Tuesday, June 19, 2007

All-Star Batman and Robin #5

Frank Miller once again proving that just because you CAN write doesn't mean you SHOULD write.

(Just want to apologize again for the lack of updates lately. My other projects have been keeping me busy. Plus, in a way, it kind of parallels Frank Miller’s own delay on this title, wouldn’t you say?)

This’ll be the shortest lead time from a comic’s release to the time I review it, but considering the subject matter, it’s understandable. Yes, to the surprise of everyone on the planet, Frank Miller managed to churn out Issue 5 of All-Star Batman and Robin. I’m not going to link to the previous ones because honestly, if you’re reading THIS review, you must have some idea of what to expect from this title. Every single one of them has been cut from sheer, raw insanity as the classic idea of Batman has been pumped and purged, replaced with some foul creature we like to refer to as BINO (Batman in Name Only) around here.

Also, while I don’t want to provide so much material for my readers as to go insane, a poster at Girl-Wonder.org posted an essay they had wrote on their livejournal account about Frank Miller’s worldview. It’s available here, and it does provide a fascinating examination of the writer and provides us with a new way to look at ASBAR – in that we know it’s not a deliberate satire, but really the product of a really, really messed up brain.

While I have the Jim Lee version, which features a static, dull shot of batman looking insane with blood splattered everywhere (no doubt from the policeman he just beat to death), I decided to show the sexist Frank Miller-drawn cover, instead. Not only is it a pointless ass-shot of Wonder Woman, it’s an inaccurate pointless ass-shot of Wonder Woman. One, she does not wear a skirt, not in any previous incarnation (even her very first appearances were a kind of shorts whose name escapes me at the moment). Two, the girdle does not lace up. It is a solid piece. Three, the top is not a corset, and particularly not one that exposes her stomach. While Wonder Woman’s outfit may be rather flawed in the sense that it’s essentially a bathing suit, it’s still a one-piece outfit. Heck, that doesn’t even look like the top of the Wonder Woman outfit! The real kicker is the way it’s poorly drawn, though. Her rib cage is apparently a prism, because the angle at which this is shot shows quite a sharp turn. And, of course, it’s turned so we can see her breast, as well, because sexualizing her ass for our enjoyment wasn’t enough for the good Mr. Miller.

We open to “Five Hours Ago...” Five hours ago from what? From when I actually had joy in my life since I was done reading this comic? The shot is of Wonder Woman walking down a dark street holding a newspaper (don’t worry; this is NOT IMPORTANT AT ALL). The real surprise here with the art is two-fold: one, her tiara has been modified so it has a nose guard. I admit, I actually like this change since it makes her look more like a warrior and not so much a Princess to be coddled. The second surprise is the fact that she’s wearing a trench coat. The only reason I can think of for wearing the trench coat would be to conceal her outfit, but if that’s the reason then she does a pretty crappy job of it, since wide areas of her costume are perfectly viewable if you just look at her (plus the tiara is a dead giveaway).

Anyway, Wonder Woman is walking down a street and a drunken guy asks her to marry him, but instead of rightfully shoving the guy out of the way, instead she speaks to the terrified-looking businessman holding a briefcase on her other side. And as such, never in the annuls of history has one book produced so many internet memes – Goddamn Batman, Dick Grayson, Age Twelve; and now we behold Frank Miller’s masterful new phrase to us: “Out of my way, sperm bank.” I think I’m going to start yelling that to people who are annoying me; it sounds like fun.

And of course, it wouldn’t be an issue of ASBAR without the frantic narration that only Frank Miller can produce with a straight face. “Metropolis. The city of dreams. Men’s dreams.” And, you know, the few hundred-thousand women who probably live in it, too. “It stinks of men. Of doorways abandoned, obsolete phone booths used as urinals.” Oh, Frank, you really know how to paint a picture. “It leaves a bad taste, this world of men. Men.” I’m sorry, are you talking about women? “They can’t do anything right.” So, what are you doing in Man’s World, then, if you hate it so much?

Wonder Woman slams through a chained door and proclaims in her narration, “Men always make a mess out of everything.” Hey, lady, you’re the one who’s smashing up property when there was a perfectly good side entrance. Inexplicably, Wonder Woman takes off her coat like she’s strutting down a hallway in a lingerie commercial and continues rambling to herself about how men suck and Bat-Man is the worst of them. While I certainly agree that BINO needs to be dealt with somehow, what exactly is it that’s upsetting you? You’re not exactly helping your case for wanting to bring in the murderous Bat-Man (by the by, why does everyone else call him by the hyphenated name?) when you talk about killing him, yourself.

