Pow! To the People 09.12.08

allstarbats-header.jpgFacing the lengthy international flight to the States, this week Eddie Argos digs into Frank Miller and Jim Lee’s controversial All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder and the classic Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire run on Justice League International.



So I’m back in LA. I flew here the scenic (cheaper) route, taking in a couple of hours at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport—famous for Senator Larry Craig getting caught soliciting sex in the toilets. I was there for hours, so I looked for a plaque (or at least some graffiti to mark the place), but no joy. Seeking to fulfill my own guilty pleasure, I also spent ages looking for comics. I usually bring a big pile of comics to read on the plane, but recently I bought an amazing ’40s suitcase in a charity shop, which looks really cool but is quite tiny and very cumbersome. So, it’s impossible to take more than three books in it at once, unless I don’t take any clothes with me (which was tempting). By the time I got to Minneapolis-St. Paul, I’d read everything and was very bored. I can’t be the only person that enjoys reading comics on long flights, so I’m surprised that there are no Forbidden Planet comic shops in airports—just book shops. In their comic book sections they all have exactly the same books – a copy of the Watchmen, a copy of Frank Miller‘s Dark Knight Returns, and loads and loads of X-men comics. Like everybody else, I already own Dark Knight Returns and the Watchmen and I wasn’t in the mood for reading a lame high school drama disguised as a superhero story so I just read a paper from St. Paul to LA.

The three comics I read on the first half of my journey were Hellblazer comics. As I’m still not sure what they were about, I’m not going to write about them. Instead, I am going to write about Batman. AGAIN.

What are you dense? He's the goddam Batman! From All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder. Click for a larger image.In the last two columns, I’ve had a couple of digs at Batman, which resulted in a few people emailing and telling me to stop hating on him. I don’t hate Batman, and so that I could write something good about him, I decided to read the comic that had been recommended to me by the most people, cross my fingers, and hope that I liked it. I read All Star Batman and Robin. All Star Batman and Robin has been completely panned by the critics. Comic Shop News claimed that it was "one of the biggest train wrecks in comic history;" Crave Online said that it was "a comic series that just spirals deeper and deeper into the abyss of unreadable;" and Popmatters said "All Star Batman and Robin should be avoided at all cost." I completely disagree.

The cover to All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder by Jim Lee and Scott Williams. Click for a larger image.I loved All Star Batman and Robin. I especially loved the fact that Batman is such an arrogant, egotistical prick in it; which if you think about it is the more likely way a man who has dedicated his life to becoming a vigilante would be. I also like the fact that Robin knows Batman is a bit of a cock and pulls him up on it, first taking the piss out of Batman’s faux-Clint-Eastwood voice and later mocking him for calling his car "the Batmobile." There are some tender moments between the two as well though. Batman spends the whole of the book treating Robin terribly, so as not to let him grieve for his parents. Supposedly this is to make him tougher, but by the end, Batman realises that they both have to grieve and they have that classic scene of the "Batman cry and a hug in a graveyard." A lot of this book comes across as parody — when you meet the JLA in the book, all of their characteristics are highly exaggerated. Superman is completely emasculated, Wonder Woman is man-hating to the point where she refers to other men as "walking spermbanks," Green Lantern is portrayed as bland and almost completely ineffectual (he is even almost killed by Robin at one point), and Plastic Man is portrayed as just a comedian. Consequently, All Star Batman and Robin is quite a cheeky book; not treating the Batman story or any DC characters with any reverence whatsoever. I think that recklessness is why I like it. I like seeing Batman saying stupid things and really getting off on scaring villains. In a bizarre way, it made Batman seem more "real." I recommend reading it, but only if you don’t mind seeing your favourite  hero come across as a bit of a dick.

The cover to JLI vol. 2 by Kevin Maguire. Click for a larger image.The other book I read before I left was the Justice League International Vol. 2, another book in which your favourite hero can come across as a bit of a dick. I love the JLI. As a massive Booster Gold fan, it was the only place that I could read about him for a while. This book had some flaws though. Parts of it are in the wrong order; for some reason an earlier story appears last. Lots of the story is tied in with the "Millennium" story arc, which isn’t in the book and I can’t really remember much about it and, this is my fault, I started by reading the second book, so it felt like I’d arrived at the party late. Despite all of that, though, I still enjoyed this book. There is just something endearing about seeing a collection of superheroes joshing with each other, complaining about their wages and unsuccessfully trying to move house. The writing really does make you care for the characters, with their foibles making them seem again even more real.

Without wanting to look like a "Batman hater," JLI Volume 2 is worth buying for one frame alone: the one in which Guy Gardner shouts "Oi, big ears!" at Batman—

something I would love more people to do. | Eddie Argos

In This Edition:

All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder (DC Comics; 2005-present)

Ten issues published occasionally, 32 pgs. full color; $2.99 ea.

Hardcover edition collecting #1-9, 240 pgs. full color; $24.99

(W: Jim Lee; A: Jim Lee, Scott Williams)


Justice League International Vol. 2 (DC Comics; originally 1987-1988, collected 2008)

208 pgs. full color; $24.99 hardcover

(W: Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and John Ostrander; A: Kevin Maguire, Bill Willingham, Luke McDonnell, Al Gordon, Bob Lewis and others)

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