It’s been over 15 years since Jim Lee and Frank Miller’s All Star Batman and Robin began its 3 years of publication (2005-2008). There’s a lot to love about this series and there is plenty to criticize. Let me get that out of the way first.
Frank Miller’s dialogue is horrible. The worst I’ve ever read. “The Goddamn Batman”. “Out of my way sperm bank.” You get the picture. It sucks. It’s so awful people actually thought Miller made it terrible on purpose. It’s so over the top it was a parody of itself.
Wonder Woman is a man-hating fascist, who is in the Justice League with get this – all men. Thankfully her appearance is brief and I think she is supposed to be funny but she, unfortunately, is less funny than stomach cancer.
Also, the fact that only 10 issues were published in 3 years is laughable. The fact that it just kinda stops without resolving any of the storylines either due to boredom or laziness on the parts of the creators does it no favors. Disgraceful.
Still, there is plenty of good to enjoy about it.
First, let’s talk about the artwork. I would say overall this is possibly the best overall artwork by the supreme team of Jim Lee and inker Scott Williams. It is fantastic and worth checking out for this alone. There are a ton of big splash pages and double-page spreads that leap off the page at you and the panel pages are filled with action and intrigue and laid out wonderfully.
The (unfinished) story is pretty solid as well. It’s basically a retelling of the origin of Dick Grayson, the first Robin, in the early years of Batman’s career. Young Dick Grayson is an acrobat in the circus with his parents who are killed by gangsters. Bruce Wayne takes him in and trains him to be his partner, Robin. Even though it is an origin story that has been told many times before it has a lot of freshness to it by changing the characters involved and the details around just enough to avoid ever being stale.
Most of the characters in this thing are crazy, which I’m fine with. Batman and Robin are both crazy.
Black Canary being an Irish vigilante is fine. Batgirl being a thrill-seeking kid works for me too. Except for Wonder Woman the Justice League all come off fine if not exactly like they typically would in the mainstream comics.
The character I want to talk about though is the Joker, who I think most people hated in this but I loved. Even though he has tattoos he behaves like a modern version of the early Golden Age Joker (basically his first few appearances in 1940). Back then the Joker rarely smiled. He never laughed. He never told jokes. He was a psychopathic crime boss that killed people, usually in elaborate ways. He was to me, the true highlight of the entire series.
Obviously, Jared Leto’s Joker was based in some part on this version of the character, but it was executed horribly and the overwhelming majority of people hated it. If the good folks at Warner Brothers would have adhered closer to the source material it would have been great.
I’m not going to go into heavy spoilers here in case you feel inclined to pick up this half-finished series and give it a chance. At the end of the day it’s not the greatest comic ever published but dialogue aside it’s not as bad as it has been portrayed over the years.