Batman: Earth One Vol. 2 (DC Comics) Review

The Batman of Earth One returns for another adventure, as he continues to learn the ropes of being a vigilante. Here is our review!

I’m not sure this kind of Batman story is for me. It really comes down to whether you liked the tone of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Batman: Earth One Vol. 1. There’s plenty here for fans of the first book: new villain origin stories, detective work, and a less-than-stellar Batman. 

If you enjoyed the grim tone of Vol. 1, Bruce Wayne on a quest for vengeance against the people who had his parents killed, then you’ll really enjoy Vol. 2, which continues the story of a very serious vigilante. I don’t think Bruce smiles once in the entire book, and you know Alfred didn’t. Not even throwing a love interest at Bruce (which usually works, right?) softens up the man’s face, which seems to be frozen in a scowl. 

In light of recent Batman adventures in the main DC Comics line, the tone and direction those stories have taken under editor Mark Doyle, it’s hard to return to a day when something as gloomy as Batman: Earth One was the status quo for New 52 Batman. And I’m biased here: Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Zero Year” and Grant Morrison’s Batman run are more along the lines of what I want in my Batbooks — the larger-than-life adventures, bright colors, spy film sensibilities, and exagerrated violence that the best contemporary Bat tales offer at the flip of the switch. Everything, in a world where Bats is always one step ahead, still manages to be unexpected. 

But Geoff Johns’ writing in this book is not that. It’s too controlled, lacking of energy, and not allowed too many interesting moments. Like his plot is being gripped at the neck by a leash. While I wasn’t a big fan of the first volume, it still held a bit of the flamboyance of characters such as Penguin, Killer Croc, and (especially) Birthday Boy, who I absolutely love. But Vol. 2 doesn’t hold to that, serving more as a crime drama that’s already been done before. The comparisons to Batman: The Long Halloween, in which Jim Gordon, Harvey Dent, and Bruce agree to take on the mob head on, are unavoidable. While Harvey is joined by his sister and mayor, Jessica Dent, their fate is exactly what you’d expect. The price of war is a big one. 

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The villain doesn’t help, either. It’s not much of a spoiler to say that the Riddler is the main villain, since Johns and Frank set him up in the last panel of Vol. 1. I have to point out that Johns and Frank teased their Riddler more than a year ahead of Batman: Zero Year, which also featured the villain in a larger-than-life story that saw him flood Gotham and turn it into a literal cement jungle. And Earth One’s Riddler might be even worse for that connection. Nowhere near the grand scale of “Zero Year”‘s mastermind, this Riddler comes off as another thug, dipped into a frustrating realism that probably only Christopher Nolan would have been able to pull off. Maybe. There is one moment I won’t spoil with the Riddler that really sends some exclamation points tumbling down the page.

Frank’s design for the Riddler is quite different: long, grungy hair, a bare chest, and a gold chain that is a bit more cartoonish gangster than this book probably warranted, but I like it. The artist continues to take these well-known characters and twist them just enough to make them interesting. The militaristic Alfred remains my favorite, followed by the slim celebrity of Harvey Bullock. What a job Frank does to make the detective handsome. Harvey Dent looks like a beefy jock, a bully. But missing from this volume are the hulking villains that Frank’s pencils afforded us in the first book. They made the very muted color, thick browns, and oppressive shadows of Vol. 1 so much more interesting. (Dare I say “bearable?”) Frank, this explosive and talented artist, isn’t allowed that here. Instead, he is stifled by the darkness of Earth One

I don’t much enjoy the realism of these Batman stories, never teetering away from the serious. Instead, this story embraces what makes Batman so sad and angry. And that’s all well and fine. He’s a tortured badass. But at least have some fun with it while you’re at it. 


2.5 out of 5