Shiny Shelf

All Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder #1

By Mark Clapham on 17 July 2005

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

Frank Miller has created some of the most popular ‘Batman’ stories of all time. Jim Lee drew the most popular and highest selling ‘Batman’ story of recent years, ‘Hush’.

By getting them together, the first book in DC’s new ‘All Star’ line certainly lives up to its name.

Appropriately Miller (on writing-only duties here) has taken on a big story. Intriguingly, it’s one his violent, misanthropic and hard boiled style may seem unsuited to – Batman’s adoption of a young Dick Grayson as his sidekick and prot?g?. This movement into new ground produces interesting results, hitting some of the usual Miller buttons but bringing a fresh view to frequently re-worked material.

There are some odd bits in Miller’s script – he has the Flying Graysons assassinated when they’re on the ground, which seems a bit of a waste considering their usually acrobatic demise, albeit suitably harsh. He also has an odd bit of dialogue where Bruce Wayne admits to watching the young proto-Robin for some time, which could easily have led Vicki Vale to some fairly scandalous false conclusions.

However, mostly this is Frank Miller at his most fun and slick. By using Vicki, he takes the Lois Lane model and flips it around, having Vicki awestruck by Bruce but completely unimpressed by the Batman. Alfred is a more irreverent character than before, more in line with Michael Caine’s screen version, and clearly plays a key role. The staples of Miller’s ‘Year One’ version of Gotham – omnipotent mob families and sickeningly corrupt cops – are present throughout. Miller’s sense of Batman’s purpose and determination, the belief in a war that needs to be fought, underpins the entire book, and underlies the character’s need to find a new recruit to carry on the battle. A fully costumed Batman doesn’t appear until the end of the issue, but we’re always aware he’s there. Besides, DC doesn’t need to throw the kitchen sink into the first issue: they’ve got our attention with the creative team, they can afford to make us wait.

Even with the lead character lurking in the background, this is an action comic through and through. Miller understands the sense of motion created by pencil and ink on a page more than virtually anyone, and Jim Lee proves a fine choice to execute Miller’s intentions. Lee fills panel after panel with motion, from the sense of flight in the Graysons’ acrobatic act, through Vicki choosing a costume for a date, to a car chase and swooping bats attacking.

One element that has really developed in Lee’s art over the years is his eye for appealing characters, and here he pulls out the stops – his Dick Grayson is full of childish enjoyment, while Bruce Wayne is chiselled determination and Vicki is sexy, feisty and occasionally vulnerable.

While it may hold back the Bat until the last page, this book certainly doesn’t skimp on fun. This is a lively, thrilling read that is instantly appealing but encourages you to pause and admire its pages.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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