Rating: 4/5 – Bat-god no more… but in a good way.
Coming off of Superman: Earth One with a less than glowing affection, I was skeptical of another standalone non-continuity story. I mean sure, I tend to be a huge fan of Johns and Frank as a creative duo (their Earthman/ Legion story in Action Comics is one of my all-time favorites), but I’ve been reading a lot of Batman lately and between the new 52, the last movie, and the flashpoint books I’ve read recently; I’m a little over saturated with renditions of cape and cowl…
So feel me when I tell you how refreshing and awesome this book was, not as only a standalone work, but as a pallet cleanser that serves to remind a sometimes jaded reader why Gotham is such a beloved chunk of real-estate in the Warner Brothers stable.
When we meet Thomas Wayne, he is a man on a mission, out to repair the city he loves from within by running for mayor. The race however has not been without its troubles and the rich man reaches out to his most trusted friend from across the pond. Enter an Alfred unlike those we have ever known in the past. This Pennyworth, this wounded soldier Thomas saved on some long remembered battlefield, has been brought to Wayne manor as head of security in light of recent threats to the candidate and his family.
From the jump there are new tensions here that differ from what we are used to and new questions about the relationships between characters who look either super familiar to us (Thomas) or unlike any incarnation we have ever known (Alfred).
Stubborn as always, the head of the house of Wayne, refusing to allow his security detail to color his family’s weekly movie night ventures out into the belly of a city already lost. While most of what happens next in this origin story is familiar to us, the guilt these events build in Alfred changes the relationship he has with the boy who would be bat. There’s an air of responsibility that colors his staying on as manservant that leads to training in the fighting arts which wasn’t there before. What follows is a fascinating romp through the birth of a hero where gadgets don’t work, the Penguin is a terrifying badass that the Batman isn’t, and the lineage of Martha is given a name that changes everything about why Bruce’s mind unhinges the way it does in the face of his parents’ brutal murder.
While I won’t reveal any more about the book for fear of spoiling what I so enjoyed. What I will tell you is that I love Elseworld stories, and I think there is something malleable about DC that allows characters to be rebooted and blended and re-envisioned in ways that strengthens some central narrative well DC can always draw from (my current opinions on most of the New 52 notwithstanding). Earth One is one of those interpretations which makes the concept of alternate imaginings so great by refreshing a character people love for a wider audience that may otherwise be too afraid to dip it into the mire of years and years of comic continuity no matter how much they like the flicks.
Guest Reviewer: Asher L. Turnaround – firstname.lastname@example.org
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