It seems like every time I turn around there is another Batman graphic novel being released. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Of course it could just be because Batman is one of my all time favorite superheroes along with Spider-Man and Green Lantern. However there are times where I do feel a bit overwhelmed by the number of Batman graphic novels out there. It amazes me that each time someone manages to find a way to write these characters yet still keep them interesting. However I would be lying if I didn’t think that with the announcement of Batman Earth One I didn’t feel a tad bit worried that they were starting to lose steam here.
I mean we all know the origin story. If a random stranger were to ask you what is Batman’s origin story you would have no problem reciting it. It’s a story that has been told thousands of times in a variety of ways. To this day Batman Year One is by far the best told version of Batman’s beginnings. So when I hear that Geoff Johns decided to take it upon himself to write another Batman origin graphic novel I scoffed at the notion. Superman Earth One was a really well done take on the beginnings of Superman. Gone was the boy scout who took it upon himself to be humanity’s protector. Instead we were given a Clark Kent who really didn’t want to be Superman until he had no other choice, but to become the Man of Steel. It wasn’t hard to write Superman in a new light because he’s been written in the same fashion for quite awhile. So how is it they could give us a new take on the Batman mythos without utterly failing? That was the question on my mind. And after reading Batman Earth One and then reading it again, I put the book down and I can honestly say I was extremely surprised and incredibly happy with what was done. This is a truly great graphic novel that deserves your attention and is a must for your collection.
Now you’re probably thinking that since I’m such a huge Batman fan that of course I would love it. But like I said I was actually worried this would just be another retelling of an all too familiar story with just prettier art work. But I should have figured that if Geoff Johns could take Aquaman and make him awesome he could give us a unique take on the Batman universe. And he delivered in every way possible. He took these iconic characters and he flipped them on their heads. Gone is the headstrong, idealist that was Jim Gordon. Instead we have a man who has been broken by Gotham City and has all but given up on taking down the crime that plagues the city. Alfred is no longer the strong father figure that loves Bruce so much and would do anything for him. Instead we have a tough pessimist, who sees the world for what it is: a horrible place. No longer is Alfred encouraging Bruce to become Gotham’s hero, instead he tells him how much of an idiot he is for wearing the cowl in the first place. And he’s not above giving Bruce a harsh lesson in humility. Even Harvey Bullock has been rewritten. No longer is he the overweight alcoholic with a huge distrust for Batman. Instead we see a very fit, gung ho detective who will try to bust criminals and solve any case to get a headline.
And then there’s Bruce Wayne himself. Here Bruce Wayne is not driven by a need to save Gotham City from the corrupt. He is not the man willing to give everything to bring Gotham out of darkness. No this Bruce Wayne is driven by one thing only and that is getting revenge for the people responsible for the death of his parents. Everything about Bruce Wayne is different. His personality, his training, his motivation are all rewritten in a unique way. All the changes do a great job of keeping the characters fresh and interesting, considering they’ve been around for quite a while.
Johns does a great job of keeping the story moving at a steady pace. There’s a good balance between all the characters and he never spends too much time on any one character. He even gives us time with Bruce’s parents and we see them in an all new light. There’s a very interesting twist involving his mother’s side of the family that definitely adds a nice layer to the Batman mythos.
Gary Frank had the challenge of drawing this book and I can honestly say he did a fantastic job. We’ve seen these characters thousands of times yet he still manages to give them a fresh look. Alfred looks like an army veteran and is given a gruff exterior. Harvey Bullock is lean and fit. Gordon looks worn and is clearly beaten down by Gotham. They way he draws Batman however is one of my favorite variations on his design. The suit is drawn with a tad more realism. You can actually see his eyes through the mask and the mask feels like it is a mask as suppose to a cowl. It gives Batman a more human feel to the character which makes him feel more vulnerable as a character. For the first time Bruce Wayne and Batman no longer feel like separate personas. Here you feel the Bruce Wayne is behind the cowl and Frank’s artwork makes that stick throughout the books.
I want to tell you more. I want to keep ranting and raving about this book, because it is that good. Johns and Frank have done what few people thought could ever be done: reinvent Batman’s origins. They succeeded on all fronts and I can’t tell you enough how incredible this book is. If you are a Batman fan, or a comic book fan in general this is one graphic novel that requires your attention and a must for your collection.