12 Jul 2012

Graphic Perception: BATMAN: EARTH ONE

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Gary Frank, Jonathan Sibal & Brad Anderson
DC $22.99

Tom P: Do you need another Batman origin? Do you need another Spider-Man movie? Do you need another slice of pizza? Yeah, okay, I'm greedy and I always want more Batman (or any of the above). The biggest selling point of Batman: Earth One for me was Gary Frank - when he and Geoff Johns collaborate on something its like Loeb and Sale or Morrison and Quitely. Like all the best partnerships, it works.

This is my first visit to Earth One having passed on Straczynski's Superman effort, which while critically shunned was a huge financial success for DC (and I still intend to try it one day just to see if it's as terrible as I heard it was). For this book, with this team involved, it was a day of release purchase. The New 52 didn't reboot Batman at all; it's the same as it ever was and thanks to the work of Snyder and Capullo on Batman, it's great stuff. So this is an entirely new origin for the Dark Knight. The book is wonderfully bound with a textured spine and a mix of matte and gloss - quality American printing at its best (even the new DC logo looks quite slick, so it must be growing in me!). The back cover is adorned with glowing reviews from various high profile folks, but it’s Brad Meltzer who gets the best point across about Frank's detail when it comes to the eyes. No black makeup on this Batman's eyelids!

Frank’s work on Earth One is much like the current Justice League backup feature,  Shazam! i.e. it’s brilliant. Since I first saw his work in the quite awesome Supreme Power, anything he pencils is now marked as ‘Sold!’ as far as I'm concerned. As with Shazam!, his work here is complemented by Jonathan Sibal's crisp inks and Brad Anderson's evocative colours.

I loved this interpretation of Batman as a highly inexperienced, headstrong and sloppy Caped Crusader. He makes a lot of mistakes and goes through a lot of pain to learn from them. This is backed up by a kick ass take on Alfred as a former Royal Marine, a guy knows his stuff and has a few surprises up his sleeves, much like Johns does. The writer subverts and rearranges a lot of the well known myths and established rules of Batman, mixing them with a few nods to various things that I found at times fun and horrifically creepy.

It feels like a quick read but that's my only real complaint and its fair to say a few things stood out to me that could have had a bit more time spent on them. That being said, I can happily recommend you try this if you’re a Batman fan. It's a worthy of your time and released to coincide with the lead-up to The Dark Knight Rises. It's not quite up there with Year One or The Long Halloween/Dark Victory which are, for my money, the definitive takes on Batman’s early years, but Batman: Earth One leaves you with the feeling that Johns and Frank are just getting started and after this strong beginning I would love to return to this world again if the same team are involved. 9/10

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