By Geoff Hoppe
May 16, 2007 - 22:34
I read this comic for the writing.
In All Star Batman and Robin #5, the fledgling Justice League has a klatch to decide a response to rookie superhero Batman. Green Lantern and Plastic Man are willing to live and let live. Superman is concerned. Wonder Woman wants to give him the same warm reception a supply-sider with a y-chromosome might receive at Lillith Fair.
The Obligatory Warning: this is a hard PG-13. Wonder Woman has a mouth on her, Batman snaps arms like triscuits, and even the victims are crotch-stomping, Sin City-esque killers with the tenderness of a mother grizzly.
There are loads of layers in All Star Batman and Robin. It’s like Tolstoy for comic book geeks (minus the stifling narrative voice). Wonder Woman’s a feminazi, Plastic Man is bugs bunny, and Batman’s unhinged. Nonetheless, it’s splendidly entertaining. In Frank Miller’s world, there are two Batmans. One is the somber hero of Year One and Dark Knight Returns. The other is the burlesque, tongue-in-cheek brawler of Dark Knight Strikes Again, and now, All-Star Batman. This Batman loves his job, loves inflicting pain, and laughs as he dives into battle. He’s Nietzsche’s ubermensch in tights. He’s a guilty pleasure, a Batman with all the muscles and none of the scruples.
As Frank Miller’s career has progressed, he’s taken more and more liberties with the characters. If you took offense at the (intentionally) comic exaggerations of Dark Knight Strikes Again, you won’t care for this title. However, if you approach this series with the understanding that these characters are caricatures, you’ll be ok. Occasionally, however, the liberties become absurd. Alfred Pennyworth as a boxer? Please. Alfred is his own character, and it’s gratuitously adolescent to give him a chiseled physique and a mean right hook. Some characters are interesting without having to be violent.
Jim Lee is this generation’s greatest comics artist. In a medium where most artists put “style” before skill, Lee makes flawless technique the priority. I’m not going to address Lee’s performance in All-Star Batman, because it’s exceptional. As always. It’s icing on the cake that we get to see Superman and Wonder Woman bickering, or a rack of medieval weapons. Jim Lee could draw thirty-two pages of roof shingles and I’d buy the book.
On the back inside page, there’s already a teasing cover image of Batgirl on issue #6, due out October 2008. Just kidding. Maybe.
Worth the money? Yes. If Jim Lee draws anything (Rosie O’Donnell excluded) it’s worth three dollars.