Saturday, December 31, 2005

I don't get it.

Everyone in the Blogosphere loves ALL STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN (although they always preface positive reviews by saying "I know everyone else hates this" or "I must be the only one that Gets The Joke" or "I know what he's trying to do here- everyone else is missing the point"). I am led to believe that there is some sort of "satire" or "commentary" or "just crazy fun fun big crazy comics!!!". Everyone else out there seems to be laughing out loud and in on some sort of ur-joke that I am missing.

Is this comic actually funny? I am aware that it is ridiculous and over-the-top and whatnot, but I am missing the Big Hilarious Satire that everyone else seems to be reading. I am not a prudish DC nerd upset that Batman is an angry Goddamn Batman. I am not a humorless tee-totaler upset by the (implied) sex and (grisly) violence. I love Sin City and I love insane Comic Booky nonsense.

But I am missing the joke here. I am not laughing out loud. I am looking at this ALL STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN, and thinking that it is written for some other demographic than the one I am in. It's like watching the REAL WORLD or a LIFETIME original movie; it just makes no sense to me. It is possible that Miller just pooped this out, and is spending more time signing checks than doing re-writes, correct? Can we all agree that that is at least a possiblity?

The pacing is bizarre, the strange repetition of phrases is very, very (very) weird, and three issues in, we're still sitting in the Batmobile. I'm mostly bored by this book, and often befuddled. I guess it's me. I guess I'm not "in on the joke". It couldn't be that this simply isn't all that well constructed a comic. That would be impossible, I guess.

I am willing to admit that am just missing the brilliant satire here.

I even sorta enjoyed the absurd shenanigens of the first two issues, but the third issue's interlude with Black Canary just lost me. Is it possible the joke isn't some large parodic commentary, but maybe a big laugh at the reader, for slogging through shit that makes no sense? Because if that's the case, the joke isn't just on the DC nerds who are up in arms... it's on the guys who "get the joke" as well. I am just not seeing the difference in quality between this and say, any other poorly plotted, bullshit comic about Men In Capes.

I mean, as long as it sells well, I guess I should be happy. I just think that the sales might be a hair better if there wasn't suddenly a fifteen page sequence about a bartender getting hassled in the middle of what was previously a cool scene between the Goddamn Batman and Dick Grayson. (And seriously, what the fuck was up with the Superman epilogue? Is this shit really so hilarious to everyone?) I can only imagine the sales if it wasn't trying so hard to be clever and "funny", and just gave us a solid, action-packed story about Batman and Robin. Remember how fun those used to be? I guess I've reached a point in my life where I get my laughs from other sources than mainstream superhero comics.

Maybe someone can explain it to me. I am, after all, a bear of very little brain.

28 Love Letters:

Anonymous said...

I haven't read it but when has that ever stopped me from passing judgement before?

Jim Lee's art makes the angry vein in my forehead pop out and Frank Miller runs extremely hot or cold for me. I still would have given this book a chance, but all the purportedly good reviews I read about it online make it sound just as bad as I imagined. I saw something the other day about how many splash pages there were in issue 3 and how much that reminded the reviewer of bad 90s Image comics and that's why it's so GREAT!!! WTF?

The cynic in me wants to say that this is one of those cases where everybody is trying to out-contradict each other, but that way lies madness. I'm just going to keep staying away from the whole thing. I'm getting my fill of overdrawn and awkwardly scripted fanboy wankery from Infinte Crisis anyway.

2:41 PM

Anonymous f. chong rutherford said...

Maybe it goes something like this.

Random Critic: Superhero comics these days are juvenile, mean-spirited crap, and it's Frank Miller's fault because he wrote Dark Knight Returns.

Frank Miller: Hmm. Maybe I can fix things by writing and drawing something juvenile ON PURPOSE, but filling it with present-day satire!

Frank Miller writes Dark Knight Strikes Again.

Some Fans: This is the suck, because it
doesn't make sense.
Other Fans: I like that it is ON PURPOSE and filled with present-day satire!*
Most Fans: Frank who?

Later, Frank Miller meets Random Critic again.

Random Critic: Superhero comics these days are juvenile, mean-spirited crap, and it's Frank Miller's fault because he wrote Dark Knight Returns.

Frank Miller: Hmm. Maybe I should try writing juvenile, mean-spirited crap ON PURPOSE, thus making it cutting-edge, present day satire without actually having to do any of that.

Frank Miller writes All-Star Batman and Robin (or Assbar).

