Thursday, February 28, 2008

Scott on All-Star Batman and Robin #9

[Scott called this for guest-blogging in one of the comments threads. Remember, if you want to review anything here, you can do the same thing -- just let me know in the free form comments or whatever. I will blog about this tomorrow, though my comments will be more brief.]

Ok, move over “I’m the Goddamm Batman”… hell, move over “I Drink Your Milkshake.” The nations next greatest catchphrase should be “Damn you and your Lemonade!”

Miller continues to reach new levels of absurdity in this confrontation between his Batman and Green Lantern. In some ways, this match trumps the Batman/Superman matches that Miller has given us before in the fact that, theoretically, GL is far more powerful the Superman; at least he could be if he only had the imagination (something that Bats points out that he is woefully lacking). Miller also has a lot of fun with the idea that the ring, the most powerful weapon in the universe, is rendered useless, not by something as hard to come by as kryptonite, but as simple as “one of the primary colors” (Bats, Robin, and the room they’re meeting in are all painted yellow).

GL, being the nice guy that he is, just wants to talk (much as Superman did in TDKR “That’s right Clark, keep talking). Bats has no interest in listening, this meeting is simply a way for him to mess with GL and to let him know that he knows his weakness and how to exploit it (Robin reading “The Yellow Kid” was a nice touch). We get another throwback to Miller’s previous bat-efforts when we see the circumstance under which Bats first uttered the phrase “Of course we’re criminals. We’ve always been Criminals. We have to be Criminals!” he says in a laugh. “That even scares [him]” Then, possibly my favorite part of the issue, when Batman snags the ring and he and Robin (two mere mortals) play keep away with the most powerful weapon in the universe.

Then, it all goes horribly wrong. . .

I almost gave up here. For a second, I thought Miller had finally gone too far. Miller has tread a fine line in his depiction of the relationship between Batman & Robin with Bats treatment of his ward bordering on abuse. Here he crosses that line: when Robin takes on GL in hand to hand combat (Batman admits that his fighting style frightens even him) he ‘accidentally’ lands a killing blow that crushes his trachea. Batman’s reaction? He first hurls his apprentice into a wall with such force that it cracks the paint before punching him and telling him to stay down while he administers emergency treatment (interestingly, when he removes his mask, we learn that this is the first time, despite the implied weeks of training, that Grayson sees that Batman is Bruce Wayne).

At first, this might seem a bit extreme but, think about it, Robin has just crushed a man’s trachea. As harsh as Miller’s Batman is and as much he laughs in the face more ‘traditional’ versions of the character, the one thing he retains is a strict code against killing. Especially when you consider that Robin was in no danger and simply landed the blow because he could. To Batman, this is the worst kind of sloppiness.

Afterwards, Batman, for the first time in this series, admits that he’s wrong. Like any ‘parent’ he wanted his ‘child’ to be better than him. He thought he could do this by being harder on Grayson, making the training more immediate. But, for the first time, Batman is willing to admit the importance of the grieving process and the role that played in making him who he is. Without it, despite his chipper demeanor, Robin is just an angrier more reckless version of himself. Batman then takes Robin to his parents grave site so he can say “Goodbye” The issue ends with Batman embracing Robin as they “mourn lives lost, including their own” Maybe it’s a bit maudlin, but I like it. It’s a moment of tenderness in dysfunctional relationship that (if Dark Knight Strikes Again is any indication) is only going to get worse.

3 comments:

Voice Of The Eagle said...

Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Ditto that bravo. Great review. I love ASB&RtBW.

scott91777 said...

*bows* Thank you very much... I just thought I'd post this on my thread since I've been meaning to put it up for a bit.

We've talked a lot about Batman as Fascist and Batman as terrorist in the later Miller works but I got in to a conversation with a student last spring who happenned to be familiar with The Dark Knight Strikes again and, in a paper he wrote for the class, (I teach TDKR in the course)he came up with an interesting theory of Batman as neither fascist or terrorist but as a revolutionary.

It's a valid reading when you think about how the leaders of revolutions are often seen as terrorist by their opposition (i.e. The British and our Revolution and, of course, The way the Empire probably viewed the Rebel Alliance and Star Wars)
It's all a matter of perspective.

He sees Miller's Batman being a lot like V in Moore's V For Vendetta; he exist to destroy the corruption and the old system to pave a way for a new system but he has no real interest in being 'in charge' himself. He just wants to police those who do. After all, at the end of TDSA it looks as though Superman is the one who is going to be stepping up to rule the planet when he asks his daughter "What do you want to do with our world Lara?"

Of course, Batman has made sure that, should the Man of Steel step out of line, he knows that the Dark Knight can bring him down.