Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank return to Earth One Gotham City to continue in their tale of Batman’s reimagined origin. With a focus more on the man behind the mask, we get a glimpse into what drives Bruce Wayne to don the cape and the cowl and rid his city of the criminal element that plagues Gotham. With a new suit design and a few tricks up his sleeve, this Batman is prepared to defend the innocent. But can the man live up to the legend?
Batman: Earth One Vol. 2 written by Geoff Johns, pencils by Gary Frank, inks by Jon Sibal, colors by Brad Anderson, and lettered by Rob Leigh is a 163 page graphic novel that continues the story established in the first volume. Although this book is the second volume, the story is written to where the reader does not need extensive knowledge of the first volume or Batman’s main continuity.
Earth One is an interesting twist on the well established Bat-mythos. Set in a gritty, realistic world, the material shifts the focus more towards Bruce Wayne and his journey in discovering his role in Gotham and his abilities as Batman. With the white lenses over his eyes removed, we really get to look into the human aspect of this man who has become the bat. Not only that, but Johns threads several emotional journeys for various characters throughout the city that are all tied to the story.
Vol. 2 expands on the changing landscape of Gotham City. Mayor Oswald Cobblepot has been killed and the city’s corruption runs deep across several organizations. The emergence of the Batman is also another issue that needs to be addressed. The newly appointed mayor Jessica Dent and her twin brother, D.A. Harvey Dent have their hands full as they initiate their plan to clean up the city. Tensions are high as new challenges present themselves to our characters. Harvey Dent’s plan of action is making life difficult for the GCPD and hot shot cop, Detective Bullock has seen better days. However, his partner, Detective Gordon is committed to standing by his side and attacking Gotham’s corruption.
On the other hand, in the shadows, we see Bruce Wayne evolving in his crusade against the criminal underbelly of the city. With a new suit design and a new set of skills, Batman is quite different from the rookie crime fighter shown in Vol. 1. Still ways away from being the legendary Dark Knight, it’s a unique look into the rise of the Caped Crusader.
I feel like the biggest draw of the book (besides the amazing artwork) is the differences between this world and the main continuity Batman/Gotham. With that being said, I remember showing the first volume of Earth One to a friend of mine who wasn’t all that well-versed in Batman. He absolutely loved it and thought it was a fun take on Batman. So the material potentially has a wide range of audiences that will find it appealing.
The small twists in characters does prove to be the most appealing part for me. Batman’s first years or so have been shown in various stories and mediums (Year One, Long Halloween, Dark Knight, etc). What’s usually constant in those stories is what I like to call the Gotham Trinity, (mainly because I couldn’t think of a better name) which consists of Batman, Dent, and Gordon. Those three are critical to the early days of Gotham. We get that same dynamic in Earth One with the change being that it’s Jessica Dent and not her twin brother Harvey. I found this to be a nice change because we get a romantic element for Bruce that is usually not present in the origin stories. Another notable change is the relationship between Bruce and Alfred. This isn’t your daddy’s Alfred! Hell, it’s not even my Alfred either. Typically when I see Alfred in a comic, I jear his voice in a distinguished British accent. I hear Earth One Alfred’s voice in a bitter Vietnam vet’s voice. Basically I hear Lt. Dan from Forrest Gump. His attitude towards Bruce and his role as Batman is drastically different from the main comics. Here, we see a man who is obsessed with the mission of Batman and essentially just sees Bruce as a soldier. Actually, more like a weapon. He even wonders why Bruce takes the time to save criminals from pending death. It’s a stark contrast to the usual Bruce and Alfred dynamic. It actually mirrors more closely to the relationship between Bruce and Terry McGinnis from Batman Beyond.
Now as far as the main villains in this book, it was a bit of a hit and miss. First, there’s the introduction of Killer Croc. I’m not that much of a fan of Croc. Most variations portray him as this big dumb brute who’s half-man, half-lizard. Johns handles the character here better than many of his New52 incarnations. I actually get a view of Waylon Jones and not just Killer Croc. Having him as a sort of ally proves to be pretty neat as well. As for The Riddler, the main villain, I’d have to argue that he felt quite one-dimensional. When it comes to a showdown between Batman and Riddler, I expect masterful battle of wits. This version of Nigma asked a couple riddles and proceeded to blow people up. I’m sure the emphasis was the shock of the crimes to Batman. Essentially, you could have used any Joe Schmo if that was the case. Riddler blatantly killed children and families for no apparent reason. What was his actual plan? At least he’s still shown as arrogant. I mean, you have to be if you’re going to rock a leather duster with no shirt, right?
The star of the show for me is Gary Frank. The pages look absolutely stunning. His realistic tone fits perfectly with the material. You really get a sense of the emotional content just by the expressions on the characters’ faces. Seeing Batman’s pupils actually make a big difference. Brad Anderson, who regularly works with Geoff Johns delivers outstanding colors to Frank’s work. There’s an amazing sequence that involves Harvey Dent that is literally jaw dropping. Can’t escape fate, Harv.
There isn’t any. This is a creator original, so it would’ve been nice to see some artist sketches or commentary from the creators. Even a “This book is dedicated to…” would have been cool. Nothing.
Value: Sale Price
The book is listed at $24.99 (around $17-18 on Amazon) which is a bit pricey, but not too bad if you can get it cheaper than the listed price. I’d justify the price if we got some kind of bonus material.
The book definitely improves on the foundation that was established in the first volume. It’s fun spotting the differences between this world and the main continuity. Seeing the trial and errors of Batman was intriguing. I really enjoyed the small scenes with Lucius Fox. It’s definitely worth a read, just a little difficult standing up against more interesting Batmans in the Multiverse.
SCORE: 6.5 / 10