All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder
|All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder|
|Letterer(s)||Jared K. Fletcher|
|Volume 1||ISBN 1-4012-1681-1|
All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder is an American comic book series written by Frank Miller and penciled by Jim Lee. It was published by DC Comics, with a sporadic schedule, between 2005 and 2008. The series was to be rebooted under the title Dark Knight: Boy Wonder in 2011, when both Miller and Lee were to finish the last six issues.
This was the first series to be launched in 2005 under DC's All Star imprint. These series are helmed by renowned writers and artists in the American comic book industry and attempt to retell some of the history of prominent DC Universe characters, but outside of DC Universe continuity, and not be restricted by it, in order to appeal to new and returning readers. Each title under the All Star imprint is set in its own continuity and separate universe.
Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale are at the circus watching "The Flying Graysons," an acrobat family consisting of twelve-year-old Dick Grayson and his parents. When Dick's parents are shot to death by a hit man, he is escorted from the scene by several cops of the Gotham City Police Department in a threatening manner. Vicki and Alfred Pennyworth chase after them in a luxury sedan. Batman swiftly subdues the killer with hallucinogenic snake venom and then goes to rescue Dick Grayson from the police. Batman violently rams the Batmobile into both the police cruiser and, inexplicably, the sedan containing Vicki and Alfred. Vicki suffers potentially fatal injuries.
Batman grabs Dick, tells him that he has been "drafted into a war", and tosses him into the Batmobile. More police chase after the Batmobile (which can automatically transform into a harrier jet or a small submarine), with orders to kill Batman. Dick is frightened by Batman's violently ramming the police vehicles during the chase, reducing them to flaming wrecks. When Dick begins to cry, Batman smacks him, though he then catches himself, questioning these actions. He tells Dick he has a lot to learn about "fighting crime". When Dick responds "Isn't that what cops do? And didn't you just waste a whole pile of cops, big guy?" Batman only growls "You little snot!" but doesn't deny it. He goes on to emphasize that Gotham City police are murderous and cannot be trusted.
Arriving in the Batcave, Batman drops Dick off, leaving him to his own devices. When Dick asks what he can eat Batman coldly tells Dick to eat the cave's vermin (rats and bats) if he is hungry. Alfred informs Batman that Vicki is in critical condition. Batman knows a doctor in Paris who might be able to save her, if he could get to Gotham City in time. Batman instructs Alfred to contact Clark Kent at the Daily Planet, to request he transport the doctor immediately, as a "personal favor", thus revealing that Batman knew Kent was Superman, without Kent realizing it. We see Superman sprinting angrily across the surface of the ocean, to France and back—either unable to fly, or unaware that he can. Batman and Alfred get into a heated argument after Alfred provides Dick with clean clothes, a blanket, and food. Batman manhandles Alfred, but the butler is not intimidated, and sternly orders him to "unhand me". Batman storms off, sulking.
The Justice League, consisting of Superman, Wonder Woman, Plastic Man and Green Lantern, discusses Batman. Green Lantern and Plastic Man suggest talking to or inviting him into the League. Superman wants to arrest him and Wonder Woman wants to kill him. The latter two argue heatedly over the issue, but the sexual tension between them overpowers their anger towards each other. The argument ends in a passionate kiss, and Wonder Woman leaves in a huff, agreeing to wait before acting on her own to stop Batman, and exits with "I hate you all."
Batman is at this point unarguably in a state of mania: He runs and jumps across the rooftops, thinking "I haven't slept in DAYS. But I CAN'T GET TIRED ... Not with my PULSE pounding in my EARS ... I can't stay inside the car tonight. I can't stay inside ANYTHING. Not TONIGHT." (Miller used a similar line on the third page of his 1986 miniseries The Dark Knight Returns) When he finds a trio of would-be rapists, he cackles before taking them down violently, causing compound fractures, and beating on them until his gloves are split and bloody. He instructs the woman he's saved not to bother calling the police, nor an ambulance for the severely-injured rapists. He says "Call your shrink, if you've got one", a line Miller would re-use in his 2008 film about another superhero, The Spirit.