Some Fans: This is the suck, because it
doesn't make sense.
Other Fans: I like that it is juvenile, mean-spirited crap ON PURPOSE, thus making it cutting-edge, present day satire!
Most Fans: Frank who?

I generally don't mind and tend to enjoy juvenile crap (see most Rock Music made between 1963-1978), but when it gets mean-spirited, that's where I tune out.

*Which is why I liked DKSA, but I mostly liked it for the art, and that image of the Atom jumping out of the petri dish still kills me.

I think this might be the thought process with Goddamned Batman of Assbar.

Anyway, the point is, some people consider 'Crap' done on purpose as high art. Me, I just see Crap.

3:34 PM

Anonymous scott hassler said...

i love it. best superhero comic of the year. say what you will, i like my comics to entertain me, and this one hits it every single time.

90% of the writers in comics should read and re-read these books to learn how to pace a story. (note, there is a difference between pace and speed)

and you dont like jim lee's art? thats just.....weird. kinda speaks to "i hate him cuz he's so damn good and im an angry punker who stands out in the crowd im different cuz i dont like whats popular" kind of attitude.

jim lee is an amazing artist. there are artists i like better, but that doesnt take away from lee. he is technically sound, draws beautifully, and is a great storyteller. oh well, to each their own.

6:03 PM

Blogger Apodaca said...

Nah, actually, Jim Lee's a very average artist. He draws in a trite, cliched style and uses all the lame art tricks of the 90's to their full, shameful, extent.

And Alex? You have to remember that, for the most part, nerds have terrible senses of humor. Look at Kevin Smith.

6:41 PM

Blogger alex said...

Hey Scott? You still haven't explained what's good about this comic.

Getting pissy about so-called "angry punkers" who don't like Jim Lee idn't telling me anything.

Well, it tells me lots. Just not about ASSBAR.

7:42 PM

Blogger MarkAndrew said...

"Nah, actually, Jim Lee's a very average artist. He draws in a trite, cliched style and uses all the lame art tricks of the 90's to their full, shameful, extent."

Not fair. Or at least not, t'my mind, TRUE. He's really good at what he's good at. Forceful action shots and sexxxxy chicks, and SOMETIMES he can do really solid mood pieces. He's better than 95% of his contemperaries at both those things.

He's just not particularly good at anything else.

But I'm with you, Alex. I loved the holy HELL outta Dark Knight Strikes Again. Loved the youth vs. age political subtext, loved the superhero cameos, loved all the action shots..

But All Star just ain't pushin' my buttons.

Jog (Who's probably the best writer about how comics work on the Blogsphere) gives a solid defense of ASSBAR over on his blog, though, if you want intelligent opposition.

8:27 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't think it was possible, but it looks like Lee's art is worse than it was 10 years ago. It's become so flat and uninteresting, and his storytelling is very weak. And he's doing comics, which should be entirely about storytelling ability over almost anything else.

9:06 AM

Blogger Leigh Walton said...

This has really become the controversial book of the year, hasn't it? It's just a maddening book; we can't leave it alone but we can never actually decide what to think about it.

My gut instinct is that it's an unfortunate consequence of the anemic state of American comics - that we are unable to dismiss this because our masters are in short supply, and we're unable to give up Miller. But then, I suppose it's not very different from if Scorsese or Tom Wolfe released something as perplexing as ASSBAR - the critics would work themselves into a froth.

Genius is in short supply all over, I guess.

EISNER/MILLER, by the way, is phenomenal, if you didn't know already.

3:50 PM

Blogger kalinara said...

Personally, I hated it. I get the satirical aspects, it's a big joke, I get it.

I just don't think it's a particularly funny joke.

I don't know, maybe I'm too sensitive but if I'm gonna read something called "All Star Batman and Robin", I'd like it to be about Batman and Robin. I'm not an insane Bat-fan, I think, but I don't think it's too much to ask that the Bruce and Dick in the comic as advertized *actually* be Bruce and Dick. There are good stories there (as a lot of the Year One stories can attest).

I don't know, jokes are fine, but I refuse to be embarrassed for being annoyed that it wasn't what it was advertized to be. :-)

6:55 PM

Anonymous scott hassler said...

things that i think make this a great comic

1) all pre-conceived notions about batman and robin thrown out on their ear or just plain upended

2)great art!

3)pacing pacing pacing! im on the edge of my seat flying right along. in issue 2 miller conducts a clinic on pacing in a comic. i was IN the batmobile the whole issue.

4)THE GODDAMN BATMAN! heheh, i just thought that part was awesome.

5)first time in my life i have ever thought robin was cool. amazing aerialist. black belt by 9. standing up to the lunatic in the batsuit driving flying boating like a maniac.

