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"All Suck Batman and Robin"

by: Protoclown

When I first heard that Frank Miller was doing a new series for DC's new line of books called All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder (with Jim Lee on art duties), I was very excited to see what he would bring us. After all, he's the man responsible for what most people consider the two most important Batman stories ever told (Year One and The Dark Knight Returns). So I knew we'd be in for a real treat.

Who could have known that these pages would be lined with wall-to-wall suck?

Only thing is, I didn't realize what kind of treat we'd be in for. You see, All Star Batman is so unbelievably awful a book, after I read the first issue, I thought there must've been some kind of mistake. I mean, Frank's written some stinkers in his day (see the issue of Spawn he wrote), but he's always done good by Batman. Maybe he was rushed, I thought. Maybe he'd been smoking crack. Maybe the fame from Sin City had gone to his head. Or maybe he got roped into writing a book that he didn't really want to write. There had to be some explanation.

But the next issue shipped. And it was even worse. Not only was each subsequent issue worse than the one before, but it shipped later than the one before. The fourth (and most recent) issue was so late there were rumors going around that Frank Miller had heard all the criticism of the book and was taking great pains to rewrite and improve his script. Well, after reading the fourth issue, I'm here to tell you that those ugly rumors are simply not true.

The thing is, the book IS immensely enjoyable. It's like watching a really fascinating train wreck. I simply cannot tear myself away from reading it, and I've gotta tell you, I eagerly await the next issue as much as any of my favorite books. Perhaps this is all part of some brilliant DC marketing scheme. People are having so much fun laughing at how bad the book is they're willing to keep buying it just to see how much worse the next issue will be.

And now, for those of you who haven't already seen for yourselves, for those of you who still don't believe that Frank Miller could tell such a bad Batman story, I'm going to share those first four issues with you here now. Buckle up, kids! We're going on a little train ride, and I can assure you it doesn't end well.

For anyone not familiar with the All Star imprint, it's a new line of books that's designed to capture the fun of older comics, telling tales in the earlier, more adventurous days of our heroes' careers, without getting tangled up in the convoluted years of continuity of the regular DC universe. The first arc in Frank Miller's series is a retelling of how Bruce Wayne recruited Dick Grayson, the boy who would become Robin.

Our story begins with a young, carefree 12-year old Dick Grayson performing the trapeze act at the circus in front of a crowd of onlookers. You'll know he's twelve because nearly EVERY FUCKING TIME anybody refers to him at all, they have to announce his age as well as his name. As he's flying through the air, he's thinking to himself that he's lucky to have such wonderful parents, because they're always there to catch him. Gee, I wonder if anything horrible is going to happen to them?

Anyone this happy in a Frank Miller story isn't going to stay that way for long.
Unfortunately in this case, that also includes the reader.

Then we cut to newspaper columnist Vicki Vale, who is dictating an article over the phone in her skimpy underwear and enjoying a martini. She's dictating an article about how Metropolis gets a hot "Man of Steel" while Gotham City only gets a "damn flying rodent". She continues to rant about how un-hot Batman is when she gets interrupted by a phone call. It seems that Bruce Wayne wants her to be his date for the evening, and she immediately starts swooning about how hot and rich he is. Oh, the irony!

Funny how the word "gratuitous" just instantly springs to mind.

Unfortunately for Vicki, Bruce's idea of a good time is going to the circus, where they watch Robin nearly fall to his death only to make a last second recovery with a grappling hook (didn't you know all trapeze artists carried one?). It's at this point that Bruce creepily informs Vicki that he's "had his eye" on young Mr. Grayson (how young, you ask? Why exactly 12-years young!) for some time.

Bruce Wayne. Billionaire, playboy, creepy boy watcher.

She wants to know why Bruce has had his eye on him, and he replies that he has an eye for "talent" *wink wink nudge nudge*. Apparently, the idea that Bruce Wayne might be some creepy stalker pedophile doesn't bother her, because she immediately starts swooning again about how she's actually on a DATE with Bruce Wayne (like, omigod!).

As Dick and his parents pose for the audience after their grand finale, his parents are inexplicably shot in the head by some thug in the crowd below.