Batman goes on running around and violently taking down criminals until he sees a police cruiser escorting Jocko-Boy Vanzetti away from jail. The officer driving the car goes so far as to return the murder weapon, saying "Here's that heater we never found." Jocko-Boy, meanwhile, is still suffering unpleasant hallucinations from the snake venom. The Batman, again cackling (this story features a Batman who laughs madly, and a Joker who laughs not at all), takes down the corrupt cop, then beats Vanzetti into unconsciousness.
Batman comes to the aid of Black Canary, who is fighting a group of thugs. After defeating the criminals—largely by setting them on fire—the two masked crimefighters share a romantic interlude, before Batman takes Canary home, with Vanzetti bound and gagged in the Batmobile's trunk. Batman and Dick manage to extract from Jocko-Boy the name of the person who hired him: the Joker.
The Joker—here portrayed very downbeat and glum—has used chemicals to seduce an attorney, a "crusader" who goes after child molesters. As she's getting dressed, the Joker proceeds to strangle her with her own necktie. While he murders her, he tells her the sex they just had was nothing, but "this is love". As she dies, he muses "I'll always love you ... In my own special way." He then gets dressed, wearing the murder weapon as his own tie.
Dick wants to fight crime with Batman, but Batman says he needs a secret identity first. Batman leaves the cave to dump Jocko-Boy in the river, then sees the symbol of Green Lantern hovering in the sky. Batman finds Green Lantern, who seems to treasure the hot dog in his left hand and the power ring on his right hand equally. Batman immediately addresses him as "Jordan" (his surname), provoking the Green Lantern's bewilderment, but Batman refuses to converse seriously. He's openly contemptuous of Hal Jordan, who he considers "a CLOWN with more POWER than he knows what to DO with". He gives Jordan an address to meet him at in twelve hours.
Meanwhile, Joker goes to see Catwoman, and invites her to join him in "some mischief".
Dick creates a costume, basing it on Robin Hood. Batman returns to the cave, and when Dick tells him his name is Hood, Batman points out that an opponent can easily pull the hood down over his head. Batman tells him to lose the hood and names him Robin. Dick receives a new costume made by Alfred.
Together they confront the Green Lantern. Robin paints the entire room yellow and he covers himself and Batman in yellow, as the Green Lantern's powers have no effect on the color yellow. Lantern tries to persuade Batman that his methods are not acceptable, either to the super-hero community or the world at large. Batman mocks his arguments and Lantern is further incensed when both he and Robin deny that Robin is Dick Grayson. Lantern is about to leave when Robin steals his ring causing a fight between them. Robin strikes Lantern with a move that almost kills him before Batman saves his life. Batman then takes Robin to his parents' graves, where they share a moment of mutual grief.
A police officer discovers Catwoman, beaten and cut, bleeding badly. She passes him a message, then vanishes. Captain Jim Gordon passes the message to Batman. He and Robin find her underground, where she tries to explain: "Juh... Juh... It was Juh..." 
Jim Gordon learns his wife has been in an accident, due to her alcoholism. At the same time his daughter, dressed as Batgirl, is fighting crime. Black Canary robs a group of snuff film makers and proceeds to set them on fire. Batgirl is later arrested, and Jim is shown to be deeply depressed when he calls his former lover Sarah at the suggestion of his daughter.
The first issue launched with four different covers. Three of them were illustrated by Jim Lee—one sporting Batman, the other Robin and one a sketch variant of Batman. Frank Miller illustrated the fourth. Since then, Frank Miller has drawn variant covers for the series. With the exception of issue #2, the Miller covers are sold in 1:10 ratios. For issue #8 and #9, the variant covers were drawn by Neal Adams. The cover for #10 was drawn by Frank Quitely.
The All Star titles are self-contained story arcs existing outside of official DC Comics continuity. Despite sharing a label with Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman, All Star Batman & Robin exists in its own continuity unrelated to other books in the All Star imprint.
