Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – A Movie Review

I should explicitly state from the beginning that I am an unabashed Batman fanatic.  I discovered him at the age of three and have loved every incarnation of him during the past thirty-six years.  Furthermore, I’ve always leaned toward DC Comics, home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, etc.

With all that being said, I am certainly bias.  Therefore, it comes as no surprise that I loved Batman v Superman.  I am, after all, a fan boy.  I also want to make it clear that I’m going to work hard to convince you to see this film and ignore the misguided negative reviews it’s apparently received.

I say “apparently” because I’ve read no reviews of the film at all.  I wanted to go in open-minded.  I’ve heard it’s gotten bad reviews, but everyone I’ve personally spoken with, and watched it with, loved it.  So, apparently, someone out there isn’t a fan.

First of all, it’s a visually stunning movie.  Like with  Man of Steel, director Snyder is showing you the characters in all their glory.  Batman looks like he stepped right out of a comic book and uses brutal physicality.  Wonder Woman is portrayed as the intelligent warrior we all know her to be.  Superman does the things only Superman can do.  Snyder knows these characters and shows us what we want to see from them.

I found myself surprised by the acting in the film as well.  Affleck nailed Bruce Wayne.  He’s got the intensity, the size, and the anger, but he also shows us the kindness and compassion we know Batman has deep down.  Irons’ Alfred is a delight and unlike any other film adaptation of the character – he’s no longer just the butler.  Amy Adams plays an identifiable, respectable, capable Lois Lane worthy of being called a hero as well.  Gal Gadot captured the enigma that is Wonder Woman – I can’t wait to see more!  Diane Lane provides a very necessary Martha Kent whom grounds the movie amidst all the spectacle. Holly Hunter also delivers a lower profile but instrumental role that had to be performed subtly.  Laurence Fishburne is always great and gets some of the best lines in the film.  Henry Cavill had the unenviable task of playing Superman.

Though no one will every capture the charisma of Christopher Reeve, Cavill is giving us a conflicted, pained Superman – a Superman that is probably closer to what would really happen in the real world.  He can’t be everything to everyone, and Cavill works hard to show us that nuanced inner turmoil.  I believe Superman is a nearly impossible role because he’s such an international icon.  Cavill will never make everyone happy – but that’s not on him.  I think he lived up to the story and the script, and, in the end, he gives us a very heroic Superman.  His Clark Kent/Superman is very much a partnership with Lois Lane, and Cavill shines when he’s with Amy Adams.

But Jesse Eisenberg clearly got to have the most fun in this film.  His Lex Luthor is also unlike any other depiction we’ve seen.  Quirky, twitchy, weird, and creepy, Eisenberg made me squirm in my seat.  His Lex Luthor is not a savvy businessman, he’s not an elegant speaker, he’s not charming, he’s not even charismatic – he’s just disturbing.  I liked this iteration of the character very much.

Honestly, in my opinion, Snyder’s strengths do not rest in directing actors or conveying story, but due to the sheer caliber of actors he worked with, they all shined in their own unique way.  I think the fact that so many well-regarded actors joined this film confirms the faith they had in the plot and Snyder’s vision.

So let’s talk about the story.  For a film titled Batman v Superman, it has far more story than I ever expected.  It plays heavily off of Man of Steel’s greatest failure – Superman’s apathy toward the destruction of Metropolis.  (The visual of Superman kissing Lois Lane with human ash floating around them will never leave me.)  This destruction fuels Batman’s distrust of Superman, which is totally consistent with the character.  It sets up the very concept of the film and provides motivation.  Of course, as all great comic book stories must, the two heroes slug it out, but, again, as all great comic book stories do, they eventually make their peace with one another.  Was there ever any doubt?  I personally loved the reason they make amends – I thought it was a brilliant bridge between the two characters.  And, of course, now that the heroes are pals, they have to come together to defeat a common foe.

This is a very simplified version of the plot.  The movie takes its time establishing character, setting up the conflict, providing lots of motivation for everyone involved, and, thankfully, doesn’t rush the ending.  Does this make for a long movie?  Absolutely, but it didn’t feel long at all.  I thought it went by really quickly.  I was never bored, the multi-faceted story kept me engaged, and I didn’t once look at my phone to check the time or notifications.

