Secret Defenders #9

Who says there aren’t any overweight superheroes?


Ah, the Defenders.

What a terrible concept, you know? I’m sorry, I know there are fans out there, but I just don’t get the point of the team. You get concepts like the Justice League or the Avengers – the best of the planet’s heroes uniting together to defend the world from threats beyond the normal capacity of superheroes. You get concepts like the Teen Titans – a group of teenaged superheroes and sidekicks banding together to help each other grow up and work together as friends and family. You get concepts like the X-Men – oppressed individuals with unusual abilities working together to show that the prejudices against them are unjustified.

But what is the need of the Defenders? Doctor Strange, the Hulk, Silver Surfer, and Namor have nothing that unites them; they just exist. Still, The Defenders lasted an impressive 152-issue run from 1972 to 1986 before there was a new concept thrown out there in the 1990s – The Secret Defenders.

The idea was akin to the one used in Justice League Task Force – Doctor Strange would call upon a group of heroes to temporarily work together to deal with a specific threat. In theory, this actually isn’t a bad idea for a comic, kind of a Showcase Presents type of thing to highlight heroes, but if the rest of the series was anything like the subject today, I’ll have to say it failed miserably.

The writer, Ron Marz, has a love-hate relationship with comics fandom. While it may have been editorially dictated, he was the one who wrote the infamous Green Lantern story where Hal Jordan goes insane, murders several of his friends and colleagues, before turning into a full-on supervillain by absorbing all the Green Lantern energy and taking the name Parallax. He’s also responsible for inspiring the Women in Refrigerators criticism of comics and their tendency to depower, murder, rape, or otherwise just screw over female superheroines or characters. On the other hand, he also wrote Ion: Guardian of the Universe, so I won’t fault him for every bad thing he’s done.

As for the penciler Tom Grindberg… well, hell, I don’t know what to say. The artwork in this book is atrocious as we’re about to see, possibly a result of the Dark Age-style that may have been editorially handed to him, but from the other art I’ve seen of him, it baffles the mind why exactly we’re getting what we’re getting here.

Let’s start off with the hideous cover, as always. What does it say about the art when the small “icons” of the characters in the top left corner look better than the ones on the cover itself? The dizzying cover for Secret Defenders #9 features the three who will be working for Doctor Strange in this little adventure – Silver Surfer, War Machine, and our good old pal Thunderstrike. While it’s bad enough that the background colors are a nauseating collage of various shapes and wavy lines, the artwork on the three we see here is just as nerve-racking. I know Dark Age artwork took muscular structures and emphasized them considerably, but this is just sad – it’s like all three of them were balloons that got filled with enough air that any minute now they’re going to float away. Their necks are only about an inch long and they look like they can’t run, only waddle.

We open up on a ballooned, menacing Roger Delgado- erm, I mean Doctor Strange. Either of his hands are roughly the size of his head and he has a third eye on him for some reason. Oh and there are eyeballs floating around in yellow sulphuric mists that seem to be emanating from… well, I don’t really know what to call them. They look like stone, orange bones, and a single candle flame that doesn’t seem to be an actual light source. The good Doctor asks in the direction of the reader, “Why have you come to the house of DOCTOR STRANGE?” And his name is in red and made huge, as if he routinely walks around talking about himself in the most dramatic manner possible. I can just see him walking up to a Starbucks and proclaiming, DOCTOR STRANGE demands his grande double mocha!’

Cut to a two-page spread of Doctor Strange floating above the weird crap we saw on the first page as well as seeing what a cluttered mess his home, the Sanctum Sanctorum, really is. Oh, and his third eye is now gone. Silver Surfer is standing nearby and- oh, dear lord has he put on weight! Seriously, the guy’s stomach is clearly shown from the backside and his ass is at least twice as big as his head! I guess Galactus wasn’t the only guy chowing down on planets when the herald went a surfin’! The tragically-obese Silver Surfer says, “Wong let me in. He thought you would not mind. I can go if I’m intruding.” Doctor Strange replies, “Of course not, Surfer. I wouldn’t hear of it. Your arrival is simply unexpected — as are all your appearances lately. But you know you are welcome in my home at any time.” Then why were you yelling at him a minute ago for entering your house? Furthermore, what’s with the weird emphasis on certain words? Try to say that last bit of dialogue for yourself and try not to giggle when you start talking like a stereotypical hairdresser and saying ‘dahling!’

On the next page we see that the Surfer finally put his power cosmic to good use and seems to be flattening out his stomach a bit, albeit his arms and chest are still pretty weirdly drawn. Doctor Strange inquires as to why he’s here and the Surfer explains he needs some assistance. And now it’s time for the ol’ flashback to kick in detailing stuff that no one really cares about. Here’s the gist of it – apparently, a self-styled pirate named Nebula tried to steal the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos and was imprisoned on Saturn’s moon Titan. She was later broken out of her prison and ran into the Silver Surfer after she had killed some of her former crew and I swear to God here that this page contains no less than four footnotes listing off where those actions took place, one of them even listing off a seven-issue[!] stint for the main Silver Surfer comic.

The Surfer further exposits that she’s mustering forces on the Martian moon Phobos (since when did Phobos have its own recruitment center for evil henchmen?). “Her target seems obvious — Titan.” Well, obviously. “She’ll want revenge for her imprisonment.” Wouldn’t she want revenge against the people who initially imprisoned her and not some jail (a jail of which we know nothing about… are there aliens on Titan who imprisoned her? I love how Marvel always proclaims it strives for a “real world” feel for their comics and ye we seem to get the impression that most of the moons in the solar system are inhabited!)? Doctor Strange offers assistance, but the Surfer declines. We zoom in on his face as he explains why his help would be useless, showing his face get chubbier and chubbier as if the more he speaks, the more his body fills out.

Apparently Nebula is a “Master Strategist” and that when she came into contact with many of Earth’s heroes before, she gained knowledge on all of them and subsequently what their weaknesses could be. The Surfer explains that though he failed to stop her the last time, he’ll take his chances now (yeah, go up against the woman who already knows you and your weaknesses! Who’s the master strategist now, eh?) As such, he requests Doctor Strange give him some allies who would be unfamiliar to Nebula.

Some time later, Doctor Strange has the Surfer come back to him and he shows who he has obtained. They’re veiled in silhouettes at first, making him confusedly think that Doctor Strange has obtained Thor and Iron Man. Strange replies, “No. Not quite.” Not even by a long shot, pal. And thus we are introduced to Thunderstrike and War Machine! And I just have to laugh here about how horrifying the artwork is on this page. War Machine looks like someone smushed him down so he was really wide and his legs were compressed to make up about half his body. Thunderstrike got off a little better, but his head is the size of his fist while the rest of his body is just muscled to the extreme. I’d like to say he’s on steroids but I didn’t know steroids made someone that friggin’ tall.

Just an artistic aside here – the average human body from the top of the head to the toes is usually about the height of one’s head times seven. Shoulder length is usually the width of two heads. Thunderstrike in this picture measures eleven head heights tall and five head-widths for the shoulders, just going to show once more that one needn’t to really have any anatomical knowledge in order to draw a comic.

The (unintentional) humor continues with the dialogue. Doctor Strange comments on how “Almost nobody recognizes them… least of all Nebula.” No, least of all the comic-reading public. What I really love is how Doctor Strange says right in front of them that these two are losers that aren’t well-known in the public. Still, I’ve got to say Ron Marz in this book does capture Thunderstrike’s unique and complex grasp of the English language as we saw in his own book:

Honored to meet you… Though we’ve met before, sort of. But that’d be a long story (Oh, why stop now?) and… well… uh…Like I said… I’m honored. Really.” Somewhere out there Shakespeare’s swooning, folks.

Silver Surfer must be kicking himself now as he asks, “You’re sure they’re up to it?” Doctor Strange affirms his confidence in the two and the Surfer asks the two if they’ve been explained what they’ll be up against. War Machine replies, “All right with me. Sounds like a good scrap.” If you mean your armor, then yes, your armor will make good scrap. “I need a chance to work out the kinks in this suit, anyway.” Oh, well that should put the Silver Surfer’s fears to rest – your armor’s apparently not even perfected and yet you want to go up against the Master Strategist. Doctor Strange apparently didn’t spend much time looking for these two, did he?

Thunderstrike expresses his own confidence in the mission: “I mean, with the three of us, this nebula doesn’t stand a chance, right?” This coming from the guy whose original arch-nemesis was a Rastafarian Doctor Doom called “Carjack.” On top of that is War Machine, who I’m sure has quite an arsenal that would make him a threat on Earth, but the amount of alien technology at Nebula’s disposal must easily trump War Machine’s weapons. And as the Surfer explained, even he is pretty much useless in this fight because Nebula’s already encountered him and therefore can out-strategize him. Here’s a thought – instead of bringing in two losers that even Doctor Strange admitted “nobody recognizes,” how about you organize the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and every other hero at your disposal and go on a huge assault on her? Sure, she’s a master strategist, but the number of superpowered individuals at their disposal must create too many variables for her to have to factor in.