Further making this reader roll his eyes is the fact that Wonder Woman is sporting like the biggest freaking heels on the planet. They make little tank tank noises as she walks and I imagine they can’t be comfortable, especially for someone who’s supposed to be a warrior (albeit it makes a slightly better amount of sense considering she’s got super strength and all, but still...). She walks into a room where Superman, Green Lantern, and Plastic Man are all located and arguing about BINO.

“I told you, Diana. I told you all. From the first moment I heard of that maniac, I knew his methods would make us all look like monsters.” Superman went to a program to learn how to emphasize his words. “And now he’s kidnapped a little boy. He’ll be the excuse they’ve been looking for -- to destroy us.” Yes, because when the little boy has been kidnapped by the psychotic murderer, it’s your reputation as a superhero that you should be worrying about, you dick. Shouldn’t you be saying “Damn!” or something?

Green Lantern tries to act rationally since they don’t know for certain that BINO kidnapped anybody while Plastic Man states: “I vote we bring him on board. I think the B-Man is cool. He’d make us look edgier.” He even starts flirting with Wonder Woman and actually, I’ve got to say, Miller seems to get Plastic Man’s zany personality down, even if he is using it in such a bloody stupid fashion. Wonder Woman, since she seems to be some sort of bizarre parody of a Feminist, promptly says, “Shut up. You call yourselves men?” So, wait, you were the one who was going on and on about how men suck and are weak and blah blah blah, yet you have an expectation of men to be strong and correct or something?

Wonder Woman continues to berate the others for wanting to be so ‘nice’ about it, obviously Millar’s way of trying to pave the way for his future Dark Knight Strikes Again story by putting herself and the others on the level of Gods. Wonder Woman makes Green Lantern her bitch by ordering him to make himself useful and take her coat, which he of course does right away. Superman keeps playing it cool, trying to make it seem like she needs to calm down when it’s obvious he wants to play ‘Burn the front page of the newspaper’ with her. Wonder Woman responds:

“You want cooler, farm boy? I’ll give you cooler. I’ll give you cold. Cold and simple. We hunt down this Bat-Man (Again with the hyphens!) like a rabid dog. We kill him. We chop off his head and plant it on a stake and present it to your “authorities” -- as their first gift from the Justice League.” Yeah, that’ll make ‘em trust you.

All of a sudden the entire prose style changes as Miller tries to wax philosophical and compare these guys with the Greek Gods. Superman gets all pissy and punches a metal column as the narration box reads: “It starts with a bellow worthy of Zeus. Then a wind that Boreas might envy.” I’m sorry, what was that about boring me? “She’s a fragile twig -- a blade of grass -- tossed aside in the wake of an angry God.” And she doesn’t even know how to order coffee or use a credit card!

Damn you, Diana! Damn you and your Amazon arrogance!” Damn it all to hell, you damn dirty apes! You blew it up! “This is my world. These are my people. These are my rules. If you commit murder on my land -- you’ll pay for it with your own precious Amazon blood!” So, wait, if she kills someone on his land (from California to the New York Island), he’ll kill her back? Way to really take the moral high ground there, Supes.

Plastic Man, obviously mistaking himself to be in Grant Morrison’s JLA, suddenly shouts out for no reason, “Eat floor, Queen Bee.” Wonder Woman shouts back, “You bastard! You bastard. I hate your guts. your guts. You make me sick. You make me sick.” Aaaah, there’s that Torgo-like repetition that I’ve been missing! Now we’re in full Miller mode, folks! Abandon all sanity, ye who enters here!

Oh, and then Superman and Wonder Woman kiss. Yeah. “Then Zeus stabs the world of man with thunderbolts (Curse you, Eric Masterson!) and somewhere Poseidon roars with laughter. The thunderbolts. They stab them both.” Zee thunderbolts, zey do notheeng! After that completely nonsensical sequence, Wonder Woman leaves and says that if they fail, she’ll handle it herself. Green Lantern just stares at Superman in a ‘Dude, what the hell was THAT’ look as Superman replies, “She’s really a very nice girl.” Oh, Frank Miller, you kill me. Seriously. Ow.

But enough of that totally unnecessary stuff! Now it’s back to the Goddamn Batman! How do we know it’s him? Well, he’s laughing in satanic glee and his narration caption is, “I love being the goddamn BATMAN.” Folks, we have some good old-fashioned nightmare fuel here. BINO’s running across a rooftop in a completely wasted two-page spread as Frank Miller gets to spout off his insane, disjointed writing. I’ll spare you most of it except for the opening lines, which continue to make us wonder if any of DC’s editorial staff is keeping track of how much time this series is supposed to be going through:

“I should be EXHAUSTED. I haven’t slept in DAYS. But I CAN’T GET TIRED. No matter how hard I TRY. Not on a night like THIS. Not with my PULSE pounding my EARS and dear GOTHAM calling to me like a sultry SIREN.” Okay - one, you haven’t slept in DAYS?! You went out to the circus as Bruce Wayne without ever having slept?! Two – it doesn’t matter how much natural adrenaline he’s got pumping into him. We now know why BINO’s so flippin’ nuts: without sleep, anyone’ll be bonkers. Three – a sultry siren?! For the love of Pete, you were the one who compared her to Edgar Allen Poe’s Lenore!

