All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder, Vol.1 by Frank Miller (author) & Jim Lee (illustrator)
About a year before Alan Moore started exploring a realistic approach to superheroes in his famous WATCHMEN series, Frank Miller was delving into the twisted psyche that would drive a playboy millionaire to become a vigilante with his highly acclaimed The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. Both not only heavily influenced the Christian Bale Batman movies, but changed the whole way Batman has been viewed ever since, and some other superheroes, too.
Jim Lee is one of the top comic book artists in the business today. When drawn by Mr. Lee, the larger-than-life characters that populate these worlds are bold and beautiful in the way we would expect Greek gods and goddess to be.
Jim Lee and Frank Miller together are a fanboy’s dream team.
Many people are familiar with Mr. Miller’s graphic novels that have been adapted into awesome movies, such as Sin City and 300, but almost any comic reader will tell you that Miller has also taken classic superheroes such as Batman, Wolverine, Daredevil and Elektra in daring directions which no one had taken them before and few have done since. Some may even view what he does as nothing short of sacrilege. True to form, that’s exactly what Miller does again here in All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder.
This story takes place sometime not long after the events of Batman: Year One. Not only are Bruce Wayne’s nighttime activities still a fairly new undertaking, but the Justice League of America is in its infancy, along with a few of DC Universe’s B-listers who are just now entering the scene. I can’t imagine that anyone doesn’t know the story of how Robin came to be the wise-cracking sidekick, but Miller’s adaptation is a much harsher version. Corrupt police charge Batman with kidnapping and Batman’s “training” of Robin would do the Spartans proud.
Judging from reader reviews, I don’t think this story was well received. The story arc seems to have ended abruptly with a cliffhanger and there’s no denying that Batman is an arrogant jerk. If anyone is sentimental about DC superheroes, fair warning: Superman acts like a boy scout, Wonder Woman an ultra-feminist bitch, and Green Lantern, in comparison to the Dark Knight, lacks the imagination worthy of his ring. Personally, I love All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder just as it is.
The classic archetypes just don’t cut it anymore. If you’re going to make an interesting story with universally known characters that have been around for seventy years, risk is a requirement. Anyone driven and obsessive enough to be one of the greatest superheroes —without any superpowers — and lead a double life to boot, would have to be borderline psychotic. It’s that human flaw that makes Batman such a popular character. There’s just something reassuring about a mysterious man patrolling the night who is mean enough to strike fear into the hearts of those we fear.
Frank Miller and Jim Lee breathe new life into whatever they work on. The only problem I have with this series is its sudden ending without a closure.