Graphic Novel/Comics Review

All-Star Batman & Robin vol.1

(2008) Frank Miller, Jim Lee and Scott Williams, Titan Books, 16.99, hrdbk, 232pp, ISBN 1-84576-291-9

This is a collection of the first 9 issues of the 'All-Star' title that started a couple of years back. Frank Miller was, of course, the man responsible for Batman: Year One in addition to the Dark Knight books; this title has sometimes been referred to as 'Batman Year One and a Half' and starts at the point where the young Dick Grayson's parents are murdered. Jim Lee is the fan-favourite artist who illustrated Batman: Hush (which, like this, was inked by Scott Williams). The Batman herein is no longer the amateur of 'Year One' and has, in fact, become quite sadistic in his treatment of criminals, reflecting current events post-Crisis and foreshadowing the Dark Knight tales. Guest stars in this volume include Black Canary (an almost unrecognisable version, to me at least... Who the hell is this Irish barmaid turned vigilante, and whatever happened to Dinah Drake/Lance?), very uptight versions of Superman and Wonder Woman (again reflecting present and future trends in the triumvirate's relationship(s)), a cameo by Plastic Man and an early incarnation of Hal Jordan's Green Lantern (who is almost killed at one point by Robin!). In addition Barbara Gordon puts on the Batgirl costume for the first time, Catwoman cameos, and the major villain is the Joker who, it transpires, is the man behind the deaths of Grayson's parents (as part of some, as yet to be revealed, scheme). The book also contains a 'cover gallery' and 'sketchbook' section, and an intro by DC editor Bob Schreck.

The story is as well written as you would expect from Miller and Lee's art is gorgeous. At times it anticipates Miller's own work on Dark Knight, at others it just revels in the iconography of the hero. The pull-out of the interior of the Batcave is particularly arresting (see how many of the Batmobiles and 'Copters you recognise!). This book is, however, a teensy bit unsatisfying as it does not contain a complete story arc, which is to say that the situation revolving around the Joker's murder of Robin's parents remains unresolved. That said, this is certainly the best Bat-title to some along in recent memory and has the advantage that new readers can jump aboard while more or less ignoring all previous continuity (not that anyone can keep that straight after 70-odd years!). Highly recommended.

Tony Chester

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