You also had to keep on your toes because the film constantly offered little hints of things to come.  For a fan who’s followed DC Comics for over thirty years, these hints were a delight.  The DC Universe is a very big place, it’s not even confined to one plane of existence, and Batman v Superman definitely laid the groundwork for many characters and concepts to come.  Best of all, it gave the heroes a good reason to stick together at the movie’s end – it provided them both motivation and inspiration.

Is this the greatest movie ever made?  Of course not, but it lived up to its title, it depicted the characters they way I wanted, it provided far more story then I ever anticipated, the actors known for acting well did just that, it flew by despite its running time, the visuals were mesmerizing, and the comic book nerd in me delighted at the little hints of things to come.

The negative reviews are wrong.  This film will satisfy.

DC Movies, String Theory, Parallel Worlds, and You

Ezra Miller confirmed on MTV News that he will indeed play Barry Allen and The Flash in 2018’s film.  This troubles some because the CW already has a very successful, much loved television show of the same name starring the same character played by Grant Gustin.

Of course, if you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll realize that television already has versions Deadshot, Katana, Amanda Waller, Alfred, Bruce Wayne, and Jim Gordon (to name only a few), and all of these characters are due to appear in film within the next few years.  Furthermore, the upcoming Supergirl TV show is said to have a brief appearance by Superman himself!

But do not fret.  DC Comics publishes these characters – Superman since 1938 and Batman since 1939 – and parallel worlds featuring characters of the same name is all part of the lore.  In fact, at present, I believe there are 52 distinct worlds within the “DC Universe.”  Most of these worlds have some kind of a Superman, some kind of a Wonder Woman, and some kind of a Batman, but they may not necessarily be the mainstream characters for whom you are familiar.

Of course, as a kid in the early 1980s, this sort of thing sent my imagination into overdrive.  Seeing two men named Flash from different worlds teaming up … man, it influences me even to this day.  Little did I realize back then that the comic books were making use of String Theory and ideas concerning parallel dimensions.  As is so often the case, science fiction leads the way in those things that will one day be considered conventional.

I’m personally heartened to hear Ezra Miller say that they are not shying away from this bastion of the DCU – it even sounds as though they are embracing it.  To love DC is to love the fact that you are allowed to have Christian Bale, Adam West, Michael Keaton, and Ben Affleck all  inhabiting a world where they are the one, true Batman.  Christopher Reeve will always be Superman on his world, just as Henry Cavill can be Superman on his.  The TV show Gotham can exist in its own reality, just as CW’s The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow do, and it can be distinct from Batman v Superman’s Gotham City.

I believe the viewing audience is astute enough to accept these different planes of reality concerning these beloved characters.  Why should we hinder ourselves to only “one” version of a character when multiple actors and productions can do that character justice in different, distinct ways?

Batman v Superman – Actions Have Consequences

After the initial trailer released for Batman v Superman, I felt excited.  Very excited.  But that excitement cannot compare to the sheer exuberance I experienced while watching the latest trailer the other day.  Why so very enthusiastic?  It’s not merely the sight of Wonder Woman in all her Amazonian glory.  It’s not just watching Batman moving from building to building like Batman should.  It’s not only Batman and Superman squaring off, jaw to jaw, after Superman rips off the doors to the Batmobile.

Yes, all of that was … is … mesmerizing.

No, the best part proved to be the idea that actions have consequences and that they matter.  What bothered me most about Man of Steel was the fact that Superman seemed oblivious to the loss of human life occurring during his fight with Zod.  Buildings literally fell during this climatic battle, and Superman didn’t seem to care.

Batman v Superman addresses that concern.  Watching Superman stand before politicians touched upon the problem, but seeing Bruce Wayne running into the dust as others fled, watching Wayne glare into the skyline as Superman and Zod recklessly fought one another, that provided the emotional resonance I so desire.  That look on Wayne’s face laid the groundwork for why he and Superman have conflict.  That expression exceeded even my disdain for Supermans’ actions. I understood Batman’s anger – I even related to it.

