Friday, April 6, 2007

All-Star Batman and Robin #4

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.


Anna Nicole Smith said...

It's not like I want to defend ASB&RTBWTYGSVBYFD or anything, but since it's supposed to happen early in BINOs career, an therefore in Damn!Supermans, I guess he still doesn't have the power to fly.

km said...


Among the many, many insanities in this incoherent mess of a four-parter, this one stands out: In the first issue BINO's all about not letting Dick Grayson, Age Twelve grieve. He can't give him the time to grieve. Somehow it'll wreck his entire plan for the kid.

So...the first thing he does when he gets DG,AT home is lock him up alone in a big empty room for hours and hours.

Man. Is there an evil insane shapeshifting villian in the Batman universe, by any chance?

Lewis Lovhaug said...

Well, according to Dark Knight Strikes Again, that evil insane shapeshifting villain is Dick Grayson.

*Twilight zone theme.*

Anonymous said...

"Is there an evil insane shapeshifting villian in the Batman universe, by any chance?"

Matt Hagen, AKA Clayface, is an evil shapeshifter, but he's not especially crazy, last I checked.

Ing said...

Jane Doe, Every ClayFace, The Body.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Hilarious. I love your reviews.

Personally, I really enjoy ASBAR (pronounced "ass-bar") just because it's funny/scary to read what is beyond the shadow of a doubt the worst comic book ever published. It's liking witnessing history. This is Mystery Science Theater-caliber shit.

And Miller has a penchant these days for completely destroying legendary characters. Not only is ruining the Batman mythos, but he know has his sights set on The Spirit. His new Spirit movie will be Sin City-style boneheaded garbage through and through. It will such so completely and utterly, none of us will be able to resist seeing it.


Anonymous said...

I must say, I never heard of ASBAR before and after finding that site and reading your reviews I am just left speechless. I can't believe that this was actually published, that's fu*ked up!

Lewis Lovhaug said...

Correction - STILL being published. They haven't reached Issue 12 yet. ^_~

Anonymous said...

Dear God... I'm admit, I'm not big into comics. You could probbly ask me about any well-known event in comics, And i would have no clue... But i know that is not Batman.

Thank you for revealing the phsychotic animal you have labled "Bino".

Emily said...

Old entry is old, but still funny nonetheless.

You know what this dialogue reminds me of? The way it repeats and stresses weird things?


Superdictionary, except EXTREEEEEEEEME!1!!!!1!!!

jaadowgg said...

OK, I know this is super old but I get into things late. It's not really my style to respond to old things, but this one I have to respond to. I just want to say "I'm sorry for the money you've wasted on this." Seriously.

I haven't read many western comics (I mainly read manga) but I still like watching and/or reading stuff about them. I like your videos and the blogs you have here are great. Anyway, back to my original point: I am so sorry you had to waste money on this series in order to review it but I am so very grateful to you for reviewing it so other people don't have to waste their money to read it.

Once again, I really like your stuff.