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Batman: Earth One

2 Ratings: 4.5
A Graphic Novel written by Geoff Johns and Illustrated by Gary Frank

"After successfully re-imagining the Man of Steel in Superman: Secret Origin, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank have unleashed their talents on Bruce Wayne and proven, once again, that under the right stewardship, the Batman legend is endlessly malleable. … see full wiki

1 review about Batman: Earth One

A Brand New, Breath-Taking Peek at Batman....Inside and Out! Creepy...Sadistic...Realistic.

  • Jul 13, 2012
“Re-imaginings” is a word that Hollywood uses rather loosely; the recent film “The Amazing Spider-Man” is one proof that such things are more misses than hits. Can the same be said for comic books? Well, yes and no. Marvel had succeeded with their “Ultimate” versions of its characters while DC’s more recent “New 52” was less than impressive for me. Most of these things are rehashes of past hits, but seeing as how I appreciated J. Michael Straczynski’s “Superman: Earth One”, I became curious as to how writer Geoff Johns (Green Lantern: Rebirth) and artist Gary Frank (Avengers, Midnight Nation) would re-imagine the Dark Knight with “Batman: Earth One”.

I have some reservations since Johns have been somewhat inconsistent at times but Gary Frank remains as one of my favorite artists of this modern age. Let us say that while I was not disappointed with their re-imaging of the caped crusader, I cannot really make a call if it was necessary. I’ll have to see where they take this new form of characterization when it comes to Batman and its large collection of supporting characters.

Gotham city is a city where the crime runs rampant, and the iron fist of crime rules the street. Cops such as detective James Gordon had learned to walk the line and follow the rules of the underworld for fear for his daughter’s safety. A naïve, optimistic celebrity cop named Bullock seemed eager to change Gotham, which has been called the ‘most dangerous city in America’. But crime is the least of their concerns. For, many years ago, Thomas Wayne was running to become mayor of Gotham but his forthcoming victory in the elections was stopped cold by a gunman. Killed along with his wife, Martha, their son Bruce was left in the care of an ex-royal marine and old friend of Thomas named Alfred. Scarred and traumatized, the young boy grew up with a lot of anger in his heart and resolves to find his parents’ killer. Inspired by the winged creatures of the night (bats) and a samurai armor, Bruce had created his own version of a creature of fear to give him the edge in his hunt. Trained by Alfred, Bruce now stalks the darkness to find his parents’ killer and the trail leads him to the city’s mayor…Cobblepot.

This graphic novel keeps the core premise of “Batman” intact. Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed by a gunman during the family’s visit to the movie theaters. What Johns does is that he manages to bring more modern concepts into its premise, all the while adding some fresh new twists to existing characters such as Bullock, Gordon, Alfred, Lucius Fox, Barbara Gordon and Oswald Cobble pot (otherwise known as the Penguin in current continuity). They are both familiar and yet very different. Johns’ writing manages to integrate certain gritty devices and development that gives this graphic novel a more realistic feel. Gotham in Johns’ and Franks’ “Earth One” feels a little more closer to real-world stuff and frankly quite darker than some of the portrayals of Batman.

I know, at first glance, the graphic novel can be compared to Frank Miller’s fabulous “Batman: Year One” and O’Neil’s “Shaman”. Those two story arcs were excellent in their own way, and while “Earth One” feels rather familiar, I enjoyed the twists that come in the development of Gotham as a city of crime with its own host of other re-imagined characters. “Earth One” is a crime drama at its core, and Gotham is a place where the police fear to tread, where crime lords rule and cops are corrupt; and the reader gets to understand how and why. The reasons may not seem to be necessarily original, but the way it was brought into the narrative worked in many ways to expand on this area. Gordon is written as a man with principle, and yet, as in real life, a cop who is also a family man, who had lost a lot and intends to keep what he has with his daughter. Johns’ also abandons the Bullock we have been so familiar with, this time he is handsome, used to be a TV star with his own reality show; such a difference from the cigar-smoking, fat detective in current continuity. Gary Franks also illustrates Alfred as someone who uncannily looks like Sam Elliot; a rougher, tougher version of the butler we have grown to love in current continuity.

Bruce Wayne is also familiar and yet, very different. His mother’s background had been given more depth in the story and it gives some credibility to his current state of mind. I know, what Johns’ had to share may be a little too rough and mature when it came to Bruce’s history as both an Arkham and a Wayne, but I found it refreshing. Geoff Johns establishes the hidden, controlled psychosis that drives Bruce and gives more believability that he would dress up as a bat. I also liked the way the criminals reacted to his appearance, it felt very real, if a little too different. Nope, he is no feared creature of the night but rather he is seen as some nut who dresses funny. What also made the story work is the way Bruce is portrayed as psycho; an angry, fallible, vulnerable guy in a suit who blunders around in his few outings as the man that the media had named as “Batman”. One can say that this is indeed the ‘humanization’ of Batman. He did not spend many years being trained by escape artists, ninjas and studied crime, engineering and science. This Bruce Wayne is very angry, and his anger drives him to find his parents’ killer. Period.

Geoff Johns’ Cobblepot reminded me of Tim Burtons’ version in the film "Batman Returns", but he is a lot more ruthless and smarter. This is a man who holds Gotham hostage, and he controls everything. In essence, Cobblepot is a child-killer, although he uses a serial killer called “Birthday Boy” who seemed to have been inspired by both Amygdala and Zsasz. Cobblepot feels scary and real, and he never answers to the name “Penguin’. I liked the way Johns utilizes the appeal of Batman and what hides inside him. It was very refreshing to see the psycho battle the psycho or what do you call it? It takes one to know one.

Gary Frank’s artwork is exceptional. If you are familiar with his work with “Midnight Nation”, then you can imagine how he can brings his panels to life. I loved the way he expresses emotion through the eyes and the way he illustrates expressions; I mean, Jim Lee, David Finch and Ed Benes are good, but when it comes to expressing sheer dramatic impact, no one can match Frank. He draws the panels with a near-cinematic flair that says a lot of a scene. Notice the fights and the way he expresses pain. Oh, Frank also never holds back in the blood and violence, and they are tastefully done. Frank’s imaginative visuals gives Johns’ dialogue (some profanity) a very gritty appeal that I really enjoyed.

“Batman: Earth One” is one ride that I am rather curious and intrigued as to how they are going to pursue it. I know what you are thinking, is it better than Miller’s “Year One”? Well, “Year One” was Miller’s one-shot mini-series as Batman’s beginnings, in some ways his "alpha" fits into current continuity and is a strong series to match Miller's "omega"--"The Dark Knight Returns".  Johns appears to be here for the long haul for a re-imagining as he dropped several hints as to where this re-imagining is going. It is totally different and cannot be compared. Despite being in familiar ground, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank had grabbed me, and I am eager to read more about this nastier, darker Gotham city and its psychopathic protector, Batman.

Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

A Brand New, Breath-Taking Peek at Batman....Inside and Out! Creepy...Sadistic and Awesome. A Brand New, Breath-Taking Peek at Batman....Inside and Out! Creepy...Sadistic and Awesome.

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October 01, 2012
The review was great as usual. In addition, the still pictures are very realistic.
July 17, 2012
I will be reading this for sure, EXCELLENT review WP.
July 18, 2012
thanks, Alex....I have one more coming tonight.
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