We, of course, know that Batman and Superman will eventually resolve their conflict, but they’ve found the one thing that validates the entire premise of the film, and they’ve done a masterful job setting up the confrontation through the latest trailer.  Take a look below, and please do share your thoughts.

My First Thoughts Concerning the Batman v. Superman Trailer

First of all, if you haven’t yet seen it …

This was a very good couple of days for me, and the premature arrival of this trailer played no small role in that fact!  I am very excited for this film and all it portends, but that doesn’t mean I can’t remain objective about it.  There are some things to gush over, there are some concerns.  Humor me as I expound …

1.  The Tone – I like the tone.  Batman appears menacing, society seems both enamored with and distrustful of Superman, and everything looks cinematic.  The music is brooding yet epic.  I’m sure the movie will be as well.  If nothing else, visually speaking, it’s beautiful.

2.  False God – As stated above, I very much think our present day society would have a field day with Superman if he truly existed. We love our larger-than-life figures, and you can’t get bigger than Superman.  I have no doubt our celebrity culture would deify him, and this looks to be the case according to the statue.  However, as is so often the case, we always tear down our celebrity heroes, it’s only a matter of time.  Again, the graffiti scrolled across the statue would suggest as such.  Superman appears to be no exception to our base behavior.

3.  Kneel Before Superman – But what if he’s more than just a celebrity?  I’ll be honest, Superman looks pretty malicious in this trailer, and when the soldiers dropped to a knee before him, I saw shades of the book and video game called Injustice.  Could this be a world where Superman has sworn something awful like Zod can never happen again?  Has he lost his sense of justice and become a world enforcer? I can’t imagine that’s the Superman they want to build a franchise around.  I’m still troubled by the role he played in the decimation of Metropolis a few years ago.  To be fair, though, it could make him psychologically more interesting …

4.  The Voice – I like the armored Batman voice.  It’s gravely, yet metallic.  It effectively hides Bruce Wayne’s real voice, as one would expect in the real world.  Is it the same voice even when Batman isn’t armored up?  Only time will tell.

5.  Dark Knight Returns Returns – The armored Batman calling out Superman on the street … straight out of The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller.  This is a good thing.  I can’t imagine the movie will end as did the book, but the mere fact they are paying homage to such an iconic moment … it’s thrilling.

Injustice by Tom Taylor – A Book Review

I’m not a gamer, but I heard the DC series titled Injustice, which serves as an introduction to the video game, regularly impressed readers.  When I happened across it at my local library, I knew I had to give it a read.

Wow.  I’m glad I did.

If you’re unfamiliar with the premise, the Joker manipulates Superman into killing his wife, Lois Lane.  Superman loses it, punches Joker through the chest, and then promptly establishes a new world order in which all countries must be peaceful or suffer his wrath.

But this is not a maniacal Superman.  Taylor is brilliant in that it is still largely the Superman we know and love, but it’s a Superman who, little by little, loses his famous sense of morality.  Like all the best villains, he firmly believes he is in the right, and when things go wrong, it’s never his fault.

Of course, Batman has no wavering morality issues, which puts he and Superman squarely at odds.  Batman forms a team to challenge Superman’s Justice League which is comprised of Wonder Woman, Shazam, Green Lantern, Flash, Cyborg, and others.

Anything goes in this title, and no one is ever safe.  That sort of climate makes it an exciting, unpredictable read, which is something mainstream super hero titles need.

Consequently, many of the characters are, well, out of character, particularly the Flash.  I’m glad that Taylor makes Flash the most hesitant of Superman’s acolytes, the one who questions their actions, but, in the end, I realize this book is a different take on our beloved heroes and so I’m willing to accept heroes like Wonder Woman and Cyborg acting harsher than usual.

If you’ve seen the video game, you know how radical some of the costumes are.  Batman’s works very well in this comic book, others, such as Catwoman’s, falls very flat.  Most of them are interesting variations on an already established theme, such as with Nightwing, Robin, and Green Arrow.

If you’re a DC super hero fan, I think you’ll enjoy this title.  Sure, it explores ideas already established by titles such as Kingdom Come and Red Son, but it does so more deeply and at a much more satisfying pace.  In fact, that’s how I would describe this title – very satisfying.

