Review of "Batman: Earth One Volume Three" by Geoff Johns

11 September 2023

Six years is a long time in the world of comics, and the anticipation for the third volume of "Batman: Earth One" following Volume 2 felt like a life time for keen fans.
The creative team, led by Geoff Johns and supported by industry veterans like Gary Frank, Jon Sibal, Brad Anderson, and Rob Leigh, had a monumental task ahead of them. They had to not only meet but exceed expectations. Bruce Wayne, who was still grappling with his new identity as Batman in the previous volumes, appears to be more at ease with his dual life. 

However, Gotham City, a character in its own right, is far from stable. The introduction of new characters—both allies and enemies—adds a fresh dynamic to the series. Most intriguingly, a figure from Bruce Wayne's past makes a surprising return, setting the stage for a complex narrative.

Plot and Themes of Batman Earth One Vol. 3: A Complex Web

The thematic richness of "Batman: Earth One Volume Three" is one of its most compelling aspects, even if the execution sometimes falls short. Let's break down these themes into subgroups for a more nuanced understanding.

1. Justice and Morality: The Harvey Dent Aftermath

The death of Harvey Dent serves as a catalyst for a broader discussion on justice and morality. In a city like Gotham, where the line between right and wrong is often blurred, Dent's death forces the citizens to confront their own definitions of justice. Is vigilante justice ever acceptable? Can a city that has been so deeply mired in corruption ever truly understand what justice means? These questions are not just rhetorical but serve as a thematic underpinning for the entire volume.

2. Chaos and Lawlessness: The Impending Gang War

The looming gang war is not just a plot device but a thematic exploration of the chaos and lawlessness that define Gotham. It serves as a grim reminder that despite Batman's best efforts, the city is far from saved. This theme also raises questions about the effectiveness of individual heroism against systemic issues. Can Batman, or any other individual, really bring order to a city that thrives on chaos?

3. Vulnerability and Human Frailty: Bruce Wayne's Family History

Bruce Wayne's family history with mental illness serves as a thematic counterpoint to his role as Batman. It adds a layer of vulnerability to a character often seen as invincible. This theme challenges the reader to consider the psychological toll of being a hero. It asks whether Bruce's quest is truly a noble pursuit of justice or a manifestation of his own inner demons. The theme of mental health also serves to humanize Bruce, making him more relatable and adding depth to his character.

4. The 'Tortured Hero' Trope: A Double-Edged Sword

The theme of the 'tortured hero' is prevalent in many superhero narratives, but "Batman: Earth One Volume Three" takes it a step further by questioning its validity. Is the notion of a 'tortured hero' romanticized to the point of being harmful? Can one man's quest for justice really justify the emotional and psychological toll it takes on him and those around him? 

This theme serves as a critique of the superhero genre itself, asking readers to consider the real-world implications of such a narrative.

5. Cohesion vs. Fragmentation: The Narrative Struggle

While the volume attempts to tackle these heavy themes, it struggles to weave them into a cohesive narrative. This could be seen as a meta-theme: the challenge of balancing complex themes within a singular story. The reader is left yearning for a more focused approach, where each theme is given the narrative space to be fully explored and integrated into the story.

Character Development: The Good, The Bad, and The Static

While Bruce Wayne remains largely unchanged, serving more as a lens through which the reader views Gotham, the secondary characters offer some narrative richness. Harvey Bullock, often relegated to the role of the stereotypical gruff cop, is given emotional depth. His struggles with alcoholism and morality add layers to his character, making him more relatable and human. Killer Croc, traditionally a villain in the Batman universe, is recast as an ally. This not only subverts expectations but also adds a layer of moral ambiguity to the story, challenging traditional notions of good and evil.

Artwork: More Than Just Pretty Pictures

Gary Frank's artwork is a masterclass in visual storytelling. One of the most poignant moments in the book is a sequence where Jessica Dent is shown staring at a half-moon. The artwork captures her emotional state so vividly that it almost renders dialogue unnecessary. It's a powerful moment that showcases how effective visual storytelling can be in conveying complex emotions and themes.

Criticisms: Where It Falls Short

The volume's lack of focus is its Achilles' heel. With multiple subplots competing for attention, none seem to get the narrative space they deserve. This results in a story that feels fragmented and somewhat unsatisfying. Alfred, who is usually the emotional anchor in Batman's life, is portrayed as a grizzled military man, a characterization that doesn't sit well with long-time fans of the character. Catwoman's costume design is another point of contention. 

Its impracticality and over-the-top design elements detract from the essence of the character, making it hard to take her seriously in the context of the story.

Conclusion: A Teaser for What Could Be

The third volume of "Batman: Earth One" feels like a teaser for a much larger, more complex narrative. It's good when a story leaves readers wanting more. 

It offers tantalizing glimpses into a rich and intricate world but falls short of delivering a fully realized story. The book seems to serve as a litmus test for fans of the series. If you enjoyed the previous volumes, you're likely to find something to like here, but it may not fully satisfy your expectations. The volume seems to hint at more expansive and engaging stories in the future, making one wonder what could be in store for Batman and Gotham City.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

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