The Silver Surfer warns them not to get overconfident, especially since even by his own admission: “We are only three, and it’s certain Nebula has gathered a sizable force by now. Her troops will be well-armed and well-trained.” This is going to be like the superhero Bay of Pigs, isn’t it? Doctor Strange teleports them away amidst more nauseating magical effects and we can see once again that apparently between panels the heroes have gained significant weight (especially in their legs. Wow!), making me think this is actually going to be a superhero Bay of Pigs orchestrated by Fat Bastard, an elderly Marlon Brando, and Chris Farley.

Cut to a two-page spread of the battle on Phobos! It’s the kind of battle one would see in Infinite Crisis or Civil War except it’s ridiculously lame compared to the group shots in those books because only THREE heroes are here and the rest are just an assortment of unrecognizable aliens who are either standing around or just getting blasted through by Silver Surfer, War Machine, and Thunderstr- BY DIEHARD’S CROTCH! What the hell happened to Thunderstrike’s spine?! He’s curving his body more than a female character by Michael Turner! Come to think of it, none of these people have any kind of space suits on. How the hell are they breathing?

The Silver Surfer says he’ll go on ahead to hunt for Nebula while the other two take on the horde of alien soldiers. War Machine responds with a non-chalant, “Fine. Everything’s under control here.” I guess he’s grown as bored with this stuff as we have. Thunderstrike has this to say: “Sure, you track her down, but, uh… leave some for us, okay?” I just gasp whenever Thunderstrike speaks – his words are spoken softly — through gritted teeth — but they strike with the force of a thunderbolt! *Sigh*

*Ahem* Anyway, Silver Surfer flies up, blasting an alien in half (come to think of it, all three of them aren’t exactly pulling their punches to prevent slicing and dicing the alien soldiers here) as he reasons where Nebula could be: “Resistance is heaviest near Nebula’s flagship. I suspect that’s where I’ll find her… waiting for me. I won’t disappoint her.” So his plan is to fly into Nebula’s Flagship guns ablazing right where she wants to and… what, exactly? I guess Surfer’s plan is:

1. Fly right into Nebula’s hands.
2. ???
3. Profit!

Brilliant strategy, Napoleon. Weren’t you the one lecturing the other two a minute ago about being overconfident? A weird energy burst comes from a gun in some green guy’s hands that knocks out the Silver Surfer in one blast. We see Nebula herself now and apparently she’s Locutus of Borg with child-bearing hips and actually quite an impressive package for a woman. She explains that the weapon was a “Synaptic Disruptor,” for those who were wondering how some energy weapon could take down someone with the power cosmic. Oh, and she’s also wearing a leather jacket for no particular reason with the Flash’s lightning bolt on the lapel. Make ‘Buried Alien’ jokes at your leisure.

Cutting back to Thunder Strike and War Machine, the two are actually having a decent conversation about how it shouldn’t matter if they’re viewed as imitations of more well-known heroes. “If you’re in this to do some good, doesn’t matter who you look like. Long as you get the job done. Remember that, Thunderstrike, and everything falls into place.” Of course, the touching little commentary on heroism and resemblance is undercut by the fact that the two look like two overweight bikers trying to storm their way over to a sack of White Castles, but it’s a nice sentiment for the two.

And of course the “well-armed, well-trained” soldiers are easily smacked around by a guy in a suit of technologically-inferior armor and a guy who looks like Crocodile Dundee if he let his hair and beard grow out. Suddenly, some red, demonic-looking alien grabs Thunderstrike and threatens him with a curvy blade, which is somehow supposed to create dramatic tension, except for the fact that we know the guy has enhanced strength, which means a little blade isn’t going to do crap on him. War Machine frags the alien and I’ve got to shake my head at the thought that just a second ago they were talking about being heroes.

The two fly off in search of the Silver Surfer and we finally get an explanation for how they can breathe: an “artificial atmosphere envelope.” Hmmm… Nope, not buying it. Sorry. They arrive at the edge of the “artificial atmosphere envelope” and find the Silver Surfer strapped to some big hunk of metal. Nebula starts ‘mu-ha-ha-ing’ about how she was ready for the Surfer while she stands in an awkward pose that once again points out what a tiny waist she has but that she’s got a big butt, too. Oh and this page has the only bright spot in this whole issue – it’s the reflection of light on the bottom of the thing Silver Surfer’s strapped to.

Nebula gets in a nice zing on the two has-beens: “And you two jokes — whatever you’re supposed to be — can’t do a thing to stop me.” Damn, those two just got owned by a cyborg Sinead O’Connor. Thunderstrike’s ready to open a can of whoopass over the insult, but War Machine tells him to take it easy (in quite possibly the best-drawn panel of the entire comic if only because we can’t see their bodies, just their faces and part of their shoulders). Nebula exposits that the Silver Surfer is strapped to a fusion-reaction bomb that “he’s going to ride it all the way down to Titan.” Doctor Strangelove, eat your heart out.

This does raise even more questions, though – how exactly does she plan on getting the bomb to Titan? She supposedly has a “Flagship,” yet every time we see her here she’s standing on a bunch of rocks. And again I must ask – what’s the point of taking out Titan, exactly? It seems to me that the Silver Surfer probably has more to answer for in terms of doing crap to you than some prison and you even have the surfer captured and you can kill him with the bomb already. And perhaps most damning of all, are we really supposed to take Nebula here as a “Master Strategist?” So far the ‘heroes’ are the ones who have bumbled around just leaping in without a second thought. And not to mention it doesn’t exactly take much to take down either of these two. Bear in mind, a good EMP could probably leave War Machine defenseless. And Thunderstrike here was taken down by Bloodaxe of all people.

Thunderstrike asks, “And you expect us to stand by and let you do it?” Nebula, channeling her inner James Bond villain, responds, “No. Of course not. I expect you to stand here and be killed.” The book ends as two more overweight aliens suddenly come floating down (or is it supposed to be leaping? I can’t imagine having that much fat on a body and being able to leap like that) and Nebula explains that they are her Lieutenants Kurg and Kruk and that they’re “particularly good soldiers because I’ve had all their nerve endings cauterized. They feel no pain. But you will.

Dun dun duuuuuuuun! Will Silver Surfer become the Silver Smudge?! Will Thunderstrike and War Machine get on the Slim Fast Plan before they run afoul of a heart attack?! Does Nebula realize that Persis Khambatta isn’t a good role model for one’s hairstyle?! Who knows, who cares. I have to go order a new crate of donuts for the Silver Surfer.

So basically by Frank Miller’s own admission here Batman is a rude, murderous child abductor who cares what twelve year-olds think about his toys and eats rats when not mourning the loss of the bloody, incestuous affair he had with his mother.


For the previous installments, please check below:

Issue 1

Issue 2

Issue 3

Once again we have a beautiful Jim Lee cover, albeit it’s pretty static compared to the previous one of the Irish ninja Black Canary doing a flying kick. On the opposite side of things is Frank Miller’s slightly-confusing alternate cover (which I decided to feature with someone else’s scan just for its sheer confusion factor). It features Superman running across the water (he can FLY, you know) with his face shadowed expect for a red glow from his eyes. While the initial confusion comes from the fact that this is supposed to be All-Star Batman and Robin and not All-Star Superman (a book written by Grant Morrison that does everything RIGHT with the idea of the All-Star line), the real confusing part is the bomb/missile behind him that’s falling towards the water. At no point does such a weapon appear in the book and I have a feeling it’s only there to invoke Miller’s earlier work with Dark Knight Returns that featured the Cold War pretty prominently. And even then, unlike Black Canary’s presence on the previous cover, Superman only appears for two panels in the whole freaking thing.

Perhaps to contrast with the endings of the previous two issues’ last pages, we start things off with a bat symbol at an angle with flames around it. On the next page, we check up on Vicki Vale. She’s apparently now in a hospital and she’s dying pretty rapidly. Medical dialogue worthy of E.R. informs us that her left ventricle’s been punctured by a bone. We see Vicki flailing about on her bed still in her cleavage-revealing dress and bandages around her leg and arm, presumably from Alfred’s earlier care. Now, I’m not a doctor, but it seems to me that in cases like this, a flailing patient is probably the last thing you want if you’re going to be performing surgery to remove bones from hearts. Shouldn’t they be gassing her or at least putting restraints on her so they can work?

Vicki’s eyes roll into the back of her head and the heart monitor flatlines, revealing that it seems she’s died. The doctors (none of whom we actually see) scramble for a cardiac needle… but enough of that scene! It’s time to check back in with everyone’s favorite Goddamn Batman – BINO!

The last issue had an almost complete lack of our grinning, psychopathic protagonist, to which I complained about because it’s his book, after all. But now I suddenly wish we were back with Black Canary. Or maybe we could check in on Green Lantern, whom I’m sure Frank has rewritten so that he’s a KKK member who devours the hearts of young girls after molesting them. In any case, Dick Grayson brings us up to speed: “BATMAN’S thrown me into a CAR that turns into an AIRPLANE and then a SUBMARINE.” I’m tempted to make a Transformers joke, but frankly this thing’s already draining me. “BATMAN’S completely nuts.” NO! What would ever make you think THAT, Dick Grayson, Age Twelve? “He KIDNAPS a kid. He knocks the SNOT out of COPS.” I think he knocked their internal organs out, too. Remember when he drove the Batmobile through the car and split it in half?