I cannot wait to check out the rest of this series’ installments.

Earth 2: The Dark Age by Tom Taylor and Nicola Scott

If you’re unfamiliar with the DC Universe, Earth 2 is a parallel Earth, one similar to our own in many respects, but different in many others.  DC has employed this parallel universe concept for decades, currently claiming that their are 52 parallel Earths within the DC multiverse.

Once upon a time, Earth 2 existed during WWII and the original incarnations of modern day heroes, such as The Flash and Green Lantern, were still very much active.  From time to time, these heroes would travel to Earth 1, for all intents and purposes, our contemporary Earth.  It proved an opportunity to keep long revered versions of characters around while still focusing on modern incarnations – and it offered some great plot possibilities.  As a kid, I loved it when Earth 2’s Justice Society of America would crossover with Earth 1’s Justice League of America.

A few years ago, DC brought the Earth 2 concept back, but instead of it existing during WWII, it is a world where Darkseid invaded and destroyed much of the planet.  Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman died protecting that world, and now new heroes have emerged, heroes such as Jay Garrick and Alan Scott.  And though these were the original men to bear the mantles of The Flash and Green Lantern in the early 1940s, they have very much been updated and have little in common with their previous versions.  They are young, they are different, and they took some getting used to, but I have grown to appreciate them.

In this forth volume, The Dark Age, new series writer Tom Taylor pushes down on the accelerator and never lets up!  I picked this volume up at the library and meant to read a few pages before bed.  Before I knew it, I’d read the whole book (and stayed up later than intended).  It’s so good, I could not put it down.

For some reason, Superman, previously thought dead, is now in service to Darkseid and destroying anything and anyone getting in his way.  A new Batman has also arisen, more violent than his predecessor, but very much against the evils of Darkseid.  Dr. Fate, the Flash, Hawkgirl, and Sandman are still fighting hard, but now we’re introduced to a new Red Tornado, a queen of Atlantis, Jimmy Olson, and an alien that may turn the tide against the evil Superman.

The beautiful thing about Earth 2 is that it is not trapped in the endless cycle of its characters’ counterparts.  On Earth 2, anything goes, and Tom Taylor has taken full advantage of that fact.  Our heroes are pummeled throughout most of this book with nonstop action, yet Taylor still builds a captivating plot and introduces new mysteries.  Truly, this is one of the most exciting super hero books I’ve read in quite a while.

As always, Nicola Scott’s pencil’s are exquisite.  She uses clean lines, dynamic angles, and fluid pacing.  Furthermore, at one point Barry Kitson helps out with the pencils, and the transition is nearly seamless.  I’ve followed Kitson’s work since the mid-1990s, and he’s never been better!

One thing that drives me away from mainstream super hero comic books, especially those by DC or Marvel, is that no matter how much things change, they will always stay the same.  It’s a necessity to the serialized business.  Parallel universes give publishers and creators the chance to really cut loose and provide unpredictable stories.  Earth 2 is a prime example of how such stories can be successfully executed, and The Dark Age is my favorite installment to date.

 

 

Keep the “Wonder” In Wonder Woman

Against my better judgement, I’m playing the old comic book fan card.  You know the one: the “I’m quitting this comic because of a creative change!”

Let me explain.  A few years ago, DC Comics (sort of) rebooted their universe and called the (sort of) reboot “The New 52.”  In the (sort of) new DC Universe, super heroes have only been around for about five years.

Some of the (sort of) rebooted titles have languished due to the change, but others have flourished, such as Wonder Woman.

You should know before The New 52, I never bought a Wonder Woman comic book in my life.  Truthfully, I wasn’t very excited about buying it for the first time ever as a thirty-something, but the fact is that Brian Azzarello is a master storyteller, Cliff Chiang is a fantastic artist, and I could not resist their combined talent.

Their Wonder Woman is rooted deeply in Greek mythology, which is totally in keeping with her history.  The Greek Gods are important characters in her title, but they are nothing like you’ve seen before.  Azzarello revitalized an already wildly popular character by making her appeal to a larger audience.  Azzarello’s interviews before the title’s release describing his plans for Wonder Woman and the Gods’ incorporation proved the main reason I came aboard.

