All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder #2 Review

Reviewer: Iain Burnside
Story Title: Episode Two

Written by: Frank Miller
Penciled by: Jim Lee
Inked by: Scott Williams
Colored by: Alex Sinclair
Lettered by: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Bob Schreck
Publisher: DC

DC launched the All-Star line with a straightforward claim of getting the best creators to work on the best characters and let them get on with it, freed from the straightjacket of continuity that could hamper their work on any of the regular books. They kicked it off with their biggest character (Batman), the man that arguably wrote the greatest Batman stories ever (Frank Miller), and arguably the single most popular comic book artist in the world today, Jim Lee. This meant hype. Lots of hype. Because it was big. Big with the hype, which made it big. On hype.

Sorry, I’m beginning to lapse into Miller’s dialogue style already. Suffice it to say that the first issue was not well-received by the majority of fans that bought it. Since there were over 260,000 of them, I doubt that DC was particularly bothered by the criticism. Hell, that’s more than COUNTDOWN TO INFINITE CRISIS or GREEN LANTERN #1 managed. Besides, it couldn’t have been all that bad… right? Tim Byrne gave it a fair review and makes the very good point that most of those 260,000 were going to by it regardless of what anybody thought of it. But will the second issue start to add substance to the style or continue its merry way down the slippery slopes of suck?

Let’s find out…

I haven’t actually read the book yet, by the way. I thought I would just review it as I went along, making my own merry way through some lovely chilled beers. Beers that have been chilled. Chilled until they are lovely. Lovely with the beer. The chilled beer. Lovely.

Stop it!

Okay, um, let’s go…

Page 1 – ‘Twas a dark and stormy night on the outskirts of Gotham City and Batman is hurtling the Batmobile along the streets having just kidnapped a youngster. While he’s thinking about having just kidnapped a youngster and speeding around the streets, he starts thinking about how strong – sorry, damn strong – the youngster is and some Edgar Allen Poe story. This does not bode well for poor little Dick.

Page 2 – Damn strong. Only now we get to see inside the car, where Batman has a hand over Dick’s mouth. His twelve year-old, brave boy, damn strong mouth, I suppose. This is getting a little creepy, particularly the bit about the kid having no chance of escape…

Page 3 – Now we cut back to Alfred and Vicki Vale, who were in a car crash last time we saw them. Alfred attends to her wounds as he is a combat physician. We know this to be true, for he tells her that bleeding all over yourself is A Bad Thing. Well, you learn something new every day. Alfred is also ripped. Plus, I can’t stop hearing Michael Caine’s voice in my head when I read his lines. Poor ol’ Michael Gough…

Page 4 – Vicki has a flashback to when the kid’s parents were shot at the circus last issue. Apparently it was brutal. Very brutal. Brutally brutal. With the brutalness of being so brutally brutal. It’s infectious, writing like this…

Page 5 – It’s still brutal!

Page 6 – She faints, allowing us to get a clearer glimpse of her ample, scantily-clad bosom along the way. I don’t know if it is a brutal bosom, she’s not around to tell us. She’s meant to be a journalist, you know. I guess the Oxford English Dictionary Union went on strike again, limiting her vocabulary to the few scabs brave enough to cross the picket lines. Those brutal, brutal, brutally brutal scabs. Anyway, I think we may have stopped recapping the previous issue now…

Page 7 – No, not really. Batman’s still on his little countryside drive, trying to drug Dick – the ‘poor little bastard’ as he calls him – to get him nice and relaxed. That’s… um… thoughtful? Is he going to start showing him porn? Can we get the Michael Jackson jokes out now?

Page 8 – The drowsy Dick finally says something about Batman’s put-on scary voice – a ‘lame ass Clint Eastwood impersonation’ – and turns Batman into the petulant little bugger we all know him to be. He should have kidnapped Guy Gardner instead, at least then we could have turned it into The Bat Lebowski or something. We could have had G’nort as Donnie! Ah, such possibilities…

Oooh, Corpse Bride advert. Definitely going to see that.

Page 9 – Dick continues his descent into surliness, but Batman is one step beyond him. We’re talking Undertaker levels of grumpy here, insisting that he is going to be Dick’s best friend and worst enemy, because he’s Vince McMahon, dammit!!! Or Batman, whatever.

Page 10 – He said it! Batman said the word “cool”! Not just that, but he said it as a complete sentence! The one word! “Cool”! Tune in next week, when he’ll be getting high scores on Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3! That’s the best skating game out there, by the way. Keep your T.H.U.G. crap and your open-ended level nonsense to yourself. Though the Tokyo level is a bitch.