“A woman screams. What the HELL.” Flag on the moon. How did it get there? “I give with the LAUGH. That ALWAYS works.” Oh, well that explains it – Frank doesn’t realize he’s writing Batman, he think he’s writing the Creeper! Creeper’s the one who laughs insanely to scare criminals while being totally friggin’ nuts. Batman’s the one who uses darkness to terrify criminals. BINO leaps down towards a group of thugs assaulting a woman with HUGE knives in their hands. I’m talking Crocodile Dundee “THIS is a knife!”-sized knives. BINO beats the snot out of the would-be rapists, even giving a compound fracture to one guy.

Now, one would assume I’d be chalking this up to more psychotic behavior on BINO’s part, but considering he murdered a bunch of police officers in previous issues, this is pretty tame by his standards. Also, it doesn’t help that I really don’t feel extensive damage like that to criminals is that bad as long as they’re still alive. Of course, then BINO starts pounding away on one guy who keeps asking “What?” in confusion as the woman who was going to be a victim watches and then gets as manic a grin as BINO has in the previous issues. ““What”? You’re asking me “What”?” “What?” “What? This.” No, no, no – what’s on second, you idiot! THIRD BASE!

This woman, also wearing high heels (albeit more sensible ones than the superhero), walks over to one of her injured rapists, who asks for help. The woman just kicks him in the groin and says, “I’ve got Batman watching after me.” No, you’ve got some very pale imitation of Batman watching over you. Oh, look! There’s an ad on the left for a Darwyn Cooke Batman series! That must be what she means, since it’s above her and watching down in her general direction.

BINO tells her to, “Go home, now. Catch a cab on Novick. It’s well lit. Call your shrink, if you’ve got one. But don’t call any cops about all this. They’re useless. They’re worse than useless.” And of course, since this is a woman in a Frank Miller story, she suddenly gets all submissive and obedient, saying, “Y-Yes, sir.” And why would she need a shrink, exactly? She seemed to get herself together pretty quickly and developed a real taste for blood there. Or maybe she needs a shrink because she survived an encounter with you. BINO swings away and the woman says, “Thank you. I love you.” To which our intrepid hero thinks in his narration boxes, “Nobody loves anybody, my darling. We just survive.” DEEP.

BINO continues to swing away as his narration boxes once again make us all collectively tilt our heads. “The WIND goes BERSERK. ELECTRICITY tingles my SKIN and rattles my WHISKERS.” ...The hell? “Another STORM. Cool.” BATMAN DOES NOT SAY COOL, FRANK! “A perfect night. A hunter’s night.” Well, since I’ve seen the words used no less than half a dozen times in this comic already, I think they bear repeating here: Shut up!

Swing back to Wayne Manor and our old pal Alfred Pennyworth and- Oh my lord. He’s punching a punching bag and looking all muscular! Okay, I can sort of believe that he’d want to stay in good shape, but give me a break here – the guy’s in his sixties at least and I think he’d be doing other exercises besides a punching bag. And furthermore, isn’t he a butler? Doesn’t he have things to clean or, say, a frightened twelve year-old in the basement of his psychotic employer to take care of? Oh, boy, the narration boxes don’t make this scene any better, folks. It’s all the creepier:

“How many a day -- how many hundreds, THOUSANDS a time -- day or night, did my black-eyed angel come home from his frolics in the WOOD -- BLOOD streaming his smiling, fearless face?” His “black-eyed angel?!” You know, I know I joked about him being a pervert in the last issue, but seriously... “He was always an ADVENTURER, Bruce was. Always JUMPING and RUNNING and giving himself a proper BANGING.” Oh, sweet merciful GOD! This comic has provided like six different explanations why BINO is so insane, but really it’s probably ALL of them!

“And now my DEMON -- my black-eyed, brilliant, willful ANGEL -- has grown to MANHOOD.” Don’t you ever say manhood again, you maniac. “I pray this child will SURVIVE this.” I think I’m going to go throw up all over myself now.