6)best black canary ever, kicking the hell outta an entire bar. didnt even need her scream

7)over the top outrageous fun! sorry, guess i havent grown up to the point where i have to take every comic so seriously. its a COMIC BOOK!!!!! im having fun with it. if your not, jesus christ just *&%#@ing get over yourself!

oh the drama.

7:35 PM

Blogger Paul said...

Oh my god, you guys, I just now got over myself!

And I still thought the comic was bad. I guess it's because I take every comic so seriously and I'm an angry punker. Yes, that description fits me to a T.

8:01 PM

Blogger markus said...

aaah, but the ability to say yes this is deeply flawed but I'm enjoying myself anyway because of the XYZ bits (sheer exuberance in this case) has always been in short supply.

8:14 PM

Blogger James Meeley said...

Actually, the thing that is the MOST fun about this book, as well as being the biggest joke about it, is the reaction from comic blogging fandom overall.

The unadlterated praise from the Miller and Lee cultists. The frothing at the keyboard by bloggers who want to rip it to shreds.

Miller has created a masterpiece of storytelling, not within the confines of the comic itself, but from the reaction of comic fandom at large. The joke is how seriously so many take it (be it positive or negative), when really it doesn't even matter (after all, ASBAR isn't cannon for the DCU proper, it's just an "Elseworlds" kind of thing).

Miller has created a brillaint satire, not with characters of pen and ink, but flesh and blood. He has exposed fandom for the overly-serious, obnoxious, egotistical, self-importnat bloated slob it is. Now, THAT'S entertianment, folks! ;)

8:37 PM

Blogger Ragnell said...

james -- and the best part, most of us don't have to spend any money to enjoy it. Just ask about it when the LCS is crowded, sit back and enjoy.

9:24 PM

Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

The most perplexing thing about the ASBAR discussion is how everyone assumes that Frank Miller is intentionally writing crap. I suppose the logic at work here is that since it's written by Frank Miller, and since Frank Miller can't write crap, then when he is writing crap it is Brilliant Satire in a clever plastic crap costume.

This ignores the fact that pretty much everything Miller's written over the last ten years has been crap. DKSA was well-drawn gibberish. The last couple Sin City books were dull, formulaic retreads. So if "All Star Batmman and Robin" is supposed to be a brilliant satire of how stupid Batman and his fans are, was "Sin City: Family Values" supposed to be a brilliant satire of how stupid Frank Miller and his fans are?

I'd like you to meet my friend, William of Occam. He's got a razor you should really take a look at.

When a once-talented writer spends a lengthy period of time consistently writing crap, there's usually one of two explanations: (1) he's no longer capable of writing anything better than crap, or (2) he's no longer interested in writing anything better than crap. I tend to suspect the latter, if only because Miller's style seems so self-derivative at this point that he really does sound like he's on autopilot. And really, why should he do more than phone it in at this point? He's a Name. People will buy it no matter what he puts out.

As to whether ASBAR, on its own merits, is all that entertaining: well, I can see how it has its cheap, pulpy moments, but there were a lot of better-done comics that came out this year that did "cheap and pulpy" much, much better (see All-Star Superman). For a book with a Crazy Raving Batman, ASBAR is painfully decompressed. I want my Psycho Batman running over cops on page 1, chucking Robin through a window on page 2, and blowing up a truck full of cross-dressing ninja cyborgs before we reach the title splash. If you're going to give me "crazy," give me six atrocities before breakfast, not this warmed-over Image Lite crap. Beyond that, Lee's art goes with Miller's writing the way cake goes with turpentine. Never let these two near each other again.

9:45 PM

Blogger T. said...

You know, Lungfish, I was thinking when the ASBAR script was released and everyone found out that the tacky elements of the script came from Miller, people would finally realize that Miller was just a mildly clever overrated writer. But now that I think about it, I'm sure his fans will just say that he wrote his script as satire as well, knowing it'd end up being released.

Has anyone ever seen Miller describe his own work as satire by the way?

8:42 AM

Blogger Iagorune said...

Even though the damm thing is completly disjointed, isn't apparently going anywhere, and if I didn't know any better I'd think it was written by a 10 year old, for some reason it just keeps making me laugh my ass off.

I wish I could tell you why it's good, bt honestly I can't. It really just comes down to knowing good when I see it, and so far it's good.