Dick tells Batman about how he’s about to drive into a bunch of rocks, but BINO just has that expression on his face like he’s about to reach over and start fondling Dick’s hair, and then tells him he doesn’t know anything. Dick’s narration continues: “He’s out of his MIND. And I’ve just signed ON with him. To FIGHT CRIME. How lame is THAT?” Considering how many people would give their right arm (Oops! Sorry, Risk) to be a superhero, not that lame. BINO commands the hologram to come off, but the Batmobile just crashes into the rocks and everyone dies. The end. Oh, how I wish that it what would happen.

Instead, it’s time for BINO to exposit for a bit. “I’ve had my EYE on this Grayson for MONTHS. He’s the most promising CANDIDATE for the job I’ve SEEN.” I wonder if BINO hired a temp while he waited for someone to fill the position? “Still, I’d have waited YEARS before RECRUITING him. At least until he’s old enough to SHAVE. I’d have waited YEARS. But some soulless SLOB with a GUN changed the whole EQUATION.” Well, you heard it from the guy himself, folks – he would’ve killed Dick’s parents himself in a few years so he could draft Dick into his war. The Batmosub rises up and Dick yells, “When are you going to let me out of this thing? It feels like its been days!” Well, considering the whole milk carton thing from the previous issue, it wouldn’t surprise me if he WAS in there for days.

What we have next is one of three reasons why people remember this comic. The others are coming up, but this thing is all Jim Lee right here – a SIX PAGE SPREAD OF THE BATCAVE. And this is why Jim Lee should be commended – he saved us from six more pages of dialogue from BINO. Dick Grayson is, of course, stunned silent by the grandeur of it all and once again Frank Miller embarrasses us all when he gives us BINO’s child molester grin again and asks Dick, “Is this cool or what?” Dick, trying to play it smooth, replies, “Yeah, I guess it’s okay. I mean, I’ve seen better, but I guess this is okay.” BINO clamps up, obviously put down because the twelve year-old boy isn’t impressed with his crib. Yup, he’s the Goddamn Batman, but dang it, he put a lot of work into this!

A “Boop” sound is heard from BINO’s utility belt and Dick Grayson, Age Twelve, actually channels Kevin Smith’s villain Onomatopoeia when he asks, ““Boop”?” BINO, for the ninth time since the series started, tells Dick to shut up. While BINO answers the call, we see in the background that robot lasers are shooting the Dinosaur prop in the cave for some reason. Dick wonders to himself why the cave’s so cold and I actually have to wonder that, myself. Even if we were to buy the excuse that Dick gives that BINO “likes it cold,” the amount of machinery and lasers within the cave that we’ve seen should’ve raised it a few degrees. Alfred informs BINO over the phone that Vicki Vale’s in terrible shape and we can see that indeed, she has recovered from her heart completely stopping from the first pages and someone finally put an oxygen mask over her and some better clothes.

Alfred informs BINO that pieces of her clavicle and ribs are loose in her chest and that her lungs and heart are compromised. Furthermore the Doctors, “seem somewhat at a loss.” Again, I’m not a Doctor, but it seems to me that surgery of some kind would probably be a good first step. Maybe it’s the kind of thing that’s rather difficult to do in a surgery to find all those pieces of bone, but I’m pretty sure Doctors can handle extracting bones from certain places and patching up the individuals. Confusing matters is the fact that the Doctors seem to be crowded with people for an unknown reason – perhaps victims of BINO’s rampage across the countryside while in Dr. Claw’s MADmobile?

Dick Grayson, Age Twelve thinks to himself about the strangeness of the Batcave – how it seems like a construction site and yet there’s music playing. He recognizes it as Bach and that his parents would listen to it all the time. Maybe Frank was trying to evoke a Shawshank Redemption thing with Mozart or a V for Vendetta thing with Beethoven thing with the Bach music, but all it really does is remind us of stuff that’s better than this comic. BINO orders Alfred to “Get Ekhart. In Paris. Get him there. He can do anything.” Alfred informs him that Ekhart wouldn’t be able to get there in time, but BINO tells him to “Get that clown in Metropolis to fetch him.” Lord, what I wouldn’t give for some clowns right now.

BINO takes a moment to talk about how much better he is than Superman. Yes, a woman is about to die from bones puncturing her organs, you’ve kidnapped a twelve year-old child whose parents were just killed in front of them (“Their BRAINS splashed all over my FEET” as Dick Grayson, Age Twelve puts it), but now it’s the time to compare sizes with the Man of Steel. And that brings certain thoughts to mind, as Vicki Vale put it in the first issue – particularly what a moron you are. Also compounding matters is that like Wolverine’s tendency in certain Civil War parodies to only speak in the words “Snikt Bub,” it seems Superman is only capable of speaking in the word “Damn!

“That’s RIGHT Kent. You’re BUSTED. I know who you ARE. And you’ve got NO damn idea who I am.” X-ray vision, anyone? “I’m a DETECTIVE.” No, Sherlock Holmes is a detective. Encyclopedia Brown is a detective. You’re a loser who kidnaps a young boy and creepily refers to him as your “ward.” You haven’t done one goddamn bit of detective work since you started this goddamn comic and- oh God, Frank Miller’s writing is infecting me! Save yourselves! “I can’t LEAP TALL BUILDINGS with a single BOUND. But I’m SMART. One HELL of a lot smarter than YOU’LL ever be.” Sadly I have to agree with BINO here, since if I were Superman, I’d fly all the way to Gotham, break into his cave at super-speed, rip that mask off of BINO and fly him up to about 2,000 feet above the ground and say, ‘Who’s smarter now, dumbass?’ Out of character? Perhaps, but not on Earth-Miller, where I’m sure Superman is a cigarette-eating alcoholic who brags about how he screws Lois Lane as Superman and then makes her bow to his will as Clark Kent and she’s none the wiser.

Dick asks if he can get a change of clothes: “First off, could I get something to wear instead of these stupid tights? I mean, tights really blow chunks.” BINO gives him a look that makes me think he’s about to SLAP Dick (once again showing that BINO gives a rat’s ass about whether or not the little kid thinks he’s cool or not), but Dick continues with: “Sorry. It’s just I’m all sweaty and dirty” (No, Dick, you’ll just make him want to molest you MORE!) “and I’ve still got Mom and Dad’s blood and stuff all over me.” And now we have the second reason why this issue is so memorable. BINO’s narration caption gives us another example of disgust, shock, and horror (for the reader, anyway) with this line: “I touched my mother’s breast. It BLED on me.”

Excuse me, I have to go “blow chunks” for that mental image. We get a shot of Bruce sitting over his dead parents with blood on his hands and without the pearl necklace that Frank Miller was responsible for including in Batman’s origin story. “I heard her cough her last and I pressed my hand against my mother’s breast just in case there was any hope at all and there wasn’t any heartbeat.” So not only is he a pedophile but he was involved in an incestuous relationship with his mother? Anyone think THAT aspect of the origin story is going to be used by future writers?

Dick’s narration captions continue: “His HAND lands on my SHOULDER, weightless as a falling leaf.” Damn it, Frank, this is no time for your blasted haikus! “Those bigass FINGERS of his SQUEEZE like a gentle CARESS.” Oh, ye flippin’ God – Dick wants to be molested as much as BINO wants to do it! BINO says he’ll get him some new clothes and tells Dick he’s leaving to go work. Dick asks what he’s supposed to do now and BINO says he can do whatever he wants. Maybe this is why the Batcave has all the laser things shooting out – BINO routinely kidnaps young boys and lets them play in the Batcave until they get killed and the machines have to clean it all up. It’s like an even more demented version of the Neverland Ranch.

Dick asks what he’s supposed to do for food and BINO replies that there’s plenty of food around him and that it’ll present itself to him. At that moment, we get shots of a bat and a rat, clearly telling Dick that he’s meant to be eating the animals in the cave. And there we have our third reason why this comic is remembered – The goddamn Batman wants his “ward” to eat cave rats. Thanks, BINO, eating the stringy, rabies-infected, living-in-its-own-filth rodent will do wonders for Dick’s health and agility.

The artwork (possibly the most symbolic so far) shows us Dick sitting in a fetal position with his shadow coming out and the rat about a foot away from him. “For a while I just SIT there and CRY until the SNOT’S running down my chin.” Umm… Ew? “Then I guess I doze. BATMAN is a CREEP. I hate his GUTS.” Personally, I don’t like his personality, but I guess any part of him is really unlikable.

We switch back briefly to Superman as he, for some unknown reason, is now carrying the car across the water as he continues to run across it. As he gives off his trademark catchphrase of “Damn!” I have to tilt my head in confusion and wonder why exactly he’s not FLYING over the water or just carrying the guy in his arms, where I’m sure he can offer better protection from the G-forces than a car.

