REVIEW: Batman: Earth One

Batman: Earth One

Written by Geoff Johns
Pencils by Gary Frank
Inks by Jonathan Sibal
Colors by Brad Anderson
Letters by Rob Leigh

$22.99 / Color / 144 Pages

Published by DC Comics

Who is Batman? It depends on who you ask. But between all the iterations from comics, television, movies and back in comics, there remains some timeless key moments that build itself up to become the modern identity of Batman. His origin has been told dozens of times (and will no doubt be told dozens more), but this week’s release of the original graphic novel Batman: Earth One hones in on the spirit of Batman like few others. While it doesn’t stick completely with the “original” stories of Bruce Wayne’s metamorphosis into a black-clad street adventurer, that’s a good thing.

Longtime collaborators Geoff Johns and Gary Frank have used the benefit of context and time to re-examine Bruce Wayne’s childhood years, and his life after the fateful day his parents were gunned down by a random hoodlum, to refashion the world around it — and bring in the tapestry of Gotham City and its characters built over time by every creator who has written for DC. Johns has found some pretty seamless ways to encircle the Penguin into the arc, as well as finding a new life for Alfred Pennyworth as a military veteran roped into a new career as a butler for his fellow veteran and fallen friend Thomas Wayne.

Batman: Earth One bounces back between Bruce’s childhood years before and after his parents murder, contrasting that with first outings as the caped crimefighter the public would come to call Batman. Taking inspiration from everyone from Bill Finger and Bob Kane to Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, the scenes dealing with young Bruce and his parents, and later Alfred, come alive with the wistful optimism that’s stamped out after those seminal gunshots rang out in a theater alley. The mustached James Gordon also makes an appearance, carving out a unique character arc of his own that goes from beaten down milquetoast to righteous man’s man that’ll leave readers begging for more.

Gary Frank really shines in his artwork here, as both storyteller and character actor. This book could be read wordless and still carry the story thanks to the very telling emotions on display through facial expressions and body languages, especially that of Harvey Bullock. If I had to pick one scene to that best exemplifies Frank’s tenacity on this, it would be the knock-down, drag-out fight between the adult Bruce Wayne and Alfred; from body movements to panel composition, and knowing when to draw everything and when to pull back, Frank really delivers and makes me think he’s been in a few fights of his own.

As he tries to fill out his role as Batman, it’s interesting to note that in Batman: Earth One, Bruce Wayne fails more times than he succeeds, but succeeds where it counts. This isn’t the Bruce Wayne that is master of his domain, but a young Batman learning to be the man we all know he will become. Entrenched comic fans shouldn’t avoid this on the basis that “you’ve already read Batman’s origin,” as it provides some inventive new twists and some remarkable easter eggs, not unlike seeing a motion picture adaptation of your favorite hero.

If you’re the type to argue against this book from diverging from the original source material, I’d argue that those comics are still there for you. And this new one, Batman: Earth One, is here for everyone else.

Story: 4.5 / Art: 4 / Overall: 4.5

(Out of 5)

Batman: Earth One is on sale now at comic stores, and will be available in bookstores July 10, 2012.

Comments

  1. lifesend lifesend says:

    Gary Frank draws children as though they have progeria. Hopefully I can get passed that and enjoy the book.

  2. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Conceptually, it all sounds great. Especially the new take on Alfred. Aside from the Gary Frank art, I don’t think it was executed all that well. At 144 pages, it feels rushed and superficial, relying a great deal on winking character reveals and nods to the reader. Was hoping for a lot more depth, especially since we’ve seen so many versions of this story already.

    • flapjaxx flapjaxx says:

      I haven’t read this (yet?), but I was afraid of that. On another site someone asked “Is this a Batman comic by Geoff Johns, or a Geoff Johns comic that happens to feature Batman?” I used to really like Johns several years ago, but I found that he started to get very formulaic, with a lot of reliance on “winking character reveals and nods to the reader” to get his stories by.

    • diebenny diebenny says:

      Ain’t gonna lie, I wish you’d reviewed this Paul. Thanks for stopping in and dropping some truth on us at least.

