Our first official Retro Review journeys to the comics of 2005 continue, with the top-selling DC comic of that year that doesn’t really seem like a whole decade ago, but is the comic actually any good?  The answer is…

…complicated.  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review of All-Star Batman And Robin The Boy Wonder #1 awaits!

ASBAR1CoverALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN THE BOY WONDER #1
Writer: Frank Miller
Penciller: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Editor: Bob Schreck
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.00

Previously in All-Star Batman And Robin The Boy Wonder:  Frank Miller entered comics in the mid-1970s, but by the end of that decade was one of the rising stars of comics due to his work on ‘Daredevil’.  By reinventing DD as a tortured ninja, living in the filthy streets of Hell’s Kitchen and fighting armies of undead ninjas, he somehow got a reputation for “realism.”

Jim Lee was nearly his college graduation when Miller’s ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns’ was being published in 1986, causing him to give up on medical school in order to make his fortune as an artist.  It was a successful bid, as his X-Men #1 sold literally millions of copies.  He left Marvel to found Image Comics with his friends, but eventually sold his chunk of image to DC Comics.

Then, in 2005, these two superstars came together to relaunch one of the most popular comic heroes of all time.  We open at the circus, with young Dick Grayson breaking the laws of physics and torturing his metaphors at the same time…

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“Heart fighting it out with my Adam’s apple” is just the tip of the thudding dialogue iceberg here, though, as the next page consists of three panels with seven caption boxes.  Three of the boxes read “They’re always there for me,” while two of the others read “They always catch me.”  We could chalk the whole thing up to young Richard being twelve and over excited, until we reach the staccato madness of the next page and our introduction to Vicki Vale…

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Columnist.  Gadfly.  Lingerie model.  Just wandering about in hooker heels and schmancy lingerie, like you do…  It’s a pretty shameless couple of pages (this one is more tasteful than the next couple in terms of its unabashed appeal to the male gaze), which also establishes our first use of the phrase “goddamn Batman”, which will come to define the series for good or ill.  Vicki complains about Metropolis getting a sexy super-dude while Gotham City only gets a flying rat, but waxes rhapsodic (or as close as this book will ever come to it) over handsome, rich socialite Bruce Wayne.  Speaking of the devil…

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A double-page spread of clothes-changing ensues, ending with Vicki choosing a low-cut, high-slit gown to wear…

…to the circus.  After another iteration of “They’re always there.  They always catch me.”, we catch up to the first page of the story, with Dick Grayson seemingly falling to his inevitable doom.

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I’ll admit, that’s pretty awesome stuff, but it seems like any circus willing to tease the splattering death of a pre-teen might have liability issues, but that’s all part of the suspension of disbelief in a superhero comic for me.  Vicki and Bruce Wayne watch in awe as the Flying Graysons finish their aerial routine and prepare to soak up the cheers of their adoring public…

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In a moment that carries some emotional weight (despite being WAAAY over the top, dramatically), Dick is shocked and horrified to see his parents executed before his very eyes, leading a stone-faced Bruce Wayne to intone: “The boy has entered MY world.  And he’ll NEVER leave it.”  Quick-changing to his Batman guise, he intercepts the shooter, incapacitating him with a powerful snake-venom-enhanced batarang…

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…and leaves him convulsing in the mud outside the big top.  At the same time, Vicki Vale is being manhandled by one of Gotham’s myriad dirty cops, while his brothers in blue take young Master Grayson into custody.  Vick tries to intervene, only to get PUBLICLY BLUDGEONED with a billy club in front of a crowd of onlookers.  She is, however, tough enough to shake it off, even spitting blood angrily as she watches the cops take off with the boy.  Alfred arrives, just in time for her to commandeer Bruce Wayne’s… Rolls Royce?  It’s hard to tell, for all his anatomical excellence, Jim Lee is not the best when it comes to drawing cars.  Case in point?

