Reviewed By: Faith McAdams
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Genre: Graphic Novel (Hardcover)
MSRP: $22.99 USA
Release Date: Available Now
Ah, yet another Earth One take on a familiar hero again, that’s what I thought to myself when I received a copy of Batman: Earth One.
I disagreed with Eden Zacarias’ review of Superman: Earth One, a graphic novel that began very promising but ended up being a major disappointment on so many levels that I was instantly put off by the Earth One label. However, leave it to Geoff Johns and Gary Frank to prove that an Earth One re-imagining could be impressive and compelling enough to make you see a familiar hero in an exciting new light. Yes, Batman: Earth One is a graphic novel worthy of the Dark Knight and one you will not want to put down once you open it.
Welcome to a slightly different Gotham City that is still plagued by violence, corruption and a rich history soaked in the blood of its sons and daughters. It is a place that a man named Thomas Wayne calls his home and when you love your home you would do anything to protect it and that he will try to do as a candidate for the position of Mayor. So, on a particularly dark night, a taxicab pulls into the Wayne estate and the man who gets out is a crippled man whose eyes and grizzled appearance that makes it clear that this man has gone through hell many a time. This man is Alfred Pennyworth who has come to work for his old friend, Thomas Wayne during the thick of the election.
However, on the same night, Mister Wayne, his wife and their rather spoiled son, Bruce, head out to the movies, the boy’s life changes forever thanks to a man and his gun. With Martha and Thomas dead, Alfred Pennyworth discovers that they had named him sole guardian to Bruce who is clearly traumatized by the murder of his mother and father right before his eyes. Alfred, a man who clearly does not want to be a parent again, suddenly finds himself the sole custodian of the boy. When asked who he was by said boy, Alfred introduces himself as his butler.
Fast-forward several years later and we find Batman on the rooftop of a building chasing a man the Dark Knight has been hunting. When he attempts to use his familiar grappling gun, it totally fails on him and he even takes a nasty tumble off the roof. Oh yeah, he’s not exactly the highly-trained acrobat we know him to be and its clear by Alfred’s reaction that Bruce isn’t ready to take on Gotham. However, Bruce is convinced that the current Mayor had his parents killed that night and the man he is chasing – one Jacob Weaver – was the cop on the scene that night who conveniently quit the force to work for the Mayor.
It is this determination that makes Bruce Wayne turns to Lucius Fox who works in the Design and Engineering department of the Wayne Medical facility to fix a few of his gadgets such as his grappling gun in exchange for keeping him on a development project that could benefit one Fox’s loved ones. Meanwhile, we meet Jim Gordon who is not Commissioner but rather just a detective who is not thrilled about being partnered with Harvey Bullock, a TV celebrity cop who was the star of a reality show called Hollywood Detectives.
Oh but there’s something different about this Jim Gordon who still has the love of his daughter, Barbara, but not his wife who is deceased. This Jim Gordon isn’t the crusader for justice we know him to be either as he shows us while on patrol with Bullock who is eager to make a bust. In fact, he even apologizes to a local hood named Ax when Bullock tries to arrest him for beating up on another person right in front of them. It’s clear that Gordon has been threatened by Gotham’s underworld and lacks the drive that Bullock possesses. He doesn’t even take an interest in the savage killing of young girls by a serial killer who is being called The Birthday Boy.
In the meantime, Bruce Wayne attends a party celebrating the Wayne and Arkham contribution to Gotham as he shows his face out in public before a crowd that includes the Mayor who just so happens to be a very familiar face and a most obvious suspect to Bruce’s allegations that the Mayor had his parents killed. It is during the party that Bruce, as Batman, tries to grab Jacob Weaver only to crash his own party and make Batman public. He nearly escapes an encounter with the police and does what we never thought Batman would do … punch out Jim Gordon!
There’s another first for Batman fans as Bruce and Alfred has an encounter that will leave you with your jaw dropped open while Gordon is punished by having his daughter, Barbara, kidnapped and taken to the Birthday Boy. It is here that the Jim Gordon we know finally surfaces as he tries to find his daughter and Batman follows a lead that will take him to a place that is connected to his past, particularly his mother’s side of the family that will lead him to a surprising finale.
Batman Earth One is filled with interesting moments in Bruce Wayne’s life including a childhood rivalry with Harvey Dent. Also, the relationship between this Bruce and Alfred is even more intense as both men try to come to terms with what led them to form this almost father-son bond between them. This Bruce isn’t an easy person to be around and the fact that Alfred sticks around speaks volumes of their relationship. On top of that, there’s Jim Gordon who is just trying to survive Gotham.
As I mentioned in the beginning, Geoff Johns changed my mind about the Earth One label and that is thanks to his writing that continues to impress and even more so when he is given the chance to start a legend from the beginning as we can see from his work on The New 52 Justice League. Add Gary Frank’s expressive artwork and you have something even more unique. Frank’s vision of Batman is realistic and the fact that we can see Batman’s eyes captures the emotions he is going through. This really is one gorgeous-looking graphic novel.
Batman: Earth One is a refreshing, compelling and absolutely riveting take on the Dark Knight thanks to Geoff John‘s great storytelling, Gary Frank’s impressive artwork and a unique vision that reinvents a classic hero in a way that doesn’t disappoint long-time fans. This Batman/Bruce Wayne has more demons than the hero we know and it is reflected in his eyes. Whatever you do, Batman fans, do not miss this graphic novel.
COMIC REVOLUTION RATING BREAKDOWN
A rough-around-the-edges Alfred discovers that Bruce Wayne has taken up a new cause to discover the murder of his parents when he was a child but he does so as Batman. Although in need of better training, this Batman finds himself uncovering the truth behind Thomas and Martha Wayne’s murder. Meanwhile, a completely defeated Jim Gordon is partnered with a celebrity lawman who inspires
Gary Frank is a master artist who continuously surprises anyone who has seen his work and the same can be said about his work here that is complimented by Brad Anderson’s coloring and Jonathan Sibal’s inking. Batman has eyes in the movies so why not in the comics?
A fascinating and refreshing new vision of the Dark Knight, Batman: Earth One is exactly how you do a reinvention of a Batman story. Both Geoff Johns and Gary Frank offers a Batman tale that makes us realize that there’s room for a fresh take on a classic hero. Now this is what I call an Earth One story and a Batman graphic novel that deserves to be among your library.
Review copy provided by DC Comics