Written by: Neil Davies, Special to CC2K
Batman: Earth One Vol. 2 isn’t the sequel that Gotham deserves.
Writer: Geoff Johns
Illustrator: Gary Frank
Batman: Earth One Vol. 2 is the latest installment in the “Earth One” series of graphic novels written and illustrated by well-known comic writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank.
Batman: Earth One Vol. 2 picks up right where its predecessor left off as we see that Batman is continuing to chase down villains on the rooftops of Gotham. Batman’s introductory scene cleverly demonstrates his fighting abilities and uses this familiar trope to demonstrate the improvement in his crime-fighting abilities from the first installment. The story quickly establishes an intriguing and enigmatic (pun entirely intended) villain, and does what any good Batman comic does: sets up a mystery.
Vol. 2 furthers some of the tropes of vol. 1, by showing that Batman still has a lot of work to do. It maintains Bruce Wayne’s spoiled rich-boy attitude, and we see that in his mind he is truly Gotham’s salvation. This version of Bruce maintains the delusion that only he alone can fix Gotham city, and incorrectly believes that the citizens of Gotham see him as a symbol of hope.
This novel soars in some areas and stumbles in others. Johns does a great job of poking fun at some of the classic Batman tropes, such as Batman disappearing behind Gordon’s back or making the “world’s greatest detective” not understand how fingerprints work. It smartly brings him down to a level of ability that makes Batman more believable. However, most of these clever ideas are contrasted with a gag-inducing level of heavy-handedness. It condescends to the reader and ineloquently spells out each joke, with tactics like Harvey Dent making Two-Face references and allusions every few sentences.
Gary Frank’s art work in this comic is absolutely top notch. Simple choices, such as keeping Batman’s eyes visible through the suit, make all the difference and connect you to the essence of the novel. He cleverly uses shadows to foreshadow (pun not intended this time) the fate of certain characters and brings humanity to those who have traditionally been cast as villains. Frank also cleverly illustrates a duality in Bruce Wayne. Through his artistry, we see a younger inexperienced Bruce and also see the older adult/businessman Bruce that we traditionally see in today’s comics.
The Earth One franchise, in my opinion, was founded with the notion of taking a classic, well-known, superhero and putting a spin on their origin story. These comics made them different from the mainstream monthly issues, and were intent on shifting our perspective on each of these heroes. Superman: Earth One Vol. 1 showed us Clark Kent trying to figure out his life before he decided to become Superman. Batman: Earth One Vol. 1 gave us a Batman who had high ambitions and poor abilities. While both of these comics were great in their own ways, and introduced new concepts and perspectives, both of these series’ seemed to have spent most of their ingenuity on their principal issues.
Ultimately, this installment in the Earth One franchise is better than most. It puts together lots of very clever ideas and concepts that would make Batman different, unique and more interesting. However, none of these major differences bring together a major plot. The plot and mystery, while solid and compelling, aren’t game changers by any definition. None of the villains are new, and neither their methods nor motivations merit being in a franchise that was built upon new perspectives. The supporting characters, while interesting and well-written, aren’t compelling and add very little to the overall plot.
If you are looking for a fresh spin on the dark knight, then Batman: Earth One Vol. 2 is not for you. However, at the end of the day, this is still a decent read for those looking for a more traditional Batman story.
3.0 out of 5.0