For a while, young Dick considered changing the name of their "Flying Grayson"
act to the "Bleeding Out, Not Moving Graysons", but it didn't really catch on.

Dick just stands there in shock. Bruce doesn't seem terribly surprised by this at all, however, and somehow manages to dart away from Vicki unnoticed, change into his Batman costume, and throw a batarang at the killer all in the time it takes for him to merely run outside the tent to escape.

I wasn't kidding about that "Dick Grayson, age twelve" shit.

Meanwhile the cops are taking Dick Grayson (twelve years old) away, and Vicki Vale intercepts them to say that the boy is in shock and needs to go to the hospital. She gets into a yelling match with one of the cops, and eventually he ends up slapping the shit out of her in front of a large crowd of people.

The people in the city can rest easy knowing that Gotham's
finest are there to protect them from catty reporters.

Vicki then thinks to herself about how nobody will file a report against the cop, because the cops in Gotham are so corrupt that the person who files the complaint will end up missing. She then tracks down Batman's butler Alfred in the crowd, hops into his Rolls Royce and speeds off after the cops who have taken Dick away.

The cops pull over and drag Dick out of the car, ready to beat the shit out of him presumably so he can't testify against his parents' killer. At that time, Batman shows up, scares the corrupt cops away, and kidnaps Dick, telling him he's been drafted into a war. And that was just the first issue. It gets much worse.

"Please mister, I don't wanna fight in your sex dungeon!"

Batman and Dick are speeding off in the Batmobile, and Dick is kind of upset because he's just been kidnapped by a crazy man in an animal costume. So Batman calms him down by spraying some special gas out of his glove and into Dick's face.

Meanwhile, Vicki Vale is terribly injured after wrecking the Rolls Royce (probably because she was trying to drive and take pictures at the same time), and Alfred is using his field medic training to try to stabilize her. But she's telling him that she needs to save that boy, Dick Grayson, age 12. The last thing she remembers seeing is that insane Batman guy kidnapping the boy.

Just in case you forgot how old Dick Grayson is, Vicki's going to take
a break from bleeding to death to give you a helpful reminder!

Then we cut back to Batman and Robin, sitting in the Batmobile, talking. We're going to see a lot of this, because it takes them the next two goddamned issues to actually make it TO the Batcave, which is apparently somewhere in northern Canada, given the amount of driving they have to do. Batman then tells Dick to sleep tight and calls him his "ward", behind a lecherous grin, which confuses Dick because nobody talks like that anymore.

"Why, no! Of course I'm not some crazy serial killer! Why would you even think that?"

Then we have THE stellar bit of dialogue that has been quoted and mocked all over the internet in the past year. Dick asks Batman just who the hell he thinks he is, and Batman replies by asking if Dick is retarded and saying "I'm the goddamn Batman".

Well, I guess he could have said "I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!"

The cops then catch up to Batman and a boring chase scene ensues.

"My god, we haven't even left the parking lot yet and already you've killed seventeen people!"

Batman then ramps off a hill, lands on a group of cop cars, completely destroying them and quite possibly killing whoever is inside, and then, laughing like a maniac, presses a button and converts the Batmobile into a flying vehicle. For the remainder of the issue they just talk in the flying Batmobile, and Batman bitchslaps Dick at one point for being upset about his dead parents, and then he warns him that all the cops in Gotham are corrupt.

A dozen dead cops and thousands of dollars in
property damage mean nothing to the goddamn Batman.

Most of the third issue doesn't seem to have anything to do with anything, as the first half of it centers on another DC hero, the Black Canary, apparently before she became a superhero but working in a bar called the Black Canary and wearing the costume that she will eventually wear as the Black Canary. Like Batman, she also acts completely insane and unheroic in Frank Miller's vision.

"Despite my hating this costume at the workplace, I'm going to choose
to keep it during my superhero career, because I am fucking insane."

