Every so often, something will come along like the “Batcave” scene in All Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder #4, and you’ll say, “Wow, THAT was a pretty cool idea.” While I would have much preferred it be an artist that I enjoy more than Jim Lee who handles the Batcave scene, it was still quite amazing.
I do spoilers in my reviews, but I wonder whether I should spoil the “Batcave” scene. I don’t think I will, but let me say that it is clever like how Fantastic Four #252 and Fantastic Four #352 were clever (and how weird is it that those two issues were exactly a hundred issues apart?). Just a willingness to go “out of the box” for an idea, whether it pays off or not, and I was quite impressed by the effort.
Still, it is ultimately one scene, so the question has to be, “Is the rest of the issue good?”
And I think it falls just short of being recommended, although I think I enjoyed this issue most out of the first four issues. The only thing holding me back is that it IS a bit shy on plot. But with character banter as good as in this issue, I do not need a plot to enjoy the book – I DO, though, think I need a plot to actually recommend this to other people.
The key to the book, as it has been throughout the series, is the interrelation between Dick and Batman, and that’s why the two best issues were the two issues that, well, had a lot of interrelation between Dick and Batman.
The way both of them put on false faces to each other is brilliant, with their thoughts almost always not matching their actions, as Batman feels he has to maintain the “Clint Eastwood” facade, while Dick also has to maintain the “wiseass kid” facade, as both of them are afraid of what happens when they let someone see through their respective facades.
The way they go back and forth between a page of Dick’s thought captions and a page of Batman’s thought captions is just excellent writing. It takes an idea that Loeb had for Superman/Batman, but actually makes it WORK.
I also enjoyed that Miller reveals that Batman specifically did NOT kill Robin’s parents. The other good thing is that Batman did not WANT to have Robin at this age. He wanted Robin as a partner, but he expected to acquire Robin when he was a young man, not a child. This explains a lot of Batman’s unease at their debates – he was not prepared to have to deal with a kid. It throws him off his game, and one thing we learn in this issue is that Batman does NOT like getting thrown off his game.
Other highlights to the issue include Batman expecting Dick to eat rats, because that’s what HE did as a kid (apparently, when he was a child, Bruce would “go caveman” in the caves and disappear down their for long stretches of time.
Batman learns that Vicki Vale is near death, so, to get a doctor to Gotham in time to save her, he calls in a trump card, and you know that Batman doesn’t want to play this card unless he HAD to, as it involves ordering Superman around. There’s a perfectly beautiful bit of narration here where Batman lays out why he’s better than Superman, and it basically involves the idea that, since he can’t out-punch people, he better damn well be able to out-THINK them.
There is a little progression on Batman finding out who killed Robin’s parents (which will lead to a nice scene next issue, apparently, as Robin decides how to achieve his revenge on his parent’s killers), but only about a page.
The comic is really about three things:
1. The Batcave scene
2. Batman/Robin going back and forth
3. Batman picking on Superman.
Those three things were enough for me to enjoy the comic, and I think a lot of you would, too, but there are also some folks who want a bit more plot, and I understand that impulse. The Batcave scene, while bold, basically assured no plot for the issue.
Jim Lee’s work actually looked GOOD at times, but for the most part, he didn’t get in Miller’s way, and that’s all I require from Lee on this title – don’t actively HURT Miller’s story – it’s a fun one.
So not recommended, but that’s a VERY close call.
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