But enough of that scene! I mean, BINO’s the star here, isn’t he? We switch over to a confusing shot of BINO punching a police officer in the company of who I presume to be a prostitute. Yes, all of four women have been shown in this series. The first was a slut and is now dying, the second was murdered, the third was an Irish ninja who beat up an entire bar full of people and stole a bunch of stuff, and now the fourth is just some background prostitute. Frank Miller: feminist, ladies and gentlemen! Anywho, BINO is punching the guy and proclaims for no logical reason, “Hah!” followed up by, “So what’s the story on Jocko-Boy, officer?” Who is this guy?! Who’s Jocko-Boy?! WHAT IS HAPPENING?! The officer responds that the “Whole thing is rigged. He walks tomorrow. Lack of evidence. That’s all I know.” BINO says “Thanks” and we see a “Krunch” sound effect while BINO’s arm is extending down off the panel, leading me to conclude that he just punched the guy’s nose in and the bone is piercing into his brain given BINO’s track record so far.

Dick wakes up to discover he’s now in pajamas (Oh God, Alfred’s just as sick as BINO!) and discovers a tray of food nearby. He gobbles it up happily and thinks that “there must be SOMEBODY nice around here.” Yeah, somebody nice who had no problem stripping you naked while you slept. I feel dirty just having read this stuff. BINO assaults Alfred[!!!], slamming him against the cave wall and yelling, “What the hell do you think you’re doing, Alfred?” Okay, this scene just further pushes away my believability that this is supposed to be Batman. It was one thing when batman pushed Alfred aside and yelled at him in Infinite Crisis because of how much stress and pain he was undergoing at the time, but him knocking Alfred around because he showed some compassion?! Frank, you’re either doing this deliberately to get off of this book or you’re just insane.

Alfred says that he won’t allow Dick to eat rats and BINO tells him that he himself was reduced to it[!!]. At what point in Batman’s training around the world did he ever get sent into a cave and was forced to eat a whole bunch of rats to survive? I think we might’ve missed that issue. Alfred proclaims proudly, “Sir I am your butler. I am your aide. I am your medic.” I am the walrus, koo-koo-kachoo. “I am not, however, your slave. Unhand me.” He is, however, unwilling to quit this psychotic job and work for some other rich guy who wants to be a superhero, apparently.

And thus our issue ends as BINO walks away grumbling with the narration boxes saying, “ALFRED just told me to take a FLYING LEAP.” Uh, I thought he said he wasn’t your slave. Were you under the impression he was? There’s so much not to like about this guy… “This little BRAT is going to ruin EVERYTHING.” Hey, you’re the one who kidnapped him, you dick. Consequently, the Bat symbol on BINO’s chest just happens to be the same one that Miller used in his drawings. Kudos to Jim Lee for remembering that detail. Sadly, it just reminds us of Frank’s BETTER Batman stuff we’ve seen.

Well, as of this writing, that’s all we’ve seen of All-Star Batman and Robin. Issue 5 has been resolicited a few times and DC claims that they’re trying to get a few issues done before they start shipping it out again and all I’m going to say is take your time, DC. I think we can live without the goddamn Batman who touches his mother’s bleeding breast and kidnaps twelve year-olds so they can eat rats for a while longer.

Who knew the Irish had secret ninja powers?


For the previous installments, please check:

All-Star Batman and Robin #1

And

All-Star Batman and Robin #2

This time around I have the kick-ass Jim Lee cover. While it features the cheesecake costume of Black Canary, it’s really not that terrible a thing, since cheesecake on its own isn’t bad, especially not in this situation. We have the image of Black Canary with her body in a flying kick and an angry expression on her face. She’s active and she’s strong. Just looking at this image implies that Black Canary is not someone you want to screw around with. While I don’t have it to show you, those who are curious may look up Frank Miller’s alternate cover. What’s featured on that one? Black Canary slacking herself back, dragging a cigarette, and drawn like she was a $2 hooker found at the back of a bar. Once again, folks, in Frank Miller’s world, Men are from Mars, Women are from the whorehouse.

When we last left off, Dick Grayson had been convinced to join the fantabulous world of superheroes after BINO (Batman In Name Only) gave a soliloquy worthy of Shakespeare (if Shakespeare had been a murderous pedophile whose plays had been performed not before the Queen of England but the Queens bar and grill down the road). So, of course, one would think we’d be returning to that, right? Of course not, because now we are “Six Months Ago.” It’s a full-page shot of a fat, drunken loser walking out of a bar called the Black Canary and mumbling to himself in full, Frank Miller-styled repeating dialogue, “Who’s that little piece of sass think she is? Cuttin’ me off. Me.” Well, I’m sorry Senator Kennedy, not everyone reads the papers. “Who she think(sic) she is? I can hold my liquor. I can hold it.” I can hold it, too – the gun to my head, I mean. I’m going to play Russian Roulette before I get through this…

Another note on this scene is that Frank Miller’s prose, lovingly referred to on a message board I frequent as Idiotic Pentameter, is also in force in the narration boxes. It refers to the Black Canary bar as “something that came out of the back end of a horse.” That Frank just paints a picture, doesn’t he? Two figures emerge from off-panel, talking about the place. One says, “You’re not gonna(sic) believe this, Dipstick. You’re not gonna believe your eyes.” “It better be fine, Dorothy[?!]. She better be fine.” What you didn’t know of the Wizard of Oz book Dorothy and the Prostitute Village of Oz?

The narration box lets us know: “The only people with any reason to be out this late are hookers and cops — and losers.” Well, you’d know all three of those, wouldn’t you, Frank? When the two ‘gentleman’ enter, we can tell what kind of place this is. Essentially, it’s a Hooters bar but with the waitresses wearing the Black Canary costume instead of tight t-shirts and short orange hot pants. And, of course, the dialogue shows that she’s getting hit on from all sides along with normal drink orders. Surprisingly, there are even a few women at the bar who seem to be getting drinks, but knowing Frank they’re probably hitting on Black Canary, too. ‘Humorously,’ as Frank continues to talk about the people who are out this late, he brings up Black Canary herself along with a cartoon image of a stick of dynamite: “This particular bartender’s fuse is getting shorter by the moment.”

Just as a side note considering the two losers who enter the bar continue to talk about Black Canary like a piece of meat, I have to wonder what exactly is the appeal of places like this or, for that matter, strip clubs in general. One is (usually) not allowed to directly touch the dancers/waitresses, cannot masturbate, and there is no expectation of sex, so they don’t even have a prostitution thing going. Sure, there’s the ‘they’re paying attention to you angle,’ but I know pornos that do that sort of thing and you can do that in the privacy of your own home and not around a bunch of lascivious, annoying other guys.

We get a full shot of who I can only presume is Dinah Lance concerning the Black Canary costume and she asks the two morons what their order is amidst all the flirtations of the other people at the bar. Oh, and just for maximum effect, we get to have a reflection of the mirror with the horny gazes of the men at the bar at Black Canary while she just looks off to the side. You see, boys, she’s here for your pleasure, just like that slut Vicki Vale. The narration doesn’t help: “…Maybe she’s having a bad night. Or maybe it’s something somebody said. Or maybe it’s something someone’s about to say.” Well, make up your mind! “Something in her gut is just aching to break out. Something unpleasant.” Oh no, she’s got a chestbuster alien! Run for your lives!

The two losers push aside other people at the bar and ask for some drinks and then, in some censored scribbles, ask Dinah to do something that I’m sure is sexual in nature. In a legitimately funny moment, Dinah responds with, “As for that other service you gents requested of me, I’ll leave it to you two boys to provide for each other.” Zing. Oh, and Black Canary’s Irish now, too. Honestly, what was the point of this sequence to the series? Oh, and I do compliment Frank on a little more subtle satire here in the fact that one of the two idiots looks like Oliver Queen, Dinah’s on-and-off boyfriend Green Arrow. Of course, this could actually be the awesomeness of Jim Lee at work. We may never know. The other moron reaches over and grabs Black Canary’s ass and, as such, you can pretty much figure out what happens next.

Yeah, the cartoon dynamite fuse runs out and Dinah does an aerial kick to both of the morons. I- wait, huh?! Okay, nothing of what we’ve seen so far of Black Canary indicates she has the training to pull off a move like that. In fact, the dialogue says she left Monaghan and her mother, brothers, and sisters to come here. There’s no trace of the normal Dinah Lance we know and love, the one who was trained by Wildcat and the Justice Society of America against her mother’s wishes to become the next Black Canary and fight crime. Do the Irish have hidden Irish ninja powers that they haven’t told anybody about?

Anyway, Dinah continues to go nuts as she attacks some random patron in the bar (and revealing she’s wearing high heels – because, you know, when you’re working on your feet for several hours, you should be wearing high heels) and performs another unbelievable move by doing a flip across the room and over several people and landing gracefully. And all throughout her Heroic Spaz Attack, Frank Miller subjects us to all the names Black Canary gets called on the job from the previous pages, only now in the narration boxes. And for some unknown reason, “Hot Momma” is used three times to start it off. Once more I have to compliment Jim Lee’s pencils since on the next page, we see Black Canary standing with her arms crossed – combining sexy and strong as she smiles at the bar patrons and announces, “It isn’t near closing time, gents.” She then kicks some random bystander and says, “We’re still open for business.

