Batman: Earth One comes to you from the acclaimed and reunited creative team of #1 New York Times bestselling author Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank. Together, these two talents will present a new vision of the Batman mythology – not as a caped crusader, but as a lonely young man lashing out at the city that robbed him of his family. In this book, Johns and Frank explore the story you think you know, but with new twists on the well-known origin, new interpretations of classic characters and a gritty, contemporary setting as the narrative’s backdrop.
The frist thing that stands out in ‘Batman: Earth One’ is Gary Frank’s outstanding artwork. He has created a Gotham City every bit as dirty and gritty as Frank Miller’s Year One. Frank’s Gotham is a more corrupt and dangerous place for Bruce Wayne than we have seen in the past.
Gotham has always been one of the Batman’s greatest foes and allies, and in this re-imagining of this origin, she is every bit the fickle mistress. Geoff Johns does excellent examining Bruce Wayne’s past in this story, the past of both the Wayne’s and the Arkahm’s, which are integral to the man this Bruce Wayne has grown to become.
Much like ‘Superman: Earth One’ this tale is every bit the reluctant hero stepping up to be the man he needs to be and not just who he thinks he is. Bruce Wayne is very angry in this story and his main purpose at the beginning is vengeance. So rather than a Batman who is seeking justice and to protect the innocent, Bruce is very much on a vendetta to find out who really murdered Thomas and Martha Wayne.
In ‘Earth One’, Bruce Wayne is no longer the brilliant strategic mind. He runs purely on vengeance like I mentioned before, without thought of what he will do next. While this is a rather large change the biggest character change has to be Alfred Pennyworth. No longer hailing from a long line of professional servants, Alfred is an old war buddy of Thomas Wayne’s, and the only man Thomas trusts. Alfred comes into the story during the final days of Thomas’ Mayoral campaign to unseat Mayor Cobblepot (you read that right the Penguin is the Mayor of Gotham), which coincidentally is the same night Thomas and Martha are murdered.
The story jumps around in a very Tarantino-esque manner, starting around the middle of the story, jumping to the beginning and then flashbacks throughout. This type of narrative seems to work well for this story, but at times it was a little confusing as to where in time we were, as the “That was Then” and “This is Now” heading were used liberally. One of these flashback highlights is a page of Bruce and Martha walking past the old Arkham Mansion, where Martha tactfully explains a bit to Bruce about the “bag of crazy cats” her family was, and begs him to never go into the house, which is closed off and boarded up. There is always so much about the relationship with Bruce and Thomas, it was a nice change of pace to see Martha and Bruce have some panel time reminding readers just how powerful both his parents actually were.
When you read this book and get to Detective James Gordon at first you will wonder why Johns castrated the character. When he is paired with “Hollywood Detective” Harvey Bullock, you will again wonder where the brave crusader of the police superstar we all know and love went. Of all the tragedy in this story, James Gordon has got to be the most tragic, he is a man that lives in fear to do what is right every day of his life in order to protect the only person he still loves; his daughter Barbara. As Edmund Burke said, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”, this is the absolute best description of the ‘Earth One’ Jim Gordon.
One of the more refreshing aspects to this book, is the exclusion of any of the main Batman Rogues. There is no Joker, Two-Face or Clayface in this story, no the villain (aside from the corrupt Mayor Oswald Cobblepot) is a serial killer known as The Birthday Boy. Let me tell you, Johns went to a really dark place to create this psycho
While this re-imaging of Batman is interesting, I found at times the story was a little disjointed and I know it is most likely just a one-shot graphic novel (please write more of the Earth One books DC… please), I never felt fully immersed into this corner of the Earth One-verse like I did in the Superman story. What I liked most were supporting characters; Alfred, Lucius Fox, Barbara Gordon and the idea of Harvey Dent’s twin sister Jessica Dent. These are all characters that I would like to see fleshed out in subsequent visits to this world.
Verdict: At a $22.99 price point… Borrow
Batman: Earth One
Written by Geoff Johns
Penciles by Gary Frank
Inks by Johathan Sibal
Color By Brad Anderson
Lettered by Rob Leigh