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In the back of the squad car, the GCPD tries to convince young Richard that his parent’s weren’t murdered, that he’s merely misremembering the situation, but Dick refuses to budge.  The corrupt cops drag him off to Galt’s Gulch, notorious for being far enough away from civilization that no one will ever know what happens there.

Fortunately, Batman keeps his metaphorical bat-feathers numbered for just such an emergency…

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Swarmed by the local fauna, the cowardly cops make a run for it, leaping into their car just in time for Batman to make his move…

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…which consists of MURDERING THEM with by either massive trauma or fire.  Grabbing the terrified kid by the shirt, and dragging him four feet into the air, his hisses in Grayson’s face, “You’ve just been drafted.  Into a war.”  That second part was in case one might think one was being drafted into a marching band or perhaps to work cleanup at the Bat-family barbecue.

There are a lot of theories about this series: That Miller is intentionally working over-the-top as a parody of dumb superhero comics; that this is meant to be a prequel to ‘The Dark Knight Returns’, featuring the origins of that brutal and gritty character; that it’s actually a perfect distillation of superhero tropes into it’s purest form.  None of the excuses the fact that (while it is, admittedly, the best read of ASBAR’s ten issue run) it’s just not a particularly well-executed parody/comic/story.  The time-jump in the first few pages is inexplicable, the devotion of a full eighth of the comic to nearly-nude shots of Vicki Vale causes the rest of the issue to rocket along at a ridiculous pace, while the dialogue is just painful.  All-Star Batman And Robin The Boy Wonder #1 is a pretty little mess, not even worth being hateful towards, but nonetheless leaving the reader confused and disturbed at the end, earning 2 out of 5 stars overall, nearly all of which is from the skill of the artist.  It’s a bad book, but not an interesting kind of bad.  Next time up:  A look at what 2005 had to offer from an independent comics standpoint…

Our first official Retro Review journeys to the comics of 2005 continue, with the top-selling DC comic of that year that doesn't really seem like a whole decade ago, but is the comic actually any good?  The answer is... ...complicated.  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review of All-Star Batman And Robin The Boy Wonder #1 awaits! ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN THE BOY WONDER #1 Writer: Frank Miller Penciller: Jim Lee Inker: Scott Williams Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher Colorist: Alex Sinclair Editor: Bob Schreck Publisher: DC Comics Cover Price: $2.99 Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.00 Previously in All-Star Batman And Robin The Boy Wonder: …
A completely incoherent story full of catchphrases and attempted pithy dialogue, with some pretty okay art that doesn't balance it out.

ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN , THE BOY WONDER #1

Writing
Art
Coloring

whut

A completely incoherent story full of catchphrases and attempted pithy dialogue, with some pretty okay art that doesn't balance it out.

User Rating: 3.11 ( 8 votes)
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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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6 Comments

  1. Doctor Dinosaur
    January 11, 2015 at 12:37 pm — Reply

    ASBAR is a gem if you read it in the right state of mind.
    I recommend staying up until delirium sets in.

  2. Alex
    January 11, 2015 at 2:04 pm — Reply

    I really enjoy All Star Batman & Robin, but I enjoy it for what it is: an alternate origin story with slightly altered versions of well-known characters. Do I always want my Batman completely insane and my stories totally ridiculous and over-the-top? Probably not. Is it fun to see Batman actually having some fun for once, (even though he may be recklessly endangering children?) Absolutely.
    I totally agree, Miller made a huge departure from TDKR for this, but I get the feeling that was intentional. I had a ton of fun reading this series.

  3. Luis Dantas
    January 11, 2015 at 6:10 pm — Reply

    The one virtue I see in ASBAR is how it lampshades the horrible characterization of TDKR. Never understood how that story was so well-liked.

    • January 12, 2015 at 5:56 am — Reply

      It was shocking and very different at the time. Rest is just reputation thats been carried out.

  4. Frank
    January 12, 2015 at 9:21 am — Reply

    I usually enjoy Batman and Frank Miller. I am glad I passed on this, especially, since was drawn out over so many years.

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