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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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!
MILK WITH THE FIERY INTENSITY OF A THOUSAND SUNS!"
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
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.
PAPER BECAUSE…HE NEVER LEARN TO READ!"
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
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
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
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
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
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.