Furthermore, Chiang draws an attractive, respectable Wonder Woman.  I’m not embarrassed for my wife to see my Wonder Woman books lying around.  I’m not worried about my small daughters’ sense of body image when they look at Chiang’s Wonder Woman on the covers.  Chiang draws her beautifully.  She is large and feminine.  She is powerful and graceful.   Her costume could be manipulated into something skimpy and trashy, but Chiang makes it appropriate and even regal.

Wonder Woman has been an intelligent, exciting story concerning Wonder Woman and her Greek God family with dynamic, attractive art that celebrates Wonder Woman’s heroism.

I worry that all that is going to change.

Azzarello and Chiang are leaving the title.  They said in the beginning they had a three-year story to tell, and that third year is about over.

A few days ago, DC announced the new Wonder Woman team.  I at first felt pretty good about it.  The writer is Meredith Finch, who is, of course, a woman.  A woman writing Wonder Woman is always a good thing in my book.  Meredith’s husband, David, will be the artist.  Uh-oh.  David Finch is an engaging artist, but his women tend to appear more like pin-up models.  My red flag is going up.

To make matters worse, Meredith Finch is on record as saying she wants to veer away from the Greek mythology and focus more on Wonder Woman’s interactions with her fellow Amazons and the Justice League.

Here is where I play my comic book fan card and scream, “I’m out!”

Here’s why: I don’t want the overly sexual Wonder Woman that Finch will most likely depict in his art.  I certainly don’t want a Wonder Woman title where she is primarily interacting with the Justice  League.  You know where I can get that?  The Justice League books.  Or the Superman and Wonder Woman book.  When I read a Wonder Woman book, I want it to be a unique experience, something specific to the character that sets her apart from her shared universe.  The Finch team seems intent upon returning Wonder Woman to the status quo.

I get it.  Wonder Woman is going to be in the new Superman movie.  It will also have Batman with probable appearances by Aquaman and Cyborg.  I suspect the rest of the Justice League will show up as well.  They want to position Wonder Woman to capitalize off of the movie, and they want to position the movie to capitalize off of Wonder Woman.  I think they call that corporate synchronization.

I understand their intentions, but it’s a shame.  Azzarello and Chiang made a character I previously refused to read my favorite DC title, a title I regularly told people who don’t read comic books to check out.

So I’m playing the comic book fan card: I’m out.

Chiang vs. Finch

Man of Steel – A Movie Review

(Spoilers at the very end of this review.  I will warn you before going into them.)

If you’ve been waiting for a Superman movie that shows our hero strutting all of his super stuff, then you will be very happy with Man of Steel.  In fact, I’ve never seen the kind of all-out action depicted in Man of Steel.  As you can expect with a Zach Snyder film, it is visually astounding.

However, there’s some real depth to the film as well.  Kevin Costner nearly brought tears to my eyes on several occasions, and Russell Crowe gave us the most likable and formidable Jor-El I’ve ever seen.  Diane Lane as Martha offers a fresh take on the character, and Amy Adams owned a tough, charismatic Lois Lane.  Michael Shannon had very big shoes to fill with General Zod, but because the character is far more military science fiction oriented, he was able to make it his own.  Henry Cavill looks like Superman, sounds like Superman, and moves like Superman.  He’s a very serviceable Superman.  No one will ever be as charismatic as Christopher Reeve, we all just have to accept that.  Cavill didn’t have the sparkle in his eyes that Reeve did, but that’s okay.  I think Cavill did an adequate job with the character.  I certainly look forward to seeing him as Superman in future movies.

Speaking of which, they made a necessary departure from Reeve’s Superman.  They had to, really.  This Superman is a physical force.  Cavill got huge for the film, and you could cut diamond with his jaw line.  And while there is a kindness in Cavill’s eyes as Superman, there is not a twinkle.  He’s a very serious Superman – lots of frowning.  But hey, that’s all right. We needed a different take if a new Superman franchise is going to work.  The fact he’s serious makes him no less noble.  In fact, they really made the strong and silent thing work well for him.  This Superman is clearly haunted by his being different from everyone else.  I can deal with a moody Superman.

