After a particularly rocky first encounter with the One Bad Day series, I wasn’t exactly hopeful for this issue. Admittedly, it’s set during what might be my favorite era of Batman, starring Robin prominently, with one of my all time favorite Bat-villains as its antagonist (though that definitely didn’t save Riddler), so I had no choice but to be a little excited.
And I was right to be! This issue is a vast improvement on the first (thought Penguin and Two-Face were already that), and I can genuinely say this is the first one I’ve thoroughly loved.
An aside, before we begin.
It’s been four issues of this… series? Anthology? Group? Let’s go with gaggle. This gaggle of Bat-stories, and I have to be honest- I can’t think of one good reason this is called One Bad Day. Is it supposed to be a particularly bad day for Batman? For his villains? For Gotham? I can’t tell, because there’s really no running theme here. It’s a cheap attempt to cash in on the work of Alan Moore (though there seems to be a lot of that going around). Can’t we just publish cool one-off stories without having to come up with the world’s flimsiest nostalgia bait reasons for them to exist?
Okay, rant over
One of the things that lead me to jump at this book was its setting. I was talking with fellow reviewer Jackson about this today, actually, but there’s this era of Batman that seems vastly empty.
You see, we have countless stories (some might argue too many) based around Batman’s early days, a lone, brooding figure in the night, fighting a solitary, grim, gritty one-man war against crime. We’ve also got tons of stories featuring Batman, Nightwing, Batgirl, Tim Drake, and Red Hood, with numerous classic and important stories. But there’s a gap there, isn’t there?
Can you name more than a handful of classic, timeless stories featuring Dick Grayson’s Robin? Can I? There’s Robin: Year One, Batman: Dark Victory, The Gauntlet, uh… uh…
There’s a point to all this, I promise, and it’s that Dick Grayson’s time as Robin feels… neglected, in a way. Relegated to flashbacks, or his time on the Titans, or flashbacks to just before his time on the Titans. Sure, people talk all the time about him being the first, or the best, but it seems taken for granted. We never really get to see him flourish, which is weird for a character that’s been around since before The Joker. He’s one half of the Dynamic Duo, the inspiration for Jason Todd and Tim Drake and countless other young heroes, and yet we never see him in his first big defining role. And that’s not to mention the way that Hollywood seems to be deathly afraid of the kid (though that’s a subject for another article).
Seriously, movie people, listen up. If you want a way to modernize Robin, look to this story. He’s perfect.
Cam, that was a really long winded way to say you were happy to see Dick as Robin in this
But it’s true! I was. I am. And I’m doubly happy that this story is so very good.
We open with a brief glimpse of Victor’s past, setting the stage for what’s to come. Duggan has a pretty good grasp of how to modernize this classic story, bring the old era of Batman and Robin into today’s Gotham. A large part of that is due to the sheer quality of the art.
Matteo Scalera’s Gotham is a perfect, chronologically ambiguous mishmash of everything you love about Batman. It’s gritty, it’s campy, it’s dark, it’s comic-y, all at once. Every single page here is a delight to look at, and I want more of it. If I could get an entire line of Bat-books drawn like this, I’d sell my soul.
Before I start raving about how fantastic this art is, though, I do want to talk about the writing, as I feel it’s a big source of both why I love this story, and also the source of some of my biggest problems with it.
Duggan may have a great idea of how to write Dick (he’s a sweet, caring kid who believes in doing everything he can to help everyone he can, even criminals), but I found his takes on Bruce and Victor a little… lacking. Bruce opens the book talking about how he believes that most criminals are unchangeable, irredeemable. They can’t be helped, only punished and locked away. It’s a cold, vengeful take on Batman, one that I feel contradicts the ethos of the character, despite what the movies might tell us. Batman should, at his core, be compassionate, especially towards the common goon. He does, to Duggan’s credit, show some of this openness towards Freeze, but then we get weird moments like this.
I suppose an argument could be made that Bruce is just trying to keep up the scary vigilante act, but they’re alone here. At this point in the book, he’s openly trying to help Freeze. It’s a weird, jarring line that feels both out of place and out of character for the story that’s being told. And Bruce isn’t the only one.
Deep Freeze? More like… Shallow… Freeze. I didn’t think that one through
Here’s a question for you folks playing along at home. What’s the number one thing you think of when I say Mr. Freeze? What’s his whole deal?
If you said ice, congrats, you’re smarter than I was when I wrote that bit. If you said his wife, Nora, you, like me, forgot his whole gimmick was ice.
But Nora is the thing I want to talk about today. See, previous Freeze stories have touched on the fact that Victor keeping her frozen isn’t what she would want, that his desperate search for a cure was robbing them both of the life and death they deserved, but none has quite turned his freezing of her into an act of abuse.
That is, until now.
Okay, maybe abuse is the wrong word. But this is the first time I’ve ever seen Freeze say that he prefers Nora frozen. That he likes his life this way, even keeps it as is intentionally. It’s ridiculous, and a fundamental misunderstanding of the character. I’ll restore some points purely because he seems to change his mind towards the end, but jeez.
Okay it’s art talk time now.
If you couldn’t tell, I REALLY like the art in this book. It’s everything I could want in a Bat-book, and I truly mean that. From the designs of the characters, to the atmosphere of Gotham, hell, even the Batmobile is one of my new favorites.
Seriously, look at this thing. It’s gorgeous.
I’ve mentioned it a couple times in this article, mostly because it’s been something I’ve been thinking about recently, but I truly think that if future Batman movies strayed closer to the look of this book, it’d be perfect. It’s got that gloomy, dark atmosphere that we all loved in Reeves’ The Batman, only cranked way up. It’s perfection.
This is not only my millionth cry for Robin in the movies, but also a stealth demand for the return of the yellow oval.
Robin’s little winter gear is adorable, Batman looks great (he even gets an anti-Freeze suit, which is like my favorite trope ever).
Matteo Scalera and Dave Stewart have absolutely crushed it. This is how Batman should look.
- You want a damn good Batman story.
- Mr. Freeze is your favorite villain!
- Dick’s career as Robin interests you.
I hope the rest of this gaggle can keep the momentum going. I really enjoyed this story. Also writers, set more stories in this era. It’s a lot of fun, and there’s so much you can do.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.