Writer: Frank Miller
Artist(s): Jim Lee , Scott Williams (i), Alex Sinclair (c)
Publisher: DC Comics
I noted in my reviews of the two previous issues of this series that Frank Miller’s characterizations of Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, et cetera, seem to be attempts at creating verisimilitude. Miller’s work seems to be a consideration of the established backstory of each of these DC icons in light of what such people might be like in the “real world.”
Thus, Miller characterizes Batman as a billionaire who watched a man murder his parents when he was only 10 years old, who then grows up with a violent streak directed at criminals, and who has the penchant to dress up in a bat costume made of black leather and spandex. In other words, he’s a psychotic who makes psychotic statements, takes psychotic actions, and has a psychotic view of the world.
For instance, due to his own childhood, Bruce Wayne has a weird perspective on what to do with young boys who have seen their parents murdered before their eyes. With the latest issue, we can add that he also has a weird perspective on what to do with young women he rescues on the streets—he “dry humps” them in the pouring rain.
Obviously, Miller is just adding to his presentation of how mentally unstable a man would have to be to train himself to be an elite warrior and then dress up in a Bat costume. However, in a few places, Miller also lets slip that he’s laughing at his presentation of these characters—such as when Batman explains to the Irish Lass (after he’s finished dry humping her) that he needs a car because he’s not the one who can fly.
The “one who can fly,” of course, is a reference to Superman—who, in an earlier issue, raced across the Atlantic Ocean with a sedan on his head. Specifically, it looked like a late 1950s to early 1960s Mercedes Benz Ponton sedan, which weighs about 3,000 pounds when carrying a full-grown male adult.
The image looked like a frame from “Superduperman” by Wally Wood in Mad Magazine #4. If Superman can’t fly, then he must be at the power levels of the Golden Age Superman who could only “leap tall buildings” and run “faster than a speeding bullet.”
However, the highest velocity for a bullet is about 1,500 meters per second (many guns shoot bullets at a slower velocity). If Superman could just outrun a bullet moving at 1,500 meters per second, then that means his top speed would be around 4,000 MPH (roughly). While fast, 4,000 MPH would probably be too slow to prevent Superman from sinking into the water while carrying a 1.5 ton black sedan on his head.
Thus, Superman’s power levels would have to be closer to those of the Silver Age Superman—who, of course, could fly. Thus, Batman must have concluded that Superman can fly because there is no way he could have raced across the Atlantic carrying a 3,000 pound car unless he had the ability to levitate himself and other objects.
This whole series is so ludicrous that it’s coming off as a Mad Magazine parody. However, unlike Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood’s generalized parody of superhero comics in “Superduperman,” Miller’s All-Star series seems to be a specific parody of verisimilitude in superhero comics.
Readers are used to parodies taking a certain form—such as the style displayed in Mad Magazine or Marvel’s old Cracked series. Readers are not, however, used to seeing such parodies come from creators (both Miller and Jim Lee) who have been associated with “serious” Batman stories in the past—which is why the series is so often being declared a “train wreck” that we can’t help but look at despite how awful it is.
The reaction to Miller’s All-Star Batman is beginning to remind me of reactions to Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, a work that offers a solution to Ireland’s poverty and famine in the early 18th century with the idea of eating Irish infants. A number of readers didn’t realize that Swift was writing a satire, they took his proposal seriously, and so they questioned his sanity and his morals.
Okay, so if Miller’s work is a satire or parody of Batman and verisimilitude in superhero comics (an updated “Superduperman” that many fans are mistakenly reading as a “serious” comic), then why am I only giving it two and a half bullets?
Because the joke is wearing thin.
Miller is doing little more than repeating the same old jabs—how many times can he get the phrase “the goddamn Batman” in the text (or its new variation this issue, “the goddamn Batmobile”)? DC’s web site seems to indicate that the series is going on hiatus after the next issue. I’m hoping it doesn’t return for a ninth.
I’m more than happy to go read Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood’s satire on Superman and Jonathan Swift’s satire on the English treatment of the Irish. I also have better things to spend my money on every four months (or however often). Even if a ninth issue does eventually come out, the eighth issue will be my last.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!