I also love the science fiction route they took with this film over the super hero fantasy angle they could have used.  The movie starts off with an amazing scene on Krypton.  They truly strived to ground the movie in some aspect of technology with scientific explanations.  We know the story well at this point, but Snyder and company, again, took it in such a different direction that it felt totally new.  It was pretty much nonstop action from that moment forward.

As you’ve gathered from the commercials, we see a lot of Clark as a young man, but Snyder employed flashbacks to deliver these scenes to us, and, in my opinion, they were the best scenes in the whole movie.  Clark discovering his powers and using them to help people showed us the true hero within, and, like I said before, the scenes with Kevin Costner interacting with his adopted son choked me up on several occasions.

The storyline pretty much made sense, the characters all had fairly strong motivation, and, until the very end, nothing seemed to go off the tracks too much.  This is an epic, gigantic, mesmerizing movie that will not fail to keep your attention.  For a two and a half hour movie, it flew by.  No pun intended.

All in all, if you want a Superman movie that’s a visual spectacle with tons of action and Superman doing everything you ever wished you could see him do, then Man of Steel is for you.  I sincerely hope they continue with this cast and take Superman in exciting, new directions.

However, the film is not without a major problem.  That problem is detailed below the spoiler break.  Do NOT read if you don’t want the ending revealed:

 

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Throughout much of the movie, Clark Kent goes to great lengths to help people.  Every time he helps someone, though, he pretty much has to move on.  His concern for the world not being ready for him forces him to relocate time and time again.  But, no matter the personal sacrifice, he does the right thing.

That is, until he puts on the suit and adapts the guise of Superman.  Now he can actually help those people in need right out in the open, but instead opts not to.

Case in point, he fights Zod and his soldiers in the streets of Smallville.  There is maximum carnage.  Things are blowing up.  Trains are flying.  Missiles are exploding.  He keeps fighting.  Okay, hey, Smallville is small.  Maybe he did an X-ray vision sweep and saw that every single building on Main Street was cleared of people.  Probably not, but I’ll go with it.

And then we get to Metropolis, and that’s where I can’t turn the other way.  We’ve got entire skyscrapers falling.  We’ve got people dying left and right and left and right.  Superman and Zod are flying through buildings, and the buildings topple as a result.  What does Superman do?  Keep fighting.  At no point does he seem concerned about the people suffering and dying by the thousands.  If I’m a kid, I don’t understand why Superman isn’t helping people.  If I’m a parent, I don’t know how to explain the gratuitous destruction.

In a final inexplicable scene, Superman has Zod in a choke-lock, and Zod is about to kill a family.  The choice Superman makes is utterly senseless.  I won’t go into too much detail, but why is Superman suddenly so concerned about a family of four, and how is he suddenly able to break Zod’s bones when they just got done destroying half the city without either spilling a drop of blood?  I don’t get it.  Yes, I realize you have to have Superman stop Zod somehow, but it felt cheap and too easy to me.  It fact, it reminds me of this.

You know how they could have overcome the whole Superman fighting as a city dies thing?  At the end of the movie, if they had just had Superman issue a speech, apologizing for his role in the deaths of thousands and vowing to help the city rebuild, that would have gone a long way to showing me that he cares – that he has a noble heart.  Here’s a guy who risked everything as a child to help those in need but now doesn’t bat an eyelash at mass slaughter.

For me, this is a serious misstep.  Yes, they got all of the physical super stuff right, exceptionally so, and for most of the film, they got the hero stuff right as well.  But, at the very end, Superman came off more as an action character than a hero, and for some that works, but for me it doesn’t.  Superman always has to be about the people first and foremost.

All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder: Volume I – A Graphic Novel Review

This book is absolutely insane, and I loved it!

What we have here is a Batman story free of any previous or current continuity.  Writer Frank Miller is taking Batman and starting his story from scratch.  (Or is he?  More on that later.)

The Batman in this storyline is testosterone fueled, immature, and more than a little nutty.  Miller takes him so over the top that I really and truly hope the writer is poking fun at his previous incarnations of the characters and his previous, ultraviolent works such as Sin City and 300.  The fact that both Batman and most other characters in the book refer to him as “the g-d-n Batman” can only lead me to believe Miller didn’t want us taking this too seriously.

