COMIC REVIEW: Batman Earth One

The Earth One series from DC turns its sights on the Dark Knight. With DC Comics giving us The New 52 last year we were promised a relaunch with many characters looking different to what we had seen in the prior universe. With Batman, to many fans delight, little changed and Scott Snyder has been allowed to shine as brightly as Metropolis with his phenomenal Batman run.
It seemed that the Dark Knight would remain relatively the same as his popularity would suggest it would be stupid to play around with a formula that worked so well. Enter Geoff Johns and Gary Frank (the creative team that created some of the best written and drawn Superman stories of recent memory) to take on this exact challenge for DC’s Earth One series: a collection of graphic novels set in a different universe to the main DCU. If nothing else, DC can be seen as the risk takers of comics at the moment.
They risked it all on The New 52 and it was a success, now they do the same with Batman, changing his origin for this new world. And yet again it is a complete success!

This should not shock many readers. With the credits of Geoff Johns it was likely that this book at very worst would be readable.  The man who single handily resurrected Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Coprs into one of the big money-making franchises, brought back The Flash, and has made Aquaman credible. Taking The Dark Knight and playing with his origin should have made no-one worry. The story is tight and adds much depth to many of these already great characters. In particular Alfred and Gordon. Alfred is re-imagined as no longer the Waynes butler but instead as their security guard. He is the only man who the Waynes trust with looking after Bruce if anything happens to them and he reluctantly takes on this burden. He is Bruce’s mentor, the father figure that we have seen many times before but with a more streetwise edge to him.

Gordon begins as a very different character to what we expect. But the beauty of the graphic novel medium is that we are able to watch him evolve and grow into the man that one day will be the Gordon we all know and love. There is a beautiful symmetry between him and Bullock in this book. Watching it unravel is a joy.

Like with Superman: Earth One, Johns and Frank develop their own villain for this new universe. He is truly menacing and horrific. Johns and Frank cleverly do not show us too much of him, allowing our minds to prey on our worst nightmares. We see Bullock, Gordon and Batman’s expressions and we know that things could not be much worse than what they are looking at. It works so well and builds a grim menace to a character that we have only just met.

Something that I really enjoyed about this book and what DC are doing in general with Batman is building up Gotham City to feel like a real person itself. Scott Synder was the innovator with his seminal Black Mirror, continuing this thread all the way through his Bat books. Further we have seen this spread to other books such as Death By Design and now Earth One. Johns takes his time to explain that in this universe it was the Arkhams that built much of the city with the backing of Wayne money. Further Gotham is once again portrayed as almost an evil entity in itself: it corrupts the best of us, showing our most horrible side. A nightmarish fairy tale world where there is only one shining beacon: Batman. The only man that is incorruptible. A stand out scene is where Alfred and Bruce are arguing. Alfred is trying to convince Bruce that he needs to use tougher methods but Bruce will not give. He is the conscience of this city: its protector.

The greatest thing that Earth One does is take Year One (in my opinion Batman’s best origin tale) and improve many of its aspects. Further credit must go to Gary Frank and his stunning visuals. The world of Gotham truly comes to life through his art with many scenes almost popping out. His Batman looks young and slightly different to the mainstream Batman. He manages to give his own take on the character, fitting him perfectly in with the Earth One Superman that came before him.

Batman Earth One promises to be the start of something special by Johns and Frank.  They do exactly what they said they would and succeed: take Batman’s familiar origin and re-invent it for the modern age. It feels fresh, new and brave whilst at the same time familiar, and comforting: everything that is DC Comics is at the moment.

Rating: 5/5
Reporter: Luke Halsall

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