Current Reviews


All Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder #4

Posted: Monday, May 22, 2006
By: Shawn Hill

Writer: Frank Miller
Artists: Jim Lee (p), Scott Williams (i)

Publisher: DC Comics

Plot: The Batcave. Vicki Vale. The Batcave. The ocean. Superman. Alfred. The Batcave.

Comments: Seems like Jim Lee has finally stepped on board the lunacy express. If he had any illusions that this was a regular bat-tale, in the mode of his work on Hush, surely they must have been disabused by now. He’s definitely checked into the over-the-top mood this issue, with a traumatized Vicki Vale splattering blood all over her operating room, and loving depictions of technological wonders that are unveiled by the ever-evolving Batmobile. Spikey hulking brutal Bats himself makes a strong contrast to lithe, tiny, unsullied but smart Robin, and we have time in all the gleaming shadows to flash back to both his and Bruce’s horrible family traumas.

Miller is supplying alternate covers for this series, and in every case his vision (of Black Canary, of Superman, of Batman and Robin) has been more corrupt and horrific than Lee’s clean lines. I’ve avoided most of those crude covers with distaste, but they are direct insights into how Miller is approaching these icons with freedom from the yoke of continuity.

But Lee can turn on the full-on kitsch-fest when he needs to (as the gatefold evocation of the lovely and trivia-packed Batcave shows), and he needs to very much if he’s to depict the always angry and barely sane Batman, the preternaturally insightful Robin, and the stressed and annoyed Superman we’re reading here.

Look at this as an extremely mannered variation on the characters we thought we knew. Miller doesn’t do subtle anymore. But his extreme stylization does offer memorable pleasures of its own. This isn’t remotely realistic, but it offers a pulpy thrill.

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