Dinah just keeps smashing away at the bar patrons, whether they made sexist comments or not, for another few pages before we return to Frank Miller’s horrific narration boxes. While it’s one thing for Black Canary to legitimately punch the guy who grabbed her rear, maybe even yell at or hit the people who objectified her with name-calling, she has gone completely whack-jacko by attacking everyone in the bar. But you know what the worst of it is? This: “It’s not that what set her off. It’s not the insults that these vermin pass off as flirtation. That’s not what set her off.” Oh, goodie, so she doesn’t even have a legitimate reason for her ass-kickery. “It’s a man. That’s what set her off. A single solitary man. A man who’s got her thinking all different. A man she’s never met. A man who’s stood up and said “enough.”” Because, you know, women can’t be inspired to action themselves; they need a man to do that for them.

The boss of the bar suddenly comes in because of the commotion and sees Black Canary stealing wallets off the unconscious patrons[!!]. Yes, not only is Black Canary a sex object who can only take action when inspired by men (even if that action is complete overkill), but she’s also a thief. Thanks, Frank. Dinah tenders her resignation and sees that the Oliver Queen look alike is even wearing a wedding ring. So, what does our heroic Black Canary do? She force-feeds him his own wedding ring. Folks, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – every scene in this series contains a Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot moment and here we have another. Words fail me at the sheer level of unheroic behavior all of the ‘heroes’ have exhibited here.

And what was it that got into Dinah’s head, anyway? What made her have her spaz attack and practically kill everyone in a bar? What man was it that inspired such behavior? “…Batman.. And that, my friends, was the sound of me hitting my head against the table. After calling her “sweet chunks,” our brave bar owner is tossed out a window by Black Canary. On a pizza box outside of the place, in what I’m sure is a message from the editor once again realizing just how stupid this is, are the words “Mai in ritardo,” which I’m told means “This is stupid” in Italian. If we’re wrong about this, please let us know and I’ll fix it, but otherwise I love the sentiment.

If the full-page shot of the bar owner getting tossed out a window wasn’t enough for us, we then get a full-page shot of Dinah stealing a motorcycle belonging to one of the bar patrons, which Frank helpfully tells us is “a roaring lion between her legs.” Ah, double entendres for the ‘liberated’ woman? Thanks, Frankie. You know, another theory thrown out on message boards I go to is that Frank actually knows just how crappy this stuff is. He’s so sick of writing Batman that if he writes such atrocious stuff, DC will stop asking him to do it. I’m not holding my breath, though. Well, actually I am because I want the pain to end, but…

Ah, and now our little segue into six months ago ends and we’re in the now. Oh, and that excursion lasted fourteen friggin’ pages! Over half the comic was devoted to a sequence that made no sense in the context of the greater story and depicted Black Canary as being just as psychotic and unheroic as BINO. This is supposed to be All-Star Batman and Robin, Frank! When we want All-Star Black Canary, we’ll call Gail Simone!

In any case, we finally return to the flying Batmobile (I’m still in shock over that one) where BINO’s ever-deranged narrative boxes give us a keen insight into the Darkknight Detective’s mind: “I’ve KIDNAPPED a traumatized YOUNGSTER and DRAFTED him into my HOLY WAR.” Holy Terror, Batman! Oh, wait, that’s another Frank Miller book that hasn’t been released yet. “I chose him with CARE. I did my HOMEWORK.” Well I hope you did, young man, because otherwise I’m not going to let you go play with your friends!

“DICK GRAYSON. AGE TWELVE. AERIALIST. The best I’ve ever SEEN.” There was a guy he knew who was better, but he was only the best he HEARD. And in the most shocking bit of Mary Sue-ism since Youngblood’s Vogue, here’s Dick Grayson, Age Twelve’s biography: “Top of his CLASS in just about every SCHOOL his roving circus life TOOK him to. Made BLACK BELT a few weeks before he turned NINE[!!!].” Seriously, I’m starting to think BINO is the one who orchestrated Dick’s parents’ murder just so he could kidnap this kid. The Batmobile starts plummeting down and Dick Grayson, Age Twelve naturally responds to this with alarm. Aw, what happened to “I’ll be brave,” kid?

To further break me away from my sense of reality, the Batmobile falls into water and converts into a submarine[!!]. Dick Grayson, Age Twelve jokes, “You still haven’t told me what a “ward” is.” BINO promptly tells him to shut up, but Dick asks him what he calls the vehicle. BINO grins and we get this colorful dialogue:

“The Batmobile.
Dick Grayson, Age Twelve rolls his eyes and says, “That is totally queer.”
BINO scowls, downtrodden since that the twelve year-old isn’t impressed with his stellar naming skills, and promptly tells Dick to shut up again.

But enough of that scene! Let’s switch over to Metropolis, fifteen hours ago and- hey, wait a second! On a carton of milk is a ‘Missing’ photo with Dick Grayson’s picture on it. At no point does it mention Batman, but we see that it’s Clark Kent holding the carton and he summarily crushes it! WOW, he must be Superman if he has the strength to crush liquid encased in cardboard! But anyway, my shock isn’t that, but the fact that this is fifteen hours ago. Think for a minute – that would’ve meant that Clark bought a carton of milk sometime between the time of the early morning and a few days prior during grocery shopping that featured Dick Grayson’s picture on it even though BINO only kidnapped him roughly an hour ago. And for the milk to have gotten to the grocery store to begin with would’ve taken a few days, which means the printing of that picture took place before then and- AAAARRRGH! The non-logic is killing my puny human brain! I need some milk!

A copy of the Daily Planet is pushed under Clark’s door for some reason, which has the words “Bat-Napped” written across the headline and Clark, having a heroic spaz attack of his own but no one to do Irish ninja kicks on, simply uses his heat vision, shattering his glasses and burning the newspaper. And the logic centers of my brain once again go nuts, since if this was “fifteen hours ago,” that means that BINO and Dick Grayson, Age Twelve, have been driving for fifteen hours since Dick’s kidnapping would’ve taken some time for them to write an article about it that took up so much of the front page! Seriously, I can’t even begin to think how this is supposed to make sense unless the criminals that were responsible for this had so much pull in both Gotham and Metropolis as to manipulate policemen, newspapers, and milk companies to report about a kidnapping that had occurred before it ever happened (especially odd since they had planned on killing Dick for some unknown reason). The only other explanation is that BINO and Dick have been driving around for hours, which would explain why Dick went from, “I’ll be Brave” to “That is totally queer,” but it makes my feeble brain even more confused.

Okay, let’s move on with the story and- what the hell?! After a last panel of Clark proclaiming “Damn!” (Jim Lee is wasted on this tripe), we flip the page only to discover the Superman symbol and the words “To Be Continued…” written across the bottom! WHAT IS EVEN THE HELL?! Fourteen pages of Black Canary, two pages of Clark Kent, and only FOUR PAGES OF BINO?! Admittedly, this means less of the bizarre creature that calls itself Batman, but still, did Frank even understand what it was he was supposed to be writing?!

That’s it, I’m going to go see if I can create heat vision and burn this crap.

Suddenly Joel Schumacher’s Batman seems subdued and well-executed.


Well, I’ve already given an introduction on both the subject of the All-Star series and of Frank Miller, so instead I direct you to the first review to catch you up on everything you’ve missed.

All caught up? Good.

This time, besides for the awesome Jim Lee cover depicting Batman standing over a distraught Dick Grayson, an alternate cover was made available by Frank Miller himself. Confusingly, it features Dick Grayson as Robin with Batman’s shadow over him while a blood splatter is spread across the comic page. Symbolic of the violent struggle of adolescence being forced to grow up in a harsh and violent world or just a really lame cover? You decide.

When last we left off, Batman had picked up a frightened young Dick Grayson by the collar, only a scant hour or so from his parents having been shot in front of him, and announced to him that he had been drafted into a war. We open the book on a confusing angle of the Batmobile driving up a REALLY big hill (or a mountain, neither of which I knew were near Gotham) and overlooking the city below. Frank’s schizophrenic writing is in full force here as he begins: “From up HERE, Gotham City is beautiful.” Awww, well, now isn’t that just nice and- “Beautiful. Like EDGAR ALLEN POE’S sweet LENORE,” Okay, that’s kind of weird, but- “before her small COUGH brought a spot of BLOOD to her lip and the poet KNEW she was PLAGUED. DOOMED.” All right, now he’s just freaking me out here.

“I’ve just KIDNAPPED a traumatized youngster. Strong boy. For his age, he’s damned strong.” And then I see the muffled “Mmfff” word balloon coming from the Batmobile window and suddenly my theory of Bruce Wayne: Agent of NAMBLA from the previous review takes on a horrifying new reality. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go jab out my eyes and get brainwashed so I can get the horrible thoughts out of my head. “As good and pure a superhero as you can find,” eh, Frank?

On the next page, he continues his stream of consciousness writing as we see a rather confusing image of Batman’s glove over half of Dick’s face while air jets within his glove [??] expel some sort of gas from them (I suppose this is meant to be some sort of calming agent, but then why is he covering his mouth and nose?): “Dick Grayson. AERIALIST. Twelve years old. Brave boy. Damn strong. Not that he’s got a PRAYER of ESCAPING my GRIP — but he’s STRONG.” Is he strong? Listen, bud – he’s got radioactive blood! “Very promising. He just might do. He just might.”

