Friday, June 10, 2011

Miller & Lee's "All Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder" (Cadillac)

"I'm the goddamn Batman!" -  What if Batman really were just a megalomaniac billionaire with a giant sized 'killed parents' chip on his shoulder?  And what if he kidnapped a recent 12 year old orphan as an unwilling 'draft' into his vigilante army?  What if Bruce Wayne was just an obnoxious asshole?

This collection has had mixed, even low reviews, but based on the great experience with Morrison's All Star Superman, I just had to check this out.  I'm so very glad I did...

I think this matches Miller's own best with The Dark Knight Returns - in fact, the back cover bills this as 'a darker knight', and is meant to be part of the same 'continuity' (Interesting!).  The Dark Knight Returns is pretty much the Ur-Text of contemporary Batman, and that this comes even into the same neighborhood is simply a statement of how well Miller manipulates and dances with the character from his DNA outward.

After this post, I 'double dog promise' to stop evoking archetypes, but the All Star premise demands that I speak to it.  All Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder has from its premise the idea of exploring the 'core' of Batman without being held back by 'continuity' problems with the character in the month to month stories cranked out by the usual comic book hacks (with all due respect...).  To examine a billionaire vigilante asshole who ropes the young and naive into his 'war' on street level crime is an effort that's surprising in its execution, but also shocking that it hadn't been touched on with this archetype before.  Lee's exceptional art merits equal billing, I think.  In the end, it paints a brand new and evocative portrait of an otherwise tiring archetype, which is exactly the purpose of the exercise.  This and more - it absolutely nails it!

There were small flaws with this effort, to be sure (superficial roles of villain types, etc.).  Still, the net effect is a positively disruptive one.  A hero (for me, my earliest, dearest one), is examined through a glass, darkly... But 1000+ points need to go to Miller and Lee for taking the latitude they were given to its extremes to tell an amazing story that stays true to the root premise while leading you to an outcome 180 degrees from the usual.   This is why 'comics' are truly important cultural properties.  It makes you question the whole idea of super hero veneration, and the place it holds in the pop-cultural imaginary.  Jesus, it's just that good.

Who are the tools giving it poor reviews?  Batman fanboys who don't like to see his dark side explored?  People who don't 'get' satire?  Don't know, don't care.... This is just amazing reading.
Batman schooling a freshly orphaned and kidnapped
Dick Greyson (Robin).

This *needs* to be a film.  When they reboot post-Nolan's effort, it has to be this, this, this...  I have thoughts on the casting, but I'll keep them to myself for now.

"I'm the goddamn Batman!" says a young Socionaut.

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