Friday, December 5, 2014

Review of All Star Batman

Originally published on Comic Vine

The term fan fiction has a negative connotation.

It brings to mind lonely nerds conjuring up Mary Sues and fawning over some spandex-wearing vigilante. However it is important to realize that the works of people like Frank Miller and Grant Morrison are not fundamentally any different from fan fiction. They are, in most cases, fans, and they are writing fiction using beloved and established characters. The only difference is that they make money for it and people actually read their stuff.

The fact that the work of professional comic artists and writers is essentially no different from fan fiction really became clear to me after I read "All Star Batman." The story reads like it was written by an antisocial fifteen year-old. This isn't the Frank Miller of The Dark Knight Returns, a work that, while also an obvious love letter to Batman, at least offered a more serious and complex take on the caped crusader. No, this is Frank Miller in full-on fangirl mode.

"All Star" Batman enjoys hospitalizing street thugs, and gets off on shaming other superheroes, relishing his own superiority. We see Green Lantern as a bumbling fool and Wonder Woman as a bloodthirsty misandrist. We see Black Canary brutalizing random bar patrons (for the sin of noticing her provocative outfit) and Batman lighting thugs on fire. Gone is the moral high ground, the measured, brooding precision of the more traditional Dark Knight. Frank Miller fearlessly reinvents Batman, though I can't say I like the result.

What there is of a plot is almost pointless. The only interesting point is the relationship between Batman and Dick Grayson, the boy he kidnaps and molds in his own image. They have some good exchanges, and seeing the boy develop into Robin was the only part of the story that had some real gravity.

The rest felt like satire. Whereas All Star Superman took the essence of Superman and had fun with the possibilities, All Star Batman feels like it is parodying its subject - a sort of tongue-in-cheek experiment. The problem is, this only works if you are already very familiar with Batman, which defeats the point of the "All Star" series. These comics are supposed to be for less familiar readers looking for a work that gets at the heart of the character. All Star Batman only gets at the heart of Frank Miller.

I give it two stars almost solely for Jim Lee's rich artwork which is alone almost worth the price (For a decent Batman book with art by Jim Lee, try Hush).