However, Miller is also proving a point.  We’d always heard that Batman needed a Robin to take the edge off the man-to bring him back to humanity.  However, as a Batman fan of over twenty-five years, I’d never really seen an incarnation of the character that had him in DIRE need of a humanizing sidekick.  That is, until now.  Miller’s All-Star Batman is a whack-job, and it’s only through his dealings with Dick Grayson that he slowly begins to realize he’s turned into a monster.  Despite all the sex and violence in the book, Miller actually does a wonderful job evolving Batman’s character-there is real character development taking place that is rarely seen in the comic book medium.

And because this is an all-star title, the artist must be as equally as big a star-enter Jim Lee.  Jim Lee has always been a mesmerizing artist, but he truly outdoes himself with All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder.  His figures look amazing-as always-but the settings are what really blew me away.  His attention to detail is nearly genius-level, and I found myself studying every building in the skyline, every poster on the wall, every tread on a tire.  He is absolutely astonishing.

So while I’m glad this book isn’t the definitive and mainstream interpretation of the character, I am so glad we have this Batman as well.  I couldn’t put the book down.  It was ludicrously fun and breathtaking to look at and had me addicted within the first few minutes of reading it.

Now, if you’ll allow me a slight digression: Does anyone else think this is a prequel of sorts to The Dark Knight Returns?  As I started reading it, I noticed some thematic links between All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder and The Dark Knight Returns, as well as The Dark Knight Strikes Again.  This is nothing unusual with writers, many of them tend to have certain passions that they return to (consciously or not) in their work. 

However, as I continued reading, things began to seem like more than just coincidence.  For example, in the huge spread from Episode 4, doesn’t that look like the Dark Knight Returns Batmobile being built?  Also, we clearly see the cover to The Dark Knight Returns collected edition as a poster on Barbara Gordon’s wall in Episode 6.  The Wonder Woman design in Episode 5 is very similar to the Wonder Woman in The Dark Knight Strikes Again, as is her basic personality and attraction to Superman.  I would also argue that Superman, Plastic Man, Green Lantern, and Jim Gordon all seem tonally the same as they are in The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again

But, the real cinchers for me occurred first in Episode 8 where the Joker’s henchwoman was the same lady with the swastikas covering her nipples (wow, there’s a sentence I never thought I’d construct) as from The Dark Knight Returns: Book Three.  

And then, the big one-the HUGE one-happened in Episode 9 where Batman tells Green Lantern, “Of course we’re criminals.  We’ve always been criminals.  We have to be criminals.”  Now compare that to Superman’s internal dialogue from The Dark Knight Returns: Book Three, which was written roughly twenty years earlier: “When the noise started from the parents’ groups and the subcommittee called us in for questioning – – you were the one who laughed … that scary laugh of yours … ‘Sure we’re criminals,’ you said.  ‘We’ve always been criminals.  We have to be criminals.'”

In my estimation, it seems Frank Miller is using All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder to build upon his mythos originated in The Dark Knight Returns, and I think that’s incredibly entertaining.

Of course, if I’m right, knowing what we know about the end of The Dark Knight Strikes Again certainly makes his developing relationship with Dick Grayson seem bittersweet.

The Batman Befuddlement

I need to say this from the outset:  I’ve been a huge Batman fan since the age of three.  In 1980, my mom brought out my Batman birthday cake and I’ve been a bat-fan ever since.  Nothing will ever change that.

 

However, even I must admit, when looking at Batman from a motivational standpoint, some inherent problems arise.

 

The following is strictly meant for fun.  I am a firm believer in the suspension of disbelief when it comes to entertainment, and I’ll take my Batman any way I can get him.  Nevertheless, it’s always stimulating to dissect the icons of the comic book world, and Batman is certainly laden with controversy.

 

The whole idea of what “motivates” a super hero, or any character for that matter, can be a tricky one.  Superman is motivated simply because he was taught to do the right thing.  Spider-Man’s motivation comes from a healthy mixture of guilt and the lesson “with great power comes great responsibility.”  Batman’s motivation, though, is far more complicated.