  3. koryrosh koryrosh says:

    I felt like they were trying to introduce too many characters in this short book. I would have liked to seen more Penguin/Wayne/Arkham, and cut out some of the Dent / Barbara Gordon foreshadowing…

  4. JSAkid JSAkid says:

    I wanna read this as I really enjoyed the fresh look and simplicity of Superman:Earth One, loved Shane Davis’s art on the whole book, they should’ve used him here too if possible but with the staff here giving it a 4.5 outta 5 I’ll probably like it. I’m a huge Elseworlds stories fan so the idea of it feeling like a Year One/Elseworlds hybrid is cool to me.

  5. halik halik says:

    I’m looking forward to checking this out and seeing it expanded in the sequel. Is Gary Frank very slow? I know I’ve had this pre-ordered for a year.

  6. This was good. Could have used a few more flashbacks to Bruce as a kid with Alfred raising and training him. But I assume that will come in the next volume. I liked the new takes on all of the characters and look forward to Vol. 2.

    Question: Do OGN’s count for the pick of the week podcast?

  7. This was a tough one to finish. In the end, it was very aimless and didn’t even give us a coherent look into the Batman mythos, let alone a new or fresh take on it.

  8. Metamorphic Metamorphic says:

    I will have to wait as it sold out at my LCS and is beuing re-ordered.

    Still, given my affection for the creators involved, I’m feeling pretty optimistic.

  9. Nationalhill Nationalhill says:

    I haven’t read this yet but I am looking forward to it.
    Everyone seemed to love Superman Earth 1 but I found it to be very slight. I breezed through that thing in no time flat. I hope this has a little more heft story-wise. The thing that is puzzling to me is that they moved JMS off his monthly books to work on Superman Earth 1 vol 2 but it will be 2 years by the time Vol 2 is published. 2 years for a 130 page book seems a little crazy to me. I thought these would come out on a much more regular and consistent basis.

  10. dennisnahas says:

    Picked this up today but haven’t read it yet. I like Johns and Frank. Has Geoff Johns ever written a Bat title? All I see is a co-writing credit with Brubaker for Batman 606-607 in 2002, and a backup in Gotham Knights in 2004. I don’t think we see the Batman origin that much, at least not as often as the Superman origin is rehashed every couple of years.

    • epedreros epedreros says:

      No, he hasn’t. A few years back DC used to publish Elseworlds, and some of them were great, most of them had Batman as the protagonist and every single one had a variation of his origin somewhere in the narrative. Every single new guy who writes Batman revisits his origin, at least the sequence where his parents get killed.

  11. I greatly enjoyed this book.

  12. I’m new here, but ive been reading comics for well over 30 years. Sorry, but i HATED what Johns did with Batman Earth One. To be honest i havent been thrilled with DC since Flushpoint. What happened to all the other writers at DC? Seems that DC hands everything to Johns and ignores thier other writers.

  13. Heroville Heroville says:

    They lost me at the end; the story wasn’t perfect but until them Johns had given everybody interesting wrinkles and changes to established characterizations. And then all of sudden everyone is shunted into their traditional roles.

    Seriously, Gordon goes from brown haired to white in the space of panel for what? Just so he can look like he’s always been depicted?

  14. epedreros epedreros says:

    How can you give such a glowing review to this Book? I Don’t understand.
    I thought it was very bad (because it is very bad), but you say that it is almost perfect, it makes no sense.

  15. Huysmans Huysmans says:

    Seriously think Geoff Johns should stop writing so much comics. His Flashpoint was absolutely boring, and now this Batman Earth One (that he took 2 years to write !) is the plainest thing ever.

    Let’s recap [SPOILERS HERE]:

    Batman is not-so-good, then he gets a kicking by Alfred, then he somehow beats a really boring “villain” and then Alfred kills the mayor.

    WOW ! How “Interesting”! The twists are overall boring (Alfred and Bullock are interesting changes, but not enough interesting to support a whole story like it is the case here) and the plot is a really basic “the hero learns his job” story.

    Not worth my money. I feel stolen.

  16. Softfoot says:

    This was a fun read of an elseworlds tale. The selling point is Gary Frank’s artwork. Very much worth the price.