Meanwhile, Alfred’s trying to fix up Vicki Vale. For those of you that remember, the previous issue of ASBAR ended with Batman going completely off his rocker and smashing a cop car in half with the Batmobile. It seems in the aftermath of Batman’s murderous rampage, Vicki crashed Bruce’s car and banged herself up rather severely. Vicki’s still in bad shape, but she tells Alfred that she remembers “every goddamned thing. Every goddamned moment.” And every goddamned line makes me wish I could forget every goddamned thing. Every goddamned moment. “I remember the kid. Dick Grayson. Age twelve.” If you were confused about why I started to always refer to him as Dick Grayson, Age Twelve, your answer’s right there – henceforth, any time a character refers to Dick, they always have to mention his age. It makes me wonder why “Dick Grayson, Age Twelve” didn’t become as popular a phrase as the oncoming “Goddamned Batman.”

Once again Alfred refers to Vicki as “love” even though he’s only known her for like one night and tells her to stop moving or she’ll bleed all over herself. Well, actually, he says it twice because even Alfred isn’t immune to the disease that’s making everyone repeat themselves, but that’s not important. I mean, it makes sense for Vicki to do it because she’s in shock, but what’s Alfred’s excuse? Vicki exposits for those who were smart enough not to buy the first issue: “I saw it all. Dick Grayson. Age twelve. He was brilliant. Brilliant… Somebody murdered his parents. Right before his eyes. Brutally. Brutally. It was brutal.” So, was it brutal? The narration captions explain to us who this is: “Vicki Vale. Columnist. Bearing witness.” Lewis Lovhaug. Reviewer. Bearing the pain of this comic.

Vicki continues to explain how Dick was taken by the cops like they had something to hide (and once again reminding me how if the cops had been responsible for the murder, they had less common sense than the Watergate burglars) and then Batman showed up and kidnapped him. Oh, and it was brutal, apparently. As Vicki wonders why Batman would kidnap Dick Grayson, she thankfully falls unconscious and we get what I can only presume to be an homage to Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 as Alfred holds a limp Vicki Vale.

Back to Batman, where he explains about his world: “My world. Welcome to MY world, Dick Grayson. BATS and RATS and WARTS[??] and all. You poor boy. You poor little bastard. Welcome to HELL. Hell. Or the next best thing.” Jeez, can you imagine anyone narrating their own life like this? ‘I entered the dentist’s office. It was cold. Cold. COLD. Cold like the night my parents got their heads blown in. It’s full of CAVITIES and GINGIVITIS and SHARP, POINTY THINGS. But this is MY world. And my-’ Okay, that’s enough. I can’t keep writing that without bursting into laughter; I don’t know how Frank Miller does it. Anyway, Batman explains that the gas was supposed to knock Dick unconscious (well, maybe you shouldn’t have put your hand over his mouth and nose then, moron!) and instructs him to sleep: “The world I’m gonna(sic) wake you up to will be no better than the world you already know.” Well, he could’ve still had a fun, prosperous life if the circus had adopted him, but you kind of screwed over that after you kidnapped him, you jerk. Actually, I think he was planning on doing this even if his parents hadn’t been killed – he did say that he had an eye on him.

Dick realizes that Batman’s not speaking with his own voice, but a fake one: “It’s like he’s doing some lameass(sic) CLINT EASTWOOD impersonation.” Not being a Clint Eastwood fan, I was unaware that he routinely kidnapped young boys for his war on crime. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Frank. The worst part of all of this is that he keeps talking about putting Dick through hell and he’s smiling about it. Forgive my squirrelly ignorance, but didn’t Batman swear that he’d make sure that no one had to go through the same kind of crap he had to go through when his parents died?

On the next page, the moment of truth – the moment everyone remembers this comic for. Dick Grayson asks, “Who the hell are you, anyway, giving out orders like this?” To whit Batman, the man who can breathe in space, the man who could take out Galactus if he had a week to plan, and the man who will never quit as long as he can still draw breath responds, “What, are you dense? Are you retarded or something? Who the hell do you think I am? I’m the goddamn Batman.Ding-ding-ding! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a catchphrase!

Dick Grayson, age twelve, is unimpressed with the goddamned Batman as he slowly comes to realize that his parents were killed a few short hours ago: “My parents were MURDERED. Somebody BLEW their BRAINS out.” And as if Frank Miller realized that he was giving Dick Grayson, age twelve, too many lines and not enough goddamned Batman, Dick also thinks: “(No. Don’t go there. Not now.)” Yeah, Frank, save the angsting for a comic that doesn’t suck. Batman grumbles that the kid isn’t getting scared no matter what he does. Umm… Bats? You just kidnapped him, shoved him in a car, and yelled at him about how you’re going to make him your “ward” and were grinning about it. I think the kid’s crapping his pants right now but just doesn’t want you to know about it.

All of a sudden, police cars and motorcycle cops appear and start chasing down the Batmobile. Dick tries to get Batman to pull over, but he realizes that they aren’t interested in arresting him anymore. “I guess somebody on the FORCE put out a KILL ORDER on me. Cool. It’s about damn TIME.” AGH. How many things are wrong with those sentences?! First of all, Batman doesn’t say ‘cool.’ Ever. He doesn’t have to – he’s so cool he doesn’t need to acknowledge coolness anywhere else (besides the point that he’s too friggin’ serious for it). Next, he’s never going to be happy that the police are chasing him down – he wants to have a good relationship with the Gotham PD so they don’t get in his way when he’s trying to take down criminals. And finally, Frank Miller has stated that this book takes place in the same universe as his Year One and Dark Knight Returns stories – except during Year One, he didn’t have Robin with him and by the end of it, he was actively working with Gordon. As such, how in the hell did his relationship with the police get so sour after that? Oh, I’m sorry, I must be dense or retarded. I forgot that this comic makes no sense. Never mind, let’s continue.

Batman goes completely batshit then, swerving around and driving towards all the cops while he laughs in maniacal glee. Dick Grayson, age twelve, is panicking of course as the “pure, good hero” Batman just smashes into cop cars. Once again we finally get a moment where the Torgo-syndrome actually makes sense, with Dick repeating phrases in his head because he’s sitting next to a murderous psychotic who talks to his car and is laughing as he causes wanton destruction and no doubt kills a couple law enforcement personnel. To make the scene even more unbelievable, the Batmobile suddenly converts into a plane. No, I’m not kidding here. Seriously, I’m only two issues in and almost every scene has a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment. Suddenly I long for the stupid, clichéd double entendres and nonsensical physics of a Joel Schumacher Batman. Even the ice skates inexplicably coming out of the boots of Batman and Robin make more sense than this stuff.

Dick Grayson echoes my own sentiments as he cracks, unable to take the grief and pressure any longer and cries about his dead parents. And the Batman that Frank Miller wrote, the guy who caught Carrie Kelly in the air and told her she was a “good soldier,” promptly slaps Dick Grayson. The next three pages are all twelve-panels each and manage to fit a surprising amount of dialogue in them (albeit most of it is just them repeating themselves over and over) and I’ll try to recap them as best as I can, otherwise this is going to be even shorter than the last ASBAR review.

Batman scolds himself as he realizes he’s being completely insane with Dick: “What I DOING to this kid? Who the hell do I think I AM?” You’re the goddamned- ah, screw it, you know where that was going. “I’m torturing this boy. TORTURING him.” So, wait, are you torturing him? “It’s a TERRIBLE thing to do. But it’s the only WAY. It’s the only WAY. If I don’t keep the PRESSURE up, he’ll find time to GRIEVE. I can’t let him GRIEVE. GRIEF is the ENEMY.” I thought crime was the enemy? Seriously, grief over his parents is what kept Batman going – his anger about the horrible way his parents died. This is even stupider when one considers that one does not need anger to fight crime, not even Batman. In the pages of 52, Batman found solace and acceptance over his parents’ death by removing all the anger from the Batman persona, but he still had the drive and need to fight crime. And why not? While it may seem crazy to put on a costume and go beat up criminals, the drive to do justice doesn’t require a dark, tragic past. Hell, just look at Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon, or Stephanie Brown – dark crap happened to them during their lives as superheroes, but it wasn’t tragedy that drove them into becoming superheroes in the first place. They all grieved at some point in their lives and yet they’re all still driven to do justice.

“Oh, HELL. Just LOOK at him.” Look at that adorable little face; Awwwww… “STOP it. No DOUBTS. Remember the MISSION. NOTHING MATTERS — except the MISSION. HE doesn’t matter. YOU don’t matter. NOTHING MATTERS — except the MISSION.” Honestly, is he speaking in haikus now or something? Of course he matters! Seriously, Frank must’ve been researching Batman during his ‘dark loner’ periods when channeling this Batman character. In fact, this guy is so much NOT like Batman, I’m not going to refer to him as Batman anymore. He is Batman In Name Only. BINO.

