By Stewart Loud.
This week I’m reviewing Frank Miller’s All Star Batman and Robin volume 1 and the second book in my new best mate, Pat Mills, (well, I met him last week anyway) Requiem Vampire Knight series. Amazing just how different the quality of writing in these two books is! I used to think Frank Miller could do no wrong until I read the first of these two publications. Was he really drunk when he wrote it or something?
Review of All Star BATMAN and ROBIN volume 1 graphic novel
Writer: Frank Miller
Art: Jim Lee
I’m a huge fan of Frank Millers work and even though I don’t read much Batman, his Dark Knight Returns story is one of my all time favourite comics so I was shocked and amazed at just how much of a mess this re-telling of Robin’s recruitment into Batman’s war against crime was.
I can’t fault Jim Lee’s sharp, outstanding artwork in this book. Every scene is interesting and expertly drawn and all the characters and action look fantastic. Been a good few years since I read anything he worked on, I have a lot of the X-Men and Punisher comics he worked on in the 90’s and I always though his art was flawless then so it’s staggering to see how much he’s improved since. So no, the problem is not with the visual side of things but the literary.
DK Returns was brilliant because it showed how Batman had changed and become more brutal and cynical with age. He took to actually murdering criminals in that book but deep down he was still a decent guy who had a soft spot for his juvenile companion, Robin.
In this one however, he comes across as some sort of irrational psychopath. If none of the cops he runs over and sets on fire during the story were killed then it’s only down to pure luck on his part. Seriously, all you see of some of them as their squad cars explode is flaming hats and shoes flying from the wreckage. He basically kidnaps Robin and makes him live in a cave and eat rats in his underwear, even the bloody Punisher, wouldn’t do this! Most ridiculously of all is the point when Frank Miller, dispels the myth that Batman creeps around like a shadow in the night and reveals that in actual fact he enjoys nothing more than leaping off rooftops at people cackling at the top of his lungs like some sort of hospital escapee.
His gritty inner monologue which Frank has done so well in the past is replaced with ridiculous ramblings about how he enjoys going out at night to cripple people and is peppered with lines meant to be punchy one liners before a scene change but have him constantly flipping from respecting Robin to hating him which just seem cheesy and unnecessary after a while. One minute it’s “ This kid’s strong” and the next “ I don’t like this little snot one bit”
So yeah, Batman is portrayed as some sort of lunatic throughout and this is supposed to be how he started out? If that’s not bad enough Pretty much every other DC character in the book is written the same way as they viciously paralyse drunks and threaten to cut off peoples heads and put them on a pole.
To make matters worse, Robin, the 12 year old boy doesn’t so much as bat an eyelid when both his parents get their brains blown out whilst standing right next to him and seems happy to start cracking wise at Batman (who I’d have thought would be fairly frightening to a 12 year old) only minutes later. He even has the inner monologue of a seasoned war vet’ or something as he repeatedly tells him self “Don’t go there, just don’t go there” whenever he finds himself dwelling on the death of his parents. Oh and I don’t care how acrobatically gifted he is, a 12 year old boy could not beat the green lantern to death.
Then in the final and perhaps the most confusing scene of the book where after spending the entire story making Robin eat rats, calling him names and punching him as hard as he can in the face (seriously that actually happens) Batman suddenly decides to take Robin, to his parents grave where they both break down in tears and embrace eachother displaying some sort of deep, empathetic bond that we haven’t seen developing at any other point in the book.
The only thing I can find in it’s favour apart from the art is I did find a lot of the scenes where Batman is running over and blowing up large groups of police officers quite funny because of how ridiculous they were but I’m fairly sure that wasn’t the intention. If you really want to see how bad it is then see if you can borrow it off someone but trust me when I say you’d regret buying it.
Sin City? Year One? 300? Come on Frank, you’re so much better than this!
Review of REQUIEM VAMPIRE KNIGHT Book 2 : Dracula and The Vampires Ball
Writer: Pat Mills
Art: Olivier Ledroit
Oh my God, it gets worse!….Or maybe better, It depends how you look at it. Either way, the first book was bloody marvellous and this one’s just s good!
The second book in Pat Mills mind bendingly good, Requiem, series expands the wicked world of Resurrection, he introduced in the first book. We see a lot more of the political landscape of Resurrection as we’re introduced to various political factions within the ruling elite as well as other countries and nations of creatures within the savage hell dimension and treated to some truly awe inspiring and stomach turningly brutal battle scenes between them and the vampire forces led by Dracula. Again I was surprised by the series’ ability to actually give me a physical sensation of uneasiness with how unrelentingly nightmarish it is.
More details of Heinrich’s human past are revealed and it becomes more and more clear that he was not the sensitive lover or courageous war hero his grief roasted mind had fooled him into believing he was. At the same time, more is revealed about Heinrich’s friend Otto’s life before Resurrection and how he is linked to the other characters. The plot indeed thickens.
I struggled to believe it was possible but the art looks even better in this volume than the last with Ledroit, outdoing himself page after page with more wonderfully Gothic cityscapes, machines and demonic vessels.
I half expected not to enjoy this one as much as the last after getting over the initial shock of how twisted and original the series is but this book delivers everything the first did and more. More incredible landscapes and locations. More devilishly evil characters and frightening creatures. More intriguing ideas and plot developments. More depth. More atmosphere and more visually and mentally stimulating bang for your buck than anything else I’ve read this year.