See, apparently part of her job at this bar involves her wearing a skimpy costume, which of course all the guys there love. She has to endure their catcalls all night, as they repeatedly call her things like "pet", "mommie", "birdie", "sweet cheeks", "barbie baby", and my personal favorite, "love chunks". These two rough biker dudes walk in, and they talk about what a hot piece of ass she is right in front of her. Then one of them touches her ass as she turns around to get a glass, and she completely flips out, jumps over the bar and kicks the shit out of him.

"I'm the goddamn Black Canary!"

Oh, but it doesn't end there. At that point, she figures "why stop now?" and proceeds to beat the crap out of every living person in that bar, whether they were calling her names or not. She doesn't stop until everyone in there is broken and unconscious at her feet. Then, the owner of the bar walks in to find her stealing money from everyone's wallets. And remember, this chick has been in the Justice League!

In Frank Miller's world, robbing people is heroic!

He tries to convince her that she's gone completely insane and that she should stay and not rob all these innocent patrons blind, but she doesn't want to hear it. He asks what's gotten into her, and she says "Batman", like that means anything, but then he makes the mistake of calling her "sweet chunks", at which point he is kicked out the front window of his own bar.

Black Canary rolls out on her quest to find Ghost Rider and put a beatdown on his bitch ass.

Then she steals a motorcycle from one of the patrons and rides off, presumably in search of Batman, because she mentioned his name in a complete non-sequitor in the middle of that insane scene. How any of this relates to ANYTHING is still at this point, a mystery, and I suspect it will remain that way long after the series' completion.

Meanwhile, back in the Batmobile, Batman and Dick (12 yrs) are STILL on their way to the Batcave. This time Batman shows off the fact that the car can also turn into a submarine and tries to freak Grayson out by going underwater. Dick isn't impressed and asks what he calls this vehicle. Unfortunately, this exchange reads more like a Peanuts comic strip than a Batman book:

Batman's frown is so hilarious that it almost needs a frown emoticon to go with it.

Then we cut to Metropolis, fifteen hours ago, where we see Clark Kent drinking milk and noticing that Richard Grayson, Age 12, is listed as missing on the milk carton. So he crushes the milk carton in a fit of anger. That'll show that milk carton who's boss! And it'll also create a nasty mildewy kind of smell if you don't wipe it up right away!


But let's think about three important words here. "Fifteen hours ago". That means one of two things. Clark Kent either drank this carton of milk fifteen hours before Dick Grayson was kidnapped by Batman, and thus it is a magical prescient carton of milk, OR it's actually been a long enough ride in the Batmobile for Dick to have been reported missing, for his name to get to the missing persons groups, for them to submit his information to the milk company, for the milk company to print the cartons, distribute the cartons, and then for Clark Kent to go to the grocery store and buy the carton of milk. Let's see, by my rough estimate, that means that Batman and Dick have been on the way to the Batcave for, oh, about FIVE FUCKING WEEKS now.

Then the morning edition of the Daily Planet arrives, and he sees the front page article is about how Batman kidnapped Dick Grayson (12 summers old). He gets so mad reading this that he burns a hole in the paper with his heat vision, which obviously makes him even more mad because then he can't read the article. I don't know about you, but if I had a newspaper that could tell me events that would happen in the future, I sure as hell wouldn't be setting it on fire, I'd be heading down to the bookie to make a few bets.


Nevermind that Clark is a reporter, and actually works FOR the Daily Planet. He'd probably already be well aware of their front page story. I mean, aside from the fact that it hasn't happened yet. But not to worry, because in the next issue this whole business that made Superman mad is apparently forgotten!

The fourth issue begins as Batman and Robin are STILL traveling to the Batcave, and Batman grins maniacally as they head straight for a rock wall, or "some pretty fierce rock", as Dick calls it. He actually spits out quite a long string of dialogue about how they're about to crash and die, when in reality he would probably have just enough time to yell "Holy shi--!!"

Dick Grayson gonna learn he'd best not be mouthin' off to the goddamn Batman.

They go through a holographic wall, and FINALLY, they arrive at the Batcave. Here we are treated to a beautiful 6-page spread of the Batcave drawn by Jim Lee. Unfortunately, this also robs us of six pages of story, and considering the snails pace this decompressed story has taken so far, that's probably not good. It also doesn't exactly make sense that Batman this early in his career would have like 17 different Batmobiles in the cave, but that's about as logical as anything else in this series has been so far.