- rick

11:24 AM

Blogger markus said...

re t.:
I think Miller is only overrated to the extent that the term great writer tends to obscure his weaknesses in plotting and characterisation (unless it's about tough macho stuff). Still, even there he's bold and willing to try new things, and combined with his abilities in terms of pacing and panel/page use, that's enough to justify calling him a great writer IMO. In other words, even if he fails it still will look good and be more exciting than 90% of the tired formulaic works out there.
ASSBAR's own lack of coherence (the stubbles from #2, the milk and the paper) is AFAIK below Miller's usual quality, so that's a good inidactor that he's actually phoning this one in.

12:48 PM

Blogger Num104 said...

I'm with you. I don't see the appeal of the series at all. I felt like the first two issues were painful to get through. Then all of the sudden with the third issue, everyone starts talking about how great and hilarious the series is. Give me a break! This seems to be the series for the "hipsters" of the comic scene. Using irony and a pseudo sense of being cool, suddenly the series has turned into a coveted treasure among the hipper-than-everyone-else comics' crowd. That can't actually pinpoint anything worthwhile about the comic, but if anyone disagrees then they just don't understand the true brilliance of it. I've never bought that kind of crappy thinking in other medium and I won't start here. I do understand that everyone got hustled with this series and is too afraid to admit it.

8:45 AM

Blogger Gary said...

I like it. I don't love it; it's not the best series I've ever read by any means, but it's ok.

The big reason why is that it's a contrast to the other Batman titles which I find almost totally unreadable. Instead of being fun, crazy and frightening at the same time, which Batman should be, the mainstream DCU titles seem bleak and monotonous. Any break from that, even poorly done, is something I prefer.

10:53 AM

Blogger Joe Rice said...

Now, num, that argument doesn't work for me. It doesn't work because it's been thrown at me all too often when I like a work by Morrison or Clowes or a dozen other folks that someone else "doesn't get."

The first issue of ASSBAR was a huge piece of crap that annoyed the hell out of me from a T&A standpoint. The second kind of cracked me up, just because I like it when people say "retarded."

This wasn't crazy, it wasn't infuriating, it was just poor comics. Ugly art, disjointed story, and, what, five minutes passed from issue two? I just don't care, and this comes from a HUGE fan of DK2.

4:11 PM

Blogger Joe Rice said...

Furthermore, the fans of this book aren't "hipsters," even in the comic book scene sense.

I understand it's better than the other books. Getting given a charley horse is better than being blinded for life. If given the option, I'll opt out on both.

4:13 PM

Blogger Shane Bailey said...

My last comment before buying #3 was "I think after #2 I'm finally starting to enjoy this series, but in a completely different way than I'm enjoying Superman book."

I won't be buying issue #4. It's not my thing at all.

4:58 PM

Blogger Apodaca said...

"Not fair. Or at least not, t'my mind, TRUE. He's really good at what he's good at. Forceful action shots and sexxxxy chicks, and SOMETIMES he can do really solid mood pieces. He's better than 95% of his contemperaries at both those things.

He's just not particularly good at anything else."

Eh. To me, 'Forceful action shots and sexxxxy chicks' IS a trite, cliched style.

8:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Everyone in the Blogosphere loves ALL STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN"

Well... nobody's perfect.

I think it's utter crap. I'm not even a fan of Lee's art. I was a decade ago... but the complaints people have against guys like McNiven or Finch (their faces are all the same... draws women too thin... etc.) are just as applicable to Lee.

I think the story stinks and can't believe there has been ZERO forward movement in the plot.

The Shadow

10:43 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I like All-Star Robin and Batman the Man Wonder. It's crap full of pin-ups and AIDS and very little in the way of plot or other such things, but for some reason I can't quite put my finger on, it's /hilarious/ crap. It's so in-your-face about everything it is that I just can't bring myself to hate it (even though I did hate Mark Millar's Wanted, and for many of the same reasons I should hate ASSBAR).

Miller's origin, or rather explanation for Black Canary's name and outfit, is perfect by the way.

3:54 PM

Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

"it's /hilarious/ crap. It's so in-your-face about everything it is that I just can't bring myself to hate it"

"Dark Knights Strikes Again" was hilarious crap, if only because it contained some actual jokes. And I really can't see how ASBAR is "in-your-face" when nothing has happened in the course of three issues. This is Miller on autopilot - so much so that he's gearing up to do his "Batman versus Superman" shtick AGAIN. How many times does he have to serve up lukewarm gruel before we accept that it's not haute cuisine?

1:49 PM

Blogger davy said...

Haven't followed any blog opinions on this book before now. I can't believe so many folks like this book. Glaciers move more quickly and have wittier dialogue. And that last ish... [shudder].

Three issues in and I realized that I've been duped. No more.

5:08 PM


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