Ugh, Day of Reckoning 2 advert. Cena looks like he’s about to do some serious filing. How scary.

Page 11 – Batman is taking great pleasure in his driving abilities. Maybe he should get a copy of Burnout 3 instead. Man, I loved that game. I hear there’s a new version out now but… ah, you can never go back, can you? BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOST…

Pages 12/13 – We’re almost halfway! We’ve not advanced the story at all! Therefore we can clearly afford to waste space with the patented Jim Lee Double-Page Splash to carry on this bloody car non-chase! Oh yeah, the police are chasing them now. Forgot to mention that part. The police can chase you in Burnout too. I wish I could stop writing about video games, but writing about Batman telling Dick he’s going to show him his nuts is just too easy.

Pages 14/15 – And more of the same, only the car is taking flight now or something. Batman is busy laughing like Crispin Glover in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. I’ve suddenly realized I watch a lot of shit. It’s dawning on me that I may well be reading a lot of it too…

Pages 16/17 – The car is still flying. Batman is still getting his jollies. Dick is still petrified. I’m going to get more beer.

Page 18 – Loop-the-loop, Batmobile style! Wheeeeeeeee! Oh c’mon, you just know that Batman is doing the “Homer in the Land of Chocolate” dance right now. Except he’s not, he’s smacking Dick about the head for daring to cry about his parents having just been murdered. C’mon, dude! Be cool! It was brutal!

Page 19 – This must be meant to serve as the emotional hook page of the book, since it has 12 whole panels and all. And yes, indeed, Batman is beginning to have second thoughts about what he is doing to this kid and whether it is worthwhile. Then we have an unseen flashback through a very intense looking blank eye of his about how he cannot tolerate grief because of when he was grieving or something. It’s all a bit woolly, really. But apparently there is a mission and this is all that matters. There is a goth club in Edinburgh called The Mission, perhaps he’s going there? I wouldn’t, if I were you. Then again, if I were you then I wouldn’t have a grand plan that revolved around getting a twelve year-old kid to fight alongside me. And he’s meant to be a genius? Is this like when Triple H had a Diabolical Scheme that consisted of getting a retard to do a run-in for him? Christ, Joel Schumacher at least tried to get some kind of story into those movies…

Page 20 – Whoa! 16 panels! Maybe we’ll get the added benefit of non-heterosexually-challenged dialogue undertones too… Well, yes, I think we did! But they’re still in the car… plane… whatever it is… Now we get to learn that Gotham City cops are bad. I half expect Batman to burst into song… “Gotham City cops, Gotham City cops, Gotham City cops… they ain’t too smart…”. Trust me, there’s one Strokes fan out there reading this and smiling about now.

ALL-STAR MOTHERFUCKING SUPERMAN. Sorry, there was just a little advert for it there and I got excited. Excited about the chance to get a good All-Star story. Excitedly excited with excitement to incite and excite the excited.

Page 21 – Another 16 panels! Jackpot! Man, I bet you the Watchmen are shitting themselves now… Anyway, Dick agrees to join in with Batman’s mission. He also looks remarkably awake… and sexy… for someone that was drugged, is remarkably calm and steady… and sexy… for someone that just saw his parents shot (brutally), and remarkably sexy. To certain people, I mean.

Page 22 – Oh. It’s just a To Be Continued page. That’s… wait, what the hell? They spent an entire issue on one car trip just to get Dick to agree to joining Batman, practically straight away, with no idea what Batman wants to do, no proof that he is telling the truth about the cops, no need for Vicki and Alfred to even be there whatsoever, no genuine development in either characterization or story progression, and no rational explanation for why they couldn’t have just tacked this onto the end of issue #1 and had done with it?

That’s it, I’m dropping this book. The artwork is very well done but, hell, it’s led by Jim Lee. It’s like Michael Bay movies having very good special effects and has the same “sure, whatever” effect, particularly since this story is as lackluster as one not found within the confines of a Michael Bay movie. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, so it’s nothing that should lead you to go and buy this book unless you have a very good excuse. Never mind the obvious gay/pedophilic/surly jokes that are so easy to make from this thing, it’s just a very dull and plodding story told very badly and filled with irritating dialogue that rings as emotionally hollow as any inanimate object you care to name. Write it off as noir if you choose to be pretentious enough, but I’ll just write it off completely. Save your money and buy the trades of Miller’s previous Batman work instead. If you already have them then just throw your money into the garbage and have done, it’ll give you just as much pleasure as this book will.