Seriously, where DOES he get those wonderful toys?

Batman seems really concerned that Dick might not think he's cool enough, so he asks Dick what he thinks about the cave. So when Dick plays it off and acts like he's totally unimpressed, Batman gets pissed off about it.

"My life is so shallow and lonely that I desperately care what some
twelve year old I just kidnapped thinks about my super-neato fort."

Batman then gets a call from Alfred, who is at the hospital, to inform him that Vicki Vale is near death after that car accident. It seems she's barely hanging onto life and the doctors can't do anything to save him. Batman's answer? Call Ekhart, in Paris, because "he can do anything". Alfred reminds him that Paris is more than a few minutes away, at which point Batman tells him to get "that clown in Metropolis" to fetch him and bring him back to Gotham City.

Superman hightails it across the Atlantic, all for the promise of a cookie… and a kiss.

Then Batman has an internal monologue about how he's better than Superman because he's smarter and figured out his secret identity, while Superman is running across the Atlantic to Paris. Remember how Superman was really angry about Batman kidnapping Dick Grayson, twelve years old, at the end of the last issue? Well, apparently Superman doesn't, since he's become Batman's errand boy.

Now, I'm a bit confused here, because in every Batman continuity I'm familiar with, Ekhart (albeit spelled differently) is a detective, not a doctor. Maybe it's another character with the same name, but I'm thinking that this is just further evidence that Batman has completely gone over the edge. Someone is dying? No problem, Batman will call a detective half a world away and he'll patch them right up, no problem!

At this point Batman ditches Dick in the freezing Batcave, by himself, because he "has to go to work". Dick pleads with him not to go, stating that he's tired and hungry and cold. Batman's answer to that is that "food will present itself".

It's at this moment, running across the moonlit ocean hefting an
automobile over his head, that Superman realizes he's a fucking idiot.

Then we see Superman running back across the Atlantic, from Paris, carrying Ekhart, STILL IN HIS CAR. Nevermind that Superman is running instead of flying, because I'm thinking that this is probably a throwback to the early days before he could fly and he could only leap over tall buildings anyway. Nevermind that the speed at which he'd have to be running is probably fast enough to ensure that his passenger would be very dead by the time he arrived. What bothers me is that Superman didn't even bother to take the guy out of the car, he just picks up the whole damn thing and carries it across the ocean. It's pretty obvious that Frank has no love for Superman, as he goes out of his way to portray him like an idiot every time.

Cutting back to the Batcave, we see that Alfred has wrapped Dick in a blanket and left him a tray of food. Batman finds out about this and gets pissed off, yelling at Alfred for ruining his plan. What was his plan, you ask? Well, apparently Batman's intention was to force Dick Grayson, age 12, to forage for his own food in the Batcave to survive. Batman wanted him to eat the rats that can be found in the Batcave.

"Dammit, Alfred! If I grew up eating McDonalds, the least this boy can do is grow up eating rats!"

I'll say that again. Batman wanted Dick Grayson to eat rats. Apparently to "toughen him up". It's revealed that Batman did this when he was a boy, and Alfred points out that Batman did it out of his own free will, because clearly he's completely batshitzania crazy in this book. Alfred doesn't want to see Dick forced to resort to the same kind of thing, so he stands up to Batman. The issue ends with Batman storming off in a huff, upset that Dick has even turned Alfred against him.

And there you have it. It took four issues (and most of a year) to tell enough story that could have easily fit into one single issue. This is without a doubt the worst Batman story I've ever read, though I'm fully aware there are plenty of worse stinkers out there I've not been exposed to. That said, I honestly enjoy this book. If it's all about entertainment in the end, well then, this is one of the most entertaining comics I'm reading right now. It's just entertaining me in a completely different way than what was intended, but hey, if you want a good laugh and you haven't checked out this series, do yourself a favor and pick it up. Cuz this shit is soooo bad it's good.

Email Protoclown about his latest
Tales From the Longbox column!




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