Dick Grayson, age twelve, wonders about the policemen: “Those were cops, down there. Back there. They were cops. What’s with that?” BINO tells him he’s got a lot to learn about fighting crime and Dick totally OWNS BINO by pointing out that Cops fight crime and BINO totally wasted a bunch of cops back there. As if Frank suddenly realized that nothing so far has made us want to empathize with BINO whatsoever, Dick speculates in his thoughts that ‘Batman’ is so lonely in his world and that when he doesn’t talk, it’s so quiet in the Batmobile. “We listen to ourselves BREATHE for what feels like a DAY.” Yeah? Well, I’ve been reading this for what feels like DAYS.

More Sin City-inspired lines ensue: “He SUCKS air and for a SECOND it looks like he’s got a RAZOR BLADE stuck between his TEETH–” Umm… ew? “–then he TALKS and it sounds like every WORD he SAYS is a jagged chunk of GLASS that SCRAPES his THROAT on its way OUT.” And if ever there was a reason why you shouldn’t be smoking, kids… Anyway, BINO talks about cops in Gotham: “Never talk to cops. Not in Gotham. Never let a cop get near you. Not in Gotham.” Jeez, he really needs to get over that incident with the cat. Dick Grayson, age twelve, acknowledges what he’s saying and BINO says that, “There’s only one cop worth a damn in Gotham City and he’s nowhere near this case.” What’s this? A reference to Jim Gordon in this fiasco? And here I was hoping he didn’t exist anymore in Frank’s confused little mind, because there’s no way in hell Gordon would ever agree with anything BINO has been doing here.

BINO talks about how he knows Dick has seen cops in other cities across the world and that most of them are decent, but Gotham City isn’t like those places and that’s why most cities don’t need him. BINO, there’s no place in the world that needs you. They need Batman, not the crazed lunatic who’s using his name. Bruce says that Gotham might need Dick, too: “Be brave, Dick Grayson. Be brave.” I don’t know, dealing with you this whole time has shown that the kid’s rather brave so far.

Dick thinks to himself about how BINO wants him to join his “nutso CRUSADE of his” and that fighting crime is a “Good way to get myself KILLED. And I wouldn’t have any CATCHERS this time.” I’m sorry, what’s a Catcher? “Nobody to CATCH me.” Okay, thanks, I was confused by that word. Wait a second, come to think of it, at no point during the first issue did either of his parents catch him. In fact, when Dick did fall, he pulled a grappling hook out of his armpit and caught himself, so why in the heck is he so broken up about the catching thing? Anyway, Dick speculates in his head and asks his parents what to do and we get a shot of his eye getting angry as he asks why they died and who killed them. Well, BINO might know considering he caught the loser and pumped him full of snake poison, but somehow I doubt he’ll mention that to Dick. Dick gets a determined look on his face and the last line of dialogue is, “Yes, sir. I’ll be brave.”

Thus Issue 2 ends with an angled-off Robin ‘R’ symbol and the words “To Be Continued…” across the bottom. I’m not sure how I should feel about this last page. On one hand, this page could’ve been utilized earlier for honest character development for Vicki Vale or even poking in on the criminals behind this nonsense. On the other hand, Frank would’ve probably screwed that up somehow, too, so it’s probably good that we didn’t get more of his insanity.

Sorry about this one being so short, folks, but honestly, while a lot of this comic is dialogue, most of it repeats itself in one manner or another and there’s very little actual content (besides for BINO screaming his head off about how awesome he is or murdering people). So, then, I must ask again: More ASBAR or move on to something else already? I mean, don’t you want to read more about such a pure and good hero like Batman? Oh, I’m sorry, I’m confusing Dark Knight Returns with this trash. Here’s an easy guide to know the difference:

Frank, what the hell happened to you?

All-Star Goddamn Batman and Dick Grayson, Age Twelve

Oh, Frank.

Frank, Frank, Frank.

Frank, what the hell happened to you? You had a successful run on Daredevil that revitalized it, created a fan-loved character (which sadly led to a crappy movie version of that character), and once upon a time you could draw without everything being so blocky and stylized. And then you made The Dark Knight Returns, one of the most quintessential Batman stories of all time. You paved the way for comics to be recognized as a serious medium and championed creators’ rights.

And then you made Sin City and it all went downhill from there.

Oh, sure, Sin City is a fantastic take on noir-styles in comics and some of the stories are even entertaining, but it set a precedent for you that you haven’t gotten away from since. All of your artwork since Sin City has followed that same blocky, noir style even when it’s in color. Sin City established the idea that you couldn’t write a female character who wasn’t a whore. You’ve spent so much time working on Sin City that it’s become your standard mode of writing, with choppy, brief sentences that have become a parody in themselves of the grim ‘n gritty era, which you yourself derided as “stupid.” In 1985, you said that “Batman is as good and pure a superhero as you can find.” Well, twenty years later, you seem to have forgotten that. The Batman in this book is unheroic, psychotic, and in some parts seems pedophilic, even.

The All-Star books were meant to be DC’s answer to Marvel’s Ultimate universe – new series depicting superheroes starting their careers in a modern setting without decades of continuity to discourage new readers. A new comic reader can start fresh without having to worry about extensive back-story and situations that they may have never heard of. And considering Frank Miller’s more-hits-than-misses track record with Batman, it seemed like a natural fit for him to write this series, right?

The Sin City style is in full force in this series, with sexist portrayals of women, dialogue that seems schizophrenic at times or just repeats itself for no discernable reason, and plot points that sometimes feel like they were lifted directly from Sin City. The only saving grace on the book is Jim Lee’s gorgeous pencils. The book has been rocked with delays since day one. Since the book premiered in 2005, at the time of this writing, only four issues of the series have been released, but considering the content I can actually see that as a blessing.

There are actually two covers available for it (albeit promotional materials combined the two images into one) of the same Gotham City background while one cover features Batman and the other Robin. As I said above, Jim Lee does fantastic work (I’m particularly fond of his work on “Hush”), though I’m confused about why they felt the need to split the two characters so that they both had the cover devoted to them. I’d think it would make more sense actually to, as a buying incentive, have it be more like a two-part cover that could be combined into one, but hey, what do I know?

We start the action off with a young Dick Grayson performing a mid-air leap. The first thing one notices about this is that Dick is wearing a rather unusual green outfit with a stylized golden “G” on his chest (and making me think for a brief moment if Dr. Wertham wasn’t onto something in Seduction of the Innocent given the contents to come). I am a little curious about why the change in the outfit. It’s possible I’m wrong, but I always thought that the Robin outfit was an homage to the outfit Dick wore when he was in the circus. If that was the case, then why the green outfit, especially since the Robin costume only has green in the pixie boots, short pants, and gloves (none of which are in this outfit). Dick states in our ever-helpful narration boxes: “This should get me KILLED. But it WON’T. Not that I can BREATHE with my HEART fighting it out with my ADAM’S APPLE, just now–” And suddenly I have the image of the Star Trek fight music playing as a twelve year-old heart and an Adam’s apple duke it out in a wrestling match.

Dick goes on to talk about how much he loves his parents and how they’ll always catch him and in the last panel, it shows Dick with his arms spread wide, a happy smile on his face, and a narration box saying, “I fly.” I actually have to admit, this opening sequence does work really well, unusual costume aside. However, the writing problem of Frank Miller rears its ugly head right here as Dick has apparently contracted Torgo syndrome: “They’re always there for me. They always catch me. Mom and Dad. They always catch me. They’re always there for me. They’re always there for me.” So, they’re never there for you, then?

Flip the page and now we have moved fully into Frank’s fantasy world of how women are supposed to be. It’s a full-page shot of the Millerverse Vicki Vale. She’s strutting around a large apartment (with huge, uncurtained windows behind her) in pink underwear and holding a martini. The narrator boxes give us this helpful insight into her character: “Vicki Vale. Columnist. Gadfly. Dictating. She’s trouble. The kind of trouble you want.” Yes, boys, she’s only there for your pleasure. And what is Ms. Vale dictating? “So we got ourselves a Man of Steel in Metropolis – And why do we call him a Man of Steel? That does bring certain thoughts to mind.” What magazine does she work for, anyway? Superhero Innuendo Monthly? ‘In this issue – Diehard and the reason we want him fighting crime for us.

As an aside, when people often cry sexism in comics because of skimpy outfits or skinny bodies, a common reaction is for people to cry out, ‘But men have it bad, too! Men wear skintight outfits that show off muscular bodies that we can’t hope to compare to!’ They don’t really get the problem. It’s not that the outfits are skimpy. It’s impractical, but that’s not the issue. The issue is that women are drawn that way purely for the titillation of the male reader. There is no friggin’ reason for Vicki Vale to be sauntering around her apartment in her underwear. No reason.

But perhaps I’m being too harsh on Frank, I mean it’s not like he’s having Vicki Vale’s ass talk to us or anything and- oh, never mind. Flip the page, last panel: Vicki Vale’s buttocks, the focus of the shot, conversing with us. And while I could go on a lengthy diatribe on just that section, I leave it in more capable hands here.

