Shiny Shelf

All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #4

By Jim Smith on 24 May 2006

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

Call me a heretic but, outside of ‘Year One’, Frank Miller’s Batman has never gelled for me. He is, in the writer’s own words, not a human being at all but ‘the god of vengeance’. He’s also ethically to the right of Nietzche. These things have never struck me as right, appropriate or desirable for the character. They’re also not very interesting but then the far right rarely are, are they? They couldn’t be, following an atavistic philosophy that utilises anger more than thought.

Miller’s Batman lacks nuance. He’s a big, clever thug, built like a tank, haunted, amoral, incapable of empathy and probably insane. He’s no fun at all and he’s certainly not a hero. He says he’s a detective but he never really acts like one. It’s a far cry from the complexity of the character as written by Denny O’Neil or Grant Morrison or Mike Barr or Archie Goodwin and the haunted but driven humanity given to the character’s onscreen incarnation by Goyer’s ‘Batman Begins’.

‘All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder’ # 4 continues the series’ habit of developing at a pace that, should it be termed ‘glacial’, would insult the speed of virtually still bodies of frozen water. I’m not usually someone to complain about slow pacing but this just goes too far. In this issue Vicki Vale nearly dies in hospital (but doesn’t) and Batman finally gets Robin back to the batcave where, after a grotesque interval of attempted child abuse on Batman’s part, Alfred gives Grayson some food.

It’s all pretty inane as well as slow, with a Batman who is brutal for the sake of it, contemptuous of all other individuals and spends his time barking staccato nonsense at a Robin who talks like he’s in a cheap gross out teen movie. It’s all so feebly angry and adolescent I can almost here the death metal. Given the sheer hatred and contempt for Robin that Miller demonstrated in his ‘The Dark Knight Strikes Again!’ is it perhaps a valid suggestion that Miller is not only unsuited to this book, he’s the most unsuited to this book of writers currently working for DC? I certainly think so.

Beautifully drawn though it unquestionably is, I’m afraid that I’ve had more than enough of this tedious slow burning, macho nonsense to last me a lifetime.

All Star? No stars. Pah.

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