Saturday, May 17, 2003

All Star Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder #4 Review

Every so often, something will come along like the "Batcave" scene in All Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder #4, and you'll say, "Wow, THAT was a pretty cool idea." While I would have much preferred it be an artist that I enjoy more than Jim Lee who handles the Batcave scene, it was still quite amazing.

I do spoilers in my reviews, but I wonder whether I should spoil the "Batcave" scene. I don't think I will, but let me say that it is clever like how Fantastic Four #252 and Fantastic Four #352 were clever (and how weird is it that those two issues were exactly a hundred issues apart?). Just a willingness to go "out of the box" for an idea, whether it pays off or not, and I was quite impressed by the effort.

Still, it is ultimately one scene, so the question has to be, "Is the rest of the issue good?"

And I think it falls just short of being recommended, although I think I enjoyed this issue most out of the first four issues. The only thing holding me back is that it IS a bit shy on plot. But with character banter as good as in this issue, I do not need a plot to enjoy the book - I DO, though, think I need a plot to actually recommend this to other people.

The key to the book, as it has been throughout the series, is the interrelation between Dick and Batman, and that's why the two best issues were the two issues that, well, had a lot of interrelation between Dick and Batman.

The way both of them put on false faces to each other is brilliant, with their thoughts almost always not matching their actions, as Batman feels he has to maintain the "Clint Eastwood" facade, while Dick also has to maintain the "wiseass kid" facade, as both of them are afraid of what happens when they let someone see through their respective facades.

The way they go back and forth between a page of Dick's thought captions and a page of Batman's thought captions is just excellent writing. It takes an idea that Loeb had for Superman/Batman, but actually makes it WORK.

I also enjoyed that Miller reveals that Batman specifically did NOT kill Robin's parents. The other good thing is that Batman did not WANT to have Robin at this age. He wanted Robin as a partner, but he expected to acquire Robin when he was a young man, not a child. This explains a lot of Batman's unease at their debates - he was not prepared to have to deal with a kid. It throws him off his game, and one thing we learn in this issue is that Batman does NOT like getting thrown off his game.

Other highlights to the issue include Batman expecting Dick to eat rats, because that's what HE did as a kid (apparently, when he was a child, Bruce would "go caveman" in the caves and disappear down their for long stretches of time.

Batman learns that Vicki Vale is near death, so, to get a doctor to Gotham in time to save her, he calls in a trump card, and you know that Batman doesn't want to play this card unless he HAD to, as it involves ordering Superman around. There's a perfectly beautiful bit of narration here where Batman lays out why he's better than Superman, and it basically involves the idea that, since he can't out-punch people, he better damn well be able to out-THINK them.

There is a little progression on Batman finding out who killed Robin's parents (which will lead to a nice scene next issue, apparently, as Robin decides how to achieve his revenge on his parent's killers), but only about a page.

The comic is really about three things:

1. The Batcave scene

2. Batman/Robin going back and forth

3. Batman picking on Superman.

Those three things were enough for me to enjoy the comic, and I think a lot of you would, too, but there are also some folks who want a bit more plot, and I understand that impulse. The Batcave scene, while bold, basically assured no plot for the issue.

Jim Lee's work actually looked GOOD at times, but for the most part, he didn't get in Miller's way, and that's all I require from Lee on this title - don't actively HURT Miller's story - it's a fun one.

So not recommended, but that's a VERY close call.

Read the Review


Blogger kalel666 said...

I liked the issue, but I had a couple problems with it. One, I can't see Superman just bending over for Batman like that. Presumably, the All Star Batman and Superman exist in the same universe. Morrison has portrayed Superman so far as more than just a muscle in a suit. All Star Superman seems more than all brawn to me, and I think he would be a little more sanguine about Batman ordering him around, secret identity or no.

Second, that whole scene at the end with Alfred just felt wrong. Grabbing Alfred byt he lapels and pushing him around? I don't see it.

5/18/2006 05:07:00 PM  
Anonymous jer said...

"Presumably, the All Star Batman and Superman exist in the same universe."

Bad assumption. As far as I remember, Didio pretty much said that each of the "All-Star" books was standalone - each creator with his own take on the character unconstrained by any continuity other than internal story continuity.

The All-Star line isn't like the Marvel Ultimate line - its less continuity driven and more creator driven.

5/18/2006 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Oh, but if they WERE a shared universe, then kalel666 would be right on the money - the Superman scene wouldn't work very well.

In the Frank Miller Batman-verse, though, the scene is hilarious, I think.

As for Alfred, that scene worked for me because I think it is just an example of Alfred cutting through Batman's act, and Batman knowing it. Alfred knows Batman is not ACTUALLY going to hit him and won't ACTUALLY force him to do anything Alfred doesn't want to do, and it infuriates Batman that Alred knows this about him.

5/18/2006 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

You think of the rat thing as a highlight. Interesting.

5/18/2006 07:55:00 PM  
Blogger kalel666 said...

Ahhh, I hadn't heard that the All Star line wasn't a shared continuity. I can dig that scene, then. What is it with Frank Miller always making Superman his bitch? First Dark Knight Returns, now this.

Also, I can see what Brian is saying about the relationship between Alfred and Batman, but it still bugs me. I can't grok wanting to be seen as a badass so much that you would shit all over the man who raised you.

5/18/2006 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger Sean Whitmore said...

"I also enjoyed that Miller reveals that Batman specifically did NOT kill Robin's parents."

Was there speculation to that effect? Because if there was, I missed it. It's about the one crime I haven't seen Dirty Batman accused of. :)

5/19/2006 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Batmanisgrim said...

I liked this issue as well. I hope people stuck around long enough to get this one because there were so much hate piled on this book at least in the small world of message boards.

As for Superman, we are listening to Batman's thoughts about Superman so I am not sure Superman knew the full extent of Batman's mindset toward him.

I think Superman does what Batman wants because an innocent life is at stake and that's the priority.

The Batcave pullout is just plain cool. I can't imagine the haters of this book not liking that. It didn't cost extra.

I don't think the universes of All Star Batman and Robin and All Star Superman are shared universes.

The idea that Batman was responsible for the death of Dick Grayson's parents is only something I read online and its an insane thought. It was established that the murder of Grayson's parents forced Batman to "recruit" him earlier then he wanted, which was also stressed again in the latest issue.

The Alfred scene shows that Batman can't push him around. It also shows the fact that Batman is not the only person who will raise Dick Grayson. Batman is preparing Dick Grayson for war and Alfred is preparing him for life.

5/20/2006 05:45:00 PM  
Anonymous jim treacher said...

All Star Superman is "What If Byrne Never Took Over?" All Star Batman is "What If Miller Never Took His Medication?"

5/20/2006 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

The Batcave pullout is just plain cool. I can't imagine the haters of this book not liking that. It didn't cost extra."

Well, it also means that we got less pages of story.

5/21/2006 04:04:00 AM  
Blogger Grant said...

I think the lack of plot or the fact the series is so slowly paced (especially considering the erratic publishing schedule) is what's keeping me from loving this book. I do like the point you made about Batman and Robin putting on the facades in front of each other. It's Miller taking the piss out of the macho posturing we typically get from Batman.

Not crazy about Superman and the JLA coming in so soon. I kind of wanted to see more of the Batman cast in this book.

5/21/2006 06:34:00 PM  
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