Frank Miller has also stated that All Star Batman & Robin does exist in the same continuity as the other storylines in his "Dark Knight Universe". This consists of Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, its sequel Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Batman: Year One and the Frank Miller/Todd McFarlane collaboration on Spawn/Batman. Of these, only Year One is considered canonical to the mainstream DC Universe. However, this has been proven difficult as The Dark Knight Returns is set during the Cold War with an older Batman while All Star Batman & Robin features a younger Batman in a more modern setting, specifically 2008. An additional story, titled Holy Terror, Batman!, was also to be included within the same continuity. However, in 2010, Miller stated that he was no longer working on the project. He later clarified his statement by explaining that it would feature a new character called The Fixer rather than Batman, and not be published by DC. In 2007, Frank Miller's "Dark Knight Universe" was officially designated as Earth-31 within the new DC Comics Multiverse composed of 52 alternate universes.
Morrison himself has admitted to being uncertain whether his Superman and the version featured in All Star Batman & Robin are the same due to the dramatic time differences between the two books: "I don’t know if it would have worked. For me, I guess I do see it all taking place in the same world even though they seem like very different characters. Frank Miller is doing Batman at the beginning of his career and I am doing Superman at the very end of his life, in the years beyond All Star Batman. But it could be the same character as far as I am concerned. That’s where they may have ended up."
The series' first issue sold over 300,000 copies. The once-monthly series became increasingly delayed over time, to the point where only one issue was published in 2006. When issue #5 was released, the series was placed on a regular bi-monthly schedule, with the exception of Issue #10, which was postponed from April 9, 2008 release to August 27 release, and then to a September 10 release, which it successfully met, only for the book to be recalled due to a printing error that left numerous profanities insufficiently censored. That printing error aside, Jim Lee took full responsibilities for the series' delays, explaining that he was involved the DC Universe Online video game, and that Miller's scripts had been written some time earlier.
Despite drops in sales since the first issue, All Star Batman & Robin issues regularly topped DC Comics' highest-selling chart on the months when they came out.
Initially released with great fanfare and to much anticipation, All Star Batman has consistently received negative reviews from critics. Nearly all complaints about the series are directed at Frank Miller's writing, specifically his non-traditional interpretation of the main character. In the series to date, Batman is consistently violent and cruel, excited by his own sadism towards criminals, musing over the injuries he inflicts and disarray that follows. His abuse extends even towards innocents: he verbally and physically abuses Dick Grayson in an attempt to prevent him from grieving over his parents' deaths, even slapping the boy in the face. While fighting thugs in the presence of Black Canary, he throws a Molotov cocktail that engulfs several of them with flames. At the Batcave, he withholds food from Grayson and suggests that the boy catch rats and eat them if he is hungry. To make matters worse, Batman even scolds his Butler, Alfred Pennyworth for showing sympathy towards the young Dick Grayson.
Perhaps the book's single most infamous moment occurred when Miller's gritty style of dialogue led the title character to introduce himself to Grayson as "the Goddamn Batman." The phrase went on to become something of a meme among comic book fans for its perceived comedic value, and has, since its sudden fame, been repeated at least once in nearly every subsequent issue of the comic. According to reviewer Brett Weiss, the line "drew derision from fans and critics alike". DC Comics would even later parody the line's fame in its Superman/Batman comic by having a super deformed Batman introduce himself to the 'canon' Batman by saying "I'm the goshdarn Batm–", only to be swiftly told to shut up.
Reviewer Peter Sanderson of IGN Comics, while acknowledging that the series is "widely reviled", and opining that DC Comics' publicity for the series was "misleading", suggested that Batman's treatment of Grayson was comparable to a drill sergeant's treatment of a new recruit, but questioned whether this would merely traumatize Grayson further. He nonetheless claimed to be "fascinated" with how this behavior reveals Batman's personality, likening his rough treatment of Grayson to the psychologically frightening experience to which V subjected Evey Hammond in V for Vendetta. Sanderson also pointed out that Miller's view of All Star Batman & Robin as prequels to his graphic novels Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again suggests that the darker, grittier take on Batman and his more dysfunctional relationship with Robin make sense when taken in context, and that Batman's rough treatment of Dick Grayson reveals a lot about the inner workings of Batman's personality.
Reviewer Brett Weiss, in the Comics Buyer's Guide #1636 (December 2007), gave the first issue of the series high marks for being interesting and edgy, but opined that by issue #6, the series became "a bad joke", citing the series' "absurdly bad, faux-noir dialogue", and presenting Batman "as a psychopath, as opposed to merely dark and disturbed." Weiss praised Jim Lee's art as "gorgeous", but opined that it was wasted on the title, which he saw as "something that seems to be bad on purpose".
