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More than two years have passed DC Comics first announced that Geoff Johns and Gary Frank were working on an “Earth One” graphic novel starring Batman, one that Johns said would allow the duo to “break the restraints of any continuity and focus on two things: character and story.”
A lot has happened in that time; DC Comics went and did a whole line-wide reboot, tossing out histories of various characters and starting from scratch, allowing “makers” to “break the restraints of continuity” on all of DC’s characters. Does that negate the need for an Earth One graphic novel line, then? The most base answer would be no–the first Superman:Earth One graphic seemed to do pretty well for DC, sales-wise. Plus Batman’s always been a popular enough character to warrant multiple books, out-of-continuity digital stories and countless Elseworlds tales back when DC was regularly publishing them. If the market can support Batman Incorporated, Batman & Robin and even Batman: Death by Design, why not Batman: Earth One? Besides, he has a new movie coming out later this month.
So putting aside the question of whether we need another Batman graphic novel, much less another take on the origin story, how does this one stack up? Tom gave his review on Thursday, and here are a few more opinions from around the web for your consideration:
Chris Arrant, iFanboy: “Who is Batman? It depends on who you ask. But between all the iterations from comics, television, movies and back in comics, there remains some timeless key moments that build itself up to become the modern identity of Batman. His origin has been told dozens of times (and will no doubt be told dozens more), but this week’s release of the original graphic novel Batman: Earth One hones in on the spirit of Batman like few others. While it doesn’t stick completely with the ‘original’ stories of Bruce Wayne’s metamorphosis into a black-clad street adventurer, that’s a good thing.”
Doug Zawisza, Comic Book Resources: “Johns’ new take on Bruce Wayne is less iconic. Bruce is not exceptionally skilled at social graces and in this book. Batman is more the mask than Bruce, allowing Johns to put Batman into situations that teach the crimefighter some valuable lessons in fighting and preparation. Some of those scenes are almost comical, but others are incredibly intense — especially considering no one is guaranteed to survive a story self-contained in an original graphic novel.”
Don MacPherson, Eye on Comics: “Gary Frank was an excellent choice for this project, as he brings a gritty intensity to his characters with his realistic, highly detailed style. I was reminded often of the crisp, focused edge of Steve (Preacher, Punisher) Dillon’s artwork here, as well as Brian (Batman: The Killing Joke) Bolland’s (whose work I’m sure was a major influence on Frank as he developed his craft). He conveys the youthfulness of Bruce Wayne, just embarking on his adulthood, incredibly well. The emphasis is on his fallibility and brashness. The design for Alfred is a significant divergence from what we’ve seen before of the character, which is fitting, since his characterization and background are quite different as well. The look of the Batman is a convincing one. It looks like a guy in a suit, not some looming, dark avenger of the night. That’s in keeping with Johns’s take on Bruce Wayne being in over his head.”
Brian Hibbs, Savage Critics: “I don’t think Johns had enough control of the longer format — captions of ‘now’ and ‘then’ stop and start throughout the book without any real rhyme or reason, and there are certainly places where a smidge more linearity in presentation would have done wonders. Big splash pages, which have a great deal of impact in a serialized format, come off as vamping here, and there’s a density you want to push for in a big book like this which I think is somewhat wasted. In other words, it reads more like a really long comic book, than a ‘graphic novel,’ but I think it is OK for a creator’s reach to exceed their grasp in cases like this.”
Andrew Asberry, Batman-News.com: “Volume 1 itself is quite rushed. This was a problem shared by another recent original Batman graphic novel called Batman: Death by Design. There are too many ideas in this book for how limited the page count is and the end result is something that is poorly paced and I never found myself empathizing with the characters as a result. What empathy I had for them was derived from the fact that I know who they are in other stories–not this one specifically. If I just look at this one story as if I’ve never known anything about Batman or Gotham or all the supporting characters–which is what I feel I should do as a reviewer– then this is NOT a very interesting story on its own merits.”
David Pepose, Newsarama: “Ambition is never a crime in the comics industry, and to be honest, I wish more books failed because they were too ambitious rather than the other way around. Batman: Earth One is one of those books. There’s plenty of material to work with, and there’s a ton of setup for future storylines. But what this book doesn’t do is ultimately too damaging to ignore: for all its enthusiastic world-building, it fails to set up an exciting alternative in characterization to either the current Batman books or the epic Batman movies.”