resolution later, and Batman: Earth One doesn’t. Amazing had a plot we’d seen so many times before but characters that were enjoyable and a story that clipped along.  Earth One, it’s just positioning of characters into modified roles or starting them in modified roles and getting them closer to their regular roles and that’s not a story. That’s a plot and character descriptions. It’s an idea notebook.

It’s a bad comic book with character ideas used better elsewhere.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2012

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