Meanwhile, we can check in on Dick Grayson, Age Twelve. “BATMAN works out of a REALLY BIG CAVE. It’s full of STUFF.” BINO really knows how to pick the sharp ones to be his sidekicks, doesn’t he? “It’s like a MUSEUM would be IF a MUSEUM could BREATHE.” Quick, someone call Ben Stiller! “It’s full of STUFF.” So, wait, is it full of stuff? “And all the STUFF is CLEAN and SHARPENED and POLISHED and ready to USE.” So, what does Dick immediately do? He reaches for the sharp, bladed edge of an axe. And thus the issue that we waited a whole year for ends on Dick Grayson, Age Twelve picking up a huge freakin’ battle axe and saying “Cool.” Folks, I can’t make this stuff up if I wanted to.

And there you have it. Was it worth the wait, both on my end and from Frankie-boy? I don’t know, I just know I’m a little more stupid from having to read this.


Mela said...

Holy God. You're a very hearty human being to be able to stomach this.

Ten bucks says the would-be victim turns out to be Miller's destined-to-be-Batgirl-in-name-only. Her dangly earrings, although impractical, are my favorite part of this whole series.

Although, I admit, I might start using "Out of my way, sperm bank" on the train.

The shorts you asked about Wonder Woman wearing in the 40s are called (and I'm not 100% sure on the spelling) cullottes. They're still around here and there, but they aren't as common as they used to be.

Ami Angelwings said...

I'm so glad I decided to ignore this issue XD I feel bad that other ppl have to read it to warn me about it tho. :(

Also I dun feel like rewarding Frank for not getting an issue out in a year XD

I honestly wonder if Frank just doesn't care anymore, or if he's just trying to see how bad and over the top he can write until ppl stop reading him. XD Something that bad HAS to be on purpose >:|

Anonymous said...

I love the review, but you seem to be kind of overdoing the "So, is it filled with (thing)?" or the "Is it (blank)?" jokes.

Lewis Lovhaug said...

I know, I fear my overuse of that joke, but it's so... damn... EASY! Frank just gives it to me with repeating the phrases and I fall for it every time... >_<

Paul S. said...

Hilarious stuff as usual.

Though I wonder if the real reason why DC makes us wait for so long between ASBAR issues is that it takes a year for everyone to forget how bad the last issue was.

ChthonicSpirit said...

The shorts you asked about Wonder Woman wearing in the 40s are called (and I'm not 100% sure on the spelling) cullottes.

Also, and more memorably, called 'skorts'. :D

Thanks for the review, Lewis.

Anonymous said...

i made the mistake of drinking whilst reading your review and now i have tea coming out of my nose. the sperm bank thing killed me, i reealy want to use that when somone gets in my way just to see the look on their face.


km said...

Oh...my. Oh, my. Oh...I'm sorry, it's catching. Luckily for my sanity, it's also hilariously funny. Well done, sir; ss Frank himself might put it, you have returned not on your shield but with it. Or something.

Seriously...I've read defenses of this series that argue for its being all a (self-?)satire, a distillation of everything over-the-top about the Batman mythos.

So...um...when do we get to the fun little winks aside to the audience, then? 'Cause what I'm seeing thus far is too incoherent even to make sense as parody.

Ashni said...

Speaking of repeating phrases... This is from 300:

"Zeus stabs the sky with thunderbolts. Boreas howls, bullied--and batters the sea with hurricane wind. Poseidon rises, rudely awakened."

I guess there are only so many words in the universe--we should be grateful that he's leaving most of them for the rest of us to use.

Lewis Lovhaug said...

Ironically, he DID mention Poseidon in one of his random Greek God writings. Frank Miller has become the Greg Land of comic book writing - he borrows from himself whenever he needs (or really doesn't need) a section of writing for something else he's working on.

InvisibleBrunette said...

"Oh, sweet merciful GOD!"
Couldn't have said it any better myself. I can't believe I actually read that comic. And you know, I don't want to see Wonder Woman's butt. But hey! They're gearing to get men's attention, not us women readers. Oh, and I've seen some old snippets of Wonder Woman where she did have a skirt *shrugs*.
....That tiara is awesome....

caswin said...

All things considered, I'm almost willing to spot Miller a muscular, mentally suspect-in-ways-that-have-nothing-to-do-with-senility Alfred. Partly because just typing that gave me a very strange sense of anticipation. All the same, obviously -- I don't have many words for this. Good job as usual.

Incidentally, there's a milestone in this issue that I think you missed: BINO actually takes down some criminals for the first time in the series since the kidnapping of Dick Grayson, Age Twelve, which could easily have been out of spur-of-the-moment necessity. I was starting to wonder. Actually, has he explicitly mentioned crime-fighting before now?

TauriqM said...

Excellent review, you brave man. BTW: you've written "Millar" in paragraph after Green lantern pic.

Ben Pounds said...

Discounting the cover, at least the women here come off as less whores than usual for Frank.