 

As a child, Bruce Wayne’s parents were gunned down before his eyes.  For the average child, this would be a terrible occurrence, but the impact of the event likely would have lessened over time if the child required posttraumatic care.  Certainly, depending on several variables, such a child would go on to live an adult life of relative normalcy.  Lifelong counseling would perhaps be necessary, perhaps not.

 

In Bruce Wayne’s case, he inherited more money than most of us can imagine.  He probably would have had all of his father’s medical friends checking up on him emotionally and psychologically.  He probably would have been sent to the best schools in the world and, in time, the pain of his parents’ murder would have faded just a little.  Perhaps his sense of injustice would have driven him to become a lawyer, or a police officer, or a missionary.  What happened in Bruce Wayne’s case is instead disturbing.

 

At some point during his childhood, relatively soon after he lost his parents, Bruce Wayne embarked upon a quest to learn from all of the greatest minds and fighters the world had to offer.  Some versions of the Batman mythos have him doing this because he already knew he wanted to combat crime on a personal level, some have him doing it simply to deal with his pain.  When he returned, he found his city corrupt.  And so, when deciding how to combat the hell his city had become, a bat inspired him to become a vigilante and do one of two things, depending on your outlook: take revenge on the criminal element that resulted in his parent’s death, or make sure no one else lost loved ones to crime as he did.

 

In literature—and I’ve sincerely considered comic books literature for twenty-eight years—such character motivation is dramatic, potent, charismatic, and wildly engaging.

 

I think it’s necessary to look at this from another angle.  Bruce Wayne has no real adult friends.  Alfred is more of a care provider, so he doesn’t count.  He may hang out with the JLA and Outsiders, but he has files on how to take them all down, and they know it, so how true of friends are they?  Jim Gordon is Batman’s ally, but not Bruce Wayne’s friend.  Tim Drake and Dick Grayson are more like his little brothers or soldiers than friends.

 

My point is, Bruce Wayne seems to be in a state of arrested development.  Sure, he may very well be one of the world’s greatest thinkers and martial artists, but he’s devoted his entire life to a moment from his childhood.  Yes, admittedly a terrible, significant moment, but a day from his childhood nonetheless.

 

If I’m Superman or Green Lantern (pick any GL you want), and I look over at a dude dressed as a bat who can’t get over the death of his parents from over twenty-five years ago, I’m asking some serious questions.  They know he’s Bruce Wayne, according to current continuity.  They have to wonder, if crime is so terrible in Gotham City, why doesn’t Bruce use his millions to better equip the GCPD.  Why doesn’t he open rehabilitation centers and after school programs?  Why doesn’t he run for office and make changes happen internally?  Bruce Wayne, with his fame and fortune, could very well combat all the crime he hates in a variety of ways, all of which would have greater impact than what he does on a street level.

 

This can only lead me to believe that Bruce’s guilt or his selfishness won’t allow him to move beyond that night from his childhood.  He must deal with crime on a face-to-face basis, though his fortune and social standing would surely accomplish much more.  For that to happen, consequently, he would have to act the adult.  He would have to interact, as a genuine adult, as Bruce Wayne with real people his own age.  No masks.  No costumes.

 

The only “friends” he has are taken on when they’re very young and given the mantle of Robin, which leads me to once again determine Bruce is in a state of arrested development.  His adult friends wear masks themselves, or he refuses to remove his own mask, or Batman persona, before them.  At what point does Bruce Wayne become a genuine human being capable of healing?

 

The age-old question with Batman is, which is the real identity—Bruce Wayne or Batman?  Either answer is a disturbing one when looked upon realistically.

 

But, comic books are not the real world—for better or for worse—and Batman will forever be one of my favorites.  Looked at from a strictly imaginative perspective, he is everything the human mind and body could hope to accomplish.  When I was little, I didn’t want to be Superman because I knew it was impossible.  But, as a child, I thought if I exercised enough and studied enough, I could actually become Batman.

 

As someone suspending his suspension of disbelief and looking at Bruce Wayne from a realistic, psychoanalytical perspective, Batman seemingly refuses to grow up.