Last year, DC Comics relaunched Superman in an alternate universe they dubbed "Earth One." It was written by J. Michael Straczynski and drawn by Shane Davis and was one of the single best retakes on one of the most iconic superhero characters of all time. (I wrote a review of it at the time, which you can read here.)
It was fresh and compelling, and enough had changed with the universe that I couldn't predict what was going to happen next.
To date, Superman: Earth One is the only graphic novel in the series to come out. The Superman of Earth One hasn't had any other adventures and no other characters had gotten the treat... until now.
Geoff Johns, the chief creative officer at DC Comics, has written us a Batman for Earth One that will knock your socks off. It's drawn by Gary Frank, and is laid out on gorgeous, glossy paper.
I'm a Batman fan, through and through. I've been collecting Batman comics since Jason Todd was still Robin. Messing with his back story is something I'm always wary of, but because of Superman: Earth One, I came into the book with high hopes and it's my pleasure to tell you that Johns and Frank delivered.
There is a contemporary layer of honesty to the character and the world that makes it all so much more believable. It will easily draw comparisons to Frank Miller's Year One, but I think, in many ways, the storytelling here is much more mature. The book has many twists and turns and builds in a way that you can't see in a regular comic issue. Johns understands the medium and plays to it, making character choices that I would have expected to be mistakes into strengths. In fact, one character, Harvey Bullock, is so different from his standard iterations, I was instantly fearful, but the character ended up as my favorite throughout the book. There's a moment between him and Jim Gordon that is as good or better than any of Gordon's moments in Year One.
"It was really freeing for both of us," Johns told me, "to work on a self contained project. We've both been working on monthly books for most of our careers, so to be able to switch to this gave us a lot of freedom for content, character, format, and time. We took the time to do the best thing we felt we could possibly do."
When asked about the challenges of redoing an origin as iconic as Batman's, Johns told me:
Gary and I spoke a lot about [changing Batman.] We could have changed everything about his origin if we wanted to. We had complete freedom for that, but we wanted to keep the DNA of the character. Things like Alfred are very different, and we're revolving around things that are different, Bruce's parents and what they have connections to are very different, but at the core, we wanted to have the same building blocks and tell a very different emotional story. The emotional story between Alfred and Bruce, I think, is something we haven't seen before like this. Same with Bruce and his connection with Batman.
And for readers, this is a very different take on Batman than we're used to, but it's a worthy take. "Bruce is just a guy," Johns said. "He's a man. He not the myth. He is not the superhero that knows everything and it's all about his villains. This is about Bruce Wayne. And the journey of this really tragic guy."
I also wanted to find out if this Batman from Earth One exists in the same world as Superman from Earth One. Johns had this to say, "I don't know. To be honest, we're focused so much on our Batman story we don't have any plans to cross them."
The book was so thoroughly captivating that my most burning question for Johns was whether or not we'll see more. His response was encouraging:
Gary and I have a series of Batman stories we want to tell. We have a finite story with these characters in subsequent books. That's what we're building towards. Hopefully it won't be another two years until the next one. We want to do it right, we've already started working on Volume 2.
If you want to pre-order Batman: Earth One, you can do so at your local comic book store or on Amazon. It comes out July 10, 2012, and if you're new to comics or a longtime Batman fan, Batman: Earth One hits bookstores on July 10.
In the meantime, here is an exclusive preview of what you're in for: