Friday, August 1, 2008

All-Star Batman and Robin

When I was 15, I sold off my massive comic book collection for short-term cash and in the hopes that, long-term, I'd shed some of my nerd label and suddenly be "normal" in high school. That didn't happen. And I still regret my weakness at thinking I had to give up things I loved just to make myself more popular.

In 2000, after the first very good X-Men movie, I started reading comics again but this time mainly collected volumes; I just didn't have the drive or patience to go back to reading monthly titles.

The first big surprise was that George Perez was still drawing The Avengers; Perez' run on the Avengers in the late 1970's to early 1980's was one of my first great comics passions. He also singlehandedly revived the cachet of DC Comics for me -- I was a Marvel loyalist -- when he drew their Teen Titans in the early 1980's -- yes, the title was a shameless X-Men clone but it was a start at making DC respectable again (maybe I'm too hard but I don't recall many go-to titles in the DC library in that era).

And Perez' work from that era holds up better than John Byrne's; John Byrne was a one-man industry in that era, working on X-Men, Fantastic Four, and sometimes writing those titles as well -- yet Byrne's art looks too similar -- the characters all tend to look alike after a while and so many years later, I don't like his work as much (the Dark Phoenix arc of X-Men -- the first one -- obviously, is still a seminal work in my book despite those misgivings).

The second big surprise was this guy Jim Lee. In 2000, I devoured all the reprints of Jim Lee's run on the X-Men that I could find and watched with delight as his style evolved from an almost angular version of George Perez with more testosterone to something unique and finely detailed -- not as painterly as Michael Turner but just as good.

So, the less said about Frank Miller's writing on this restart of Batman the better. I'm not going to join the chorus of negativity on this one except to say that the dialogue is worse than you can imagine. I guess if you thought Sin City was the greatest movie of all time, then this Batman will delight you.

My short review is this: if you like Jim Lee's art, this is a MUST purchase -- his renderings of Black Canary (despite Miller making her Irish -- did I miss something in her backstory all those years away from comics?) is awesome -- the kind of thing that the 15-year-old inside me drools over. And he briefly renders Batgirl almost exactly as I'd always wanted to see her drawn -- too bad the character isn't in this volume very much.

Apparently the future of this title is up in the air. Good. Take it away from Miller and let him crank out more films. As for Jim Lee, he just keeps hitting peaks.

UPDATE:In other Batman-related news, there's footage from the new cartoon version of The Brave and The Bold series and it's interesting -- more of a retro/1960's feel to this and less of the brooding Batman of Bale and others. Could be a good thing. I didn't read many Batman comics as a child -- again, the Marvel loyalty held strong and I ignored DC -- but I did occasionally pick up The Brave and the Bold depending on who Batman was working with; the Green Arrow team-ups were always good. has the footage here along with more information.