Comics journalist Cliff Biggers, in Comic Shop News #1064 (November 7, 2007), called the series "one of the biggest train wrecks in comics history", expressing amazement at how he feels Frank Miller disregarded every aspect of Batman's character in order to tell "a Sin City story in bat-garb." Reviewing issue #7, Biggers excoriated the sequence with Batman and Black Canary as "farcical" and "Tarantinoesque", arguing that Miller's work could not get worse. Biggers gave the issue a "D", explaining that it would be an "F" if not for Jim Lee's art, and suggested that to salvage the work, DC should reprint the book with blank word balloons and let readers submit their own scripts.
Reviewing the first three issues of the series, William Gatevackes of PopMatters said that "[Jim Lee's art] is beautiful [but] cannot make up for the writing or the holes in the storytelling." Gatevackes criticized what he perceived to be a lack of plot, saying that "it seems like [Miller is] expanding four issues of story over 20 issues of the book." Gatevackes compared All Star Batman & Robin unfavorably to Miller's previous work, saying: "One is puzzled as to what happened to the Frank Miller who gained his fame on Daredevil, Ronin, and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Can he come back? Because until he does, All Star Batman and Robin should be avoided at all costs."
Iann Robinson, writing for CraveOnline, wrote an essay critical of All Star Batman & Robin, calling it "a comic series that just spirals deeper and deeper into the abyss of unreadable. I understand Miller's need to re-invent, but this is just badly done and in poor taste." Robinson commented that "the art by Jim Lee is first rate [and] really wonderful to look at, [but] Frank Miller has stripped Batman of all of his dignity, class, and honor. This isn't the Dark Knight; this is Dirty Harry in a cowl. The worst part is that this is exactly what Batman isn't about." He added, "In one fell swoop, Miller has erased all the good he did for Batman with The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. All of that is just gone."
The book also has its defenders. Comics journalist Mike Sterling referred to the series as "the single greatest Batman series ever published." Jon Morris, writing for The High Hat, named All Star Batman & Robin one of the best superhero comics of 2006, finding All Star's take on the character "an intriguing alternative take on a character long reimagined to the point of incoherence. Surely the readers as a whole have seen Batman the tortured soul, Batman the awkward father figure, Batman the authoritarian and Batman the zillion-other-paternal character archetypes countless times before under the stewardship of a few dozen other authors; why not for a scant twelve issues have a book about a Batman who might just be what a control-obsessed, Kevlar-suited sadist would be like in real life — which is to say "distinctly unpleasant"? It’s unsavory, sure, but who buys Batman comics because he’s warm and cuddly?"
The first issue was the first installment of online reviewer Lewis "Linkara" Lovhaug's "Miller Time" review videos. In each review, Lovhaug has criticized the series for its bad writing, plot holes, (most notably the time frame in the sixth issue) and has even gone so far as to call the Batman in the series "Crazy Steve", as he acts nothing like the mainstream Batman
Dark Knight: Boy Wonder
After the series being on hiatus for nearly two years, DC Comics announced on April 2, 2010, that Miller and Lee would return to the series in 2011. Instead of falling under the "All Star" print, the series will be re-branded as Dark Knight: Boy Wonder, and would run for six issues, completing the story Miller originally intended to tell. Although DC publicized the series as starting in February 2011, it has met with additional delays as Jim Lee focused his efforts on the new Justice League series, part of DC Comics' relaunch that began in September 2011.
The series has been collected into the following volume:
|All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder, Volume 1||
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- All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #10
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- Morris, Jon. "The Year In Tights: The Best (and Worst) Superhero Comics of 2006". The High Hat. Retrieved May 29, 2012.
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- All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, Volume 1. DC Comics. Retrieved May 29, 2012.
- All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder at the Comic Book DB
- Jim Lee on All Star Batman, Newsarama, June 1, 2005
- Frank Miller Talks All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder, Newsarama, June 7, 2005
- Cover gallery by Jim Lee