Old chum.

*Public Service Dept: I'd hate for any ongoing Pluto conversation to tumble off the bottom of the page, so go here and here to continue the chat with ease, if anyone is so inclined.

*The Comics Journal homepage is updated! Full list of contents for the big shoujo manga issue! Internet samples of various features! Check this issue out, because it's sure to please.

*And speaking of manga, I noticed that Viz released a big, thick, trade paperback-sized $19.95 book titled Sexy Voice and Robo, by Iou Kuroda. It appears to be a collection of short stories involving a 14-year old phone sex operator who solves mysteries for the Yakuza. It looks interesting, and you might want to take a look. Anyone familiar with this series, or happen to know why it warranted a change in typical manga format?

All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder #1


It was at the moment I reached the gaping close-up of Vicki Vale’s panty-clad derrière, on page four, panel three, that I realized that this book was going to be summary of Frank Miller.

It’s not just the half-winking (squinting?) glamour-gal pandering, though Miller really pulls out all the stops this time, not merely devoting four solid pages to Ms. Vale traipsing around her apartment in her most blushing underthings and killer high-heels, brandishing a martini, musing about Superman’s sexual prowess, and narrating the latest edition of her gossip-toned newspaper column; no, Miller even throws in an honest-to-god dress-up montage as she preps for her big date with Bruce Wayne (for your edification, she finally settles on a cleavage-enhancing white number that’s made of either heavy-duty trash bags or liquid chrome, depending on the mood colorist Alex Sinclair is in with any given panel), her interior monologue chattering “I’m having a date with Bruce Wayne,” over and over, the feeling probably intended to contrast against her collected, well-spoken writing voice.

No sweat though, folks! She proves to be A Tough Gal After All™ later in the book, just like the sexy ladies usually are in Sin City.

And there’s more connections to more Miller!

You want brooding interior monologues? Miller’s got no less than three of them, plus an omniscient narrator with a tendency to speak in really short sentences like:

Gotham City.”

Vicki Vale.”




She’s trouble.”

The kind of trouble you want.”


You can just hear it issuing forth from the silver screen, can’t you? But Miller has been doing this for a long time (certainly well before a certain other writer whose staccato style has been the subject of ten and a half trillion knee-slapping parodies); hell, he’s one of the guys who popularized this style in the first place, at least in regards to narration. Not that it gives him a pass when it’s off, but he does manage some genuinely great bits of narrative buckshot. I really enjoyed this opening musing from the soon-to-be Boy Wonder:

They’re always there for me.”

They always catch me.”

Mom and Dad.”

They always catch me.”

They’re always there for me.”

They’re always there for me.”

I fly.”

That’s great. I love that. That’s the sort of sweet and dodgy music that Miller can often wring from his Big Two superheroes, and I’m grateful that a little bit of it is included in our present Miller catalog. Along with the classy dames and tough guys and acrid superhero musings. But what else is missing? The formal invention of Ronin? Well, Miller isn’t doing the art; that task is left to penciler Jim Lee and inker Scott Williams. The politics? Well, there’s certainly a mistrust of authority present, embodied by the ever-lovin’ Gotham Police. But what else? What is missing?

The satire?

Well. I don’t know. I don’t know. It was a lot more blatant in DK2. But here?

Take Robin, who’s still an acrobat at this point. He’s swinging from the trapeze, wearing a skin-tight body stocking. At one point, he falls. I assume the rope on his trapeze was cut, though we never see anything of the sort. He tumbles downward and downward. Timid Vicki, on her date with Bruch Wayne ("How cool is that?") is very scared, but Bruce knows that this boy is special.

Don’t worry darling. This kid knows what he’s doing.”

Obviously, being Batman, Bruce was able to anticipate that Robin would suddenly produce a grappling hook out of his armpit and latch it onto another swinging trapeze (which I assume is a different trapeze from the one he fell off of, since that one got cut, I think - otherwise, the entire sequence makes absolutely no sense whatsoever) before he hits the floor. I have to conclude that the grappling hook was indeed hidden in his armpit, since it features a wide-grip clawed metal hook and at least twenty feet of rope, and Robin has never been depicted wearing it anywhere upon or under his sprayed-on circus outfit, and we‘ve seen pretty much every angle of his person with all that flipping around.

So what am I getting at? Lee just couldn’t be arsed to draw the grappling hook until then? Sloppiness? A lack of thought?

Or is it... satire?

Consider! Seconds after seeing their only child nearly tumble to his bloody doom, Robin’s parents seem perfectly relaxed and happy. Then they’re immediately shot to death out of nowhere. Apparently with a handgun. By someone positioned all the way in the audience.

Consider! Vicki is mouthing off to a gigantic bear of a corrupt police officer. He’s got a barrel chest, a neck the width of a truck tire, arms like tree branches, and I imagine he’d stand a solid head higher than her if she’d take off her heels. He then wheels back and absolutely thrashes her across the face with a police truncheon the size of her forearm. Lee even throws in some speed lines for added effect. Does Alfred summon an ambulance? Why no! She immediately stands up with a tiny trickle of blood dribbling down her lip! Told you she was tough!

Consider! The aforementioned police goon actually bellows the line:

Go back to your newspaper, sexpot.”

To repeat, with emphasis added:


Now reconsider Vicki’s dress-up routine, her softcore sexuality, above-and-beyond.

And then at the end, Batman! The Dark Knight! He tears through the woods in the Batmobile, following a storm of bats, his vehicle literally tearing a police cruiser in half! He leaps out and hoists Robin up by his shirt.

On your feet, soldier. You’ve just been drafted. Into a war.”

Some will say this book is one of the trashiest, most unapologetic dumbass superhero books on the stand. Some will mean that as a positive, some will mean that as a negative. Some will wonder as to the signal it’s giving to the new readers that are the presumed focus of this new launch, and some won’t care. Some will see it as almost indescribably dumb. Some will see it as the essence of Frank Miller’s pop pulp aesthetic, stretched across several past forms, all at once.

I fall into the last two camps.

And while I can’t really say I enjoyed this book (of course, neither can I say I totally hated it - guilty and possibly unintentional laughs work as a mitigating factor with me), I can say that it’s garbage of a resolutely Frank Miller vintage. Anyone who was afraid that the All Star designation would dilute the Miller feel can exhale now. This is Frank in his playpen. And it’s not as broad as DK2 either. For all its absurdity, once can’t escape the feeling that maybe Miller is being relatively ‘proper’ with his Batman storytelling here. You can almost see and hear him behind the pages.

Don’t worry gang,” he says, through his Cheshire grin, “I’ll be serious this time.”

But you know what?

He’s often said that the first Dark Knight book was a comedy too.