As for the text itself, Vicki continues talking about how Superman is so much better than Batman because of his mightier penis. “So Metropolis gets a Man of Steel. And what do we get in dear Gotham City? A damn flying rodent. Who doesn’t even fly.” So, wait, does he fly or doesn’t he? “A goddamn Bat Man.” Anyone who’s been hanging around the comics community for the past two years will know what that line foreshadows. Slutty Vale continues: “This loser throws a few other losers through a window and we’re supposed to swoon?” Well, you’d know losers, Vick. “Sometimes I despair, dear reader. Sometimes life seems to hold no meaning. They get a Man of Steel. We get a flying rat. What’s a poor girl to do?” Perhaps she could realize she doesn’t need men to validate her own existence and- ah, you get it.

Vicki goes on to pull a Jim Carrey as she speaks through her rear about how much Bruce Wayne is hot (oh, irony, hahahaha!). She’s interrupted by her buzzer and suddenly she starts complaining about how loud the buzzer when really we know she’s just upset that someone got in the way of her almost masturbatory thoughts about men she’d like to sleep with. As it turns out, it’s Alfred, who says that Bruce Wayne is requesting her presence. And like Pavlov’s dogs, Vicki scurries at the sound of a bell at the prospect of being with her man. In a two-page spread, we see Vicki trying on a variety of perfectly reasonable outfits, albeit now she’s also changed her lingerie to black (since she’s a slut and all). Throughout it, she says no less than four times: “I’m having a date with BRUCE WAYNE.” She settles in a cleavage-exposing white outfit that Emma Frost would blush at.

Alfred is our next victim of mischaracterization as Vicki comes down to meet the car and Alfred actually refers to her as “love.” Alfred informs her that they’ll be attending the circus and Vicki could care less since, as shown above, she only cares about the fact that: “I’m having a date with BRUCE WAYNE. How cool is THAT?” I don’t know how cool it is. I mean, I don’t even know who it is you’re having a date with. What’s his name?

Cut back to the circus and Dick is performing a complex maneuver. And what are his thoughts on the matter? “They’re always there for me. They always catch me. I fly.” GAH! We’re nine pages in and besides for Vicki’s penis monologue I think we’ve had a grand total of four sentences in this story which are repeated ad nauseum. Dick fails to grab the next swing bar and starts to fall, prompting audience members to start saying “My God!” Yes, every single one of the speech balloons that are reactions to this either are just or start off with “My God” and I started to wonder if there was a Monolith somewhere that I wasn’t seeing on the page. I will say happily that one of the balloons says, “My God this is horrible” and making me think the editor had slipped it in to give their own commentary on the issue.

Vicki is of course naturally worried about the child who is plummeting to his death, but Bruce reassures her that the kid knows what he’s doing. Dick suddenly grabs a grappling hook and rope from his armpit[!], tosses it up to the swing bar[!!], and manages to stop his free fall[!!!]. As I’ve said before, I’m not a scientist, but it seems to me that suddenly stopping yourself while dropping like that is probably not good for the muscular structure. Furthermore, other than to show off that the kid already has talents that will come in handy when he becomes Robin, why isn’t there a safety net for the trapeze? In other comics I know it was said that they had removed it since this was supposed to be a complex, death-defying stunt to impress the audience, but no dialogue here indicates that’s the case here. And while it’s certainly cool that Dick can accomplish such a move, wouldn’t a net be safer than storing a grappling hook in your armpit flesh? I mean it’s got to be uncomfortable.

Back to Vicki and Bruce, where Vicki comments that Dick’s amazing and in a very creepy moment, Bruce replies: “Yeah, I’ve had my eye on him for awhile. He’s something, all right.” Vicki, for once acting like the woman she’s supposed to be based on, questions him on that comment. However, she quickly succumbs back to the Vicki Vale of Earth-Miller when Bruce smiles at her and replies, “I’ve got an eye for talent.” Bruce Wayne: Agent of NAMBLA. Vicki realizes something’s up, but she’s too gaga for Brucie to make the connection: “I’m having a DATE with BRUCE WAYNE.” I’m sorry, I really can’t follow this plotline, is she on a date or something?

The Flying Graysons take a bow, but then suddenly bullets strike Dick’s parents and kills them. What I don’t understand is the necessity to change this little detail of Dick’s origin story. Originally, Mob boss Tony Zucco was trying to extort money out of the circus and they refused to budge, so Tony put acid on the trapeze ropes, killing both of them. This would only leave circumstantial evidence pointing him to the crime. Instead, we now have a shooter who struck down the parents for reasons a new reader doesn’t know and is a major lapse in logic for the criminals, since anyone who brought a gun to the circus and then had to take aim to kill them as well as they did would’ve been spotted almost immediately committing the deed. In any case, Bruce looks in shock at his dead parents as Bruce’s thought captions fill us in:

“He doesn’t understand. He can’t possibly understand. I couldn’t, when it happened to me. And I don’t know why this was done to him. I can’t know why. Not yet. But I know exactly THIS MUCH: The boy has entered MY WORLD. And he’ll never leave it.” Well, you’ve heard it, folks: if your parents are murdered, you are now officially a part of Batman’s world. But it’s okay, they know you there.

Bruce slips off from a shocked Vicki Vale as he too falls prey to Torgo syndrome and repeats in his narration captions: “There’s no way out.” Apparently making us believe that Bruce can find a hidden spot to change amidst the chaos of a heavily-packed circus tent, Frank has Batman suddenly appear and instantly find the shooter as he flees the scene. He tosses a batarang into the guy and apparently he even put snake poison on the edge of it [!!]. Batman identifies him as a minor thug. “Yeah. Caught myself a six-and-a-half-foot-long MINNOW. There’s a lot of FOOD CHAIN to work my way up. But first — the KID. Dick Grayson. Age Twelve.” No, don’t interrogate him, you dick!

Meanwhile, Vicki’s trying to get the cops to get Dick Grayson, Age twelve to a hospital, but the cops are strangely adamant about it. They say he’s in good hands, but Vicki states: “Yeah, I’ve seen what you cops do with your hands. What girl in Gotham hasn’t? And who knows what you do to little boys?” Um, Vicki? He’s a dirty cop, you really can’t shame him. Furthermore, if Vicki’s accusation is true, why in the hell is she writing a stupid gossip column about who’s got the world’s finest crotch when she could be printing the truth about Gotham’s cops? The cop hits Vicki across the face and she spits blood out of her mouth. “Gotham’s FINEST. It wouldn’t be LADYLIKE to say finest at WHAT.” Considering her behavior in the previous pages, I’m not sure what her definition of “ladylike” is, exactly…

Actually acting like a competent individual for a moment, she commandeers Bruce’s car and Alfred comes along for the ride. She pursues the cop car, assuming that the cops are planning on beating up Dick and that she can get photographic proof of the cops assaulting a defenseless minor, thus having a felony crime that would get Washington’s attention. Dick argues with the cops about how his parents were murdered, but the cops tell him he’s remembering it wrong. He even tells them that “I saw the man who did it. And I can identify him.” And again, I have to shake my head in disbelief since the cops wouldn’t have had to rough up Dick if they had just cut the ropes instead of shooting them in the middle of a crowded circus tent! Furthermore, how the hell could Dick see who it was that did it?! When his parents were shot, he was taking a bow with his eyes closed and only looked up when he heard the bullets being fired and hitting his parents in their heads. There were hundreds if not thousands in that tent – how in the heck could he have seen who did it after just glancing up?!

Vicki Vale thinks to herself: “I don’t get it. Why KILL two AERIALISTS – then use the COPS to do LORD knows what to their BOY? It doesn’t make any SENSE. It doesn’t make any SENSE.” Vicki, I know it doesn’t. Vicki, I know it doesn’t. A swarm of bats suddenly flies down into the gulch where the cops have brought Dick. Batman tells us: “I knew these cops would take the boy to the GULCH. So I set up my SONICS. Bats like my SONICS.” Personally, I like Knuckles, but I haven’t played in awhile so- oh, what? Oh, well, I much prefer thinking about SEGA games than I do about this…

The bats attack the cops, who subsequently decide to flee. Batman stops the sonics and- Oh my lord… He drives the Batmobile through the cop car and splits it in half! I am just… Wow. I don’t think even Diehard’s mega-crotch produced as much of a ‘what is even the hell’ reaction from me as this just did. The physics of it are baffling. The ethical implications are mind-numbing. The sheer mischaracterization in it has got me wishing I had the safe, reliable days of Youngblood. I will admit, upon looking at the special edition of this issue and the original script that Frank Miller had written, he only writes that the Batmobile (the cool version from the 1950s) should smash through the cop car and utterly demolish it. I’m just trying to wrap my head around how Jim Lee went from “utterly demolish” to “slice the car in two.”

Batman picks up Dick Grayson, Age twelve by the collar and tells him, “On your feet, soldier. You’ve just been drafted. Into a war.” Thanks for the clarification, Batman, because I thought he was getting drafted into the NFL! And thus our first issue ends. And somewhere, Bob Kane is crying.

All right, so I want to hear some opinions – should I move on to #2 of this dreck or hold it off for another occasion? Tell me or else I’m going to launch a battering ram through your car that’ll inexplicably split it in half.

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