All-Star Batman and Robin #7
January 20, 2014
The comic that teaches us that true romance is making out after setting people on fire.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. (suddenly looks up in thought) Say... (takes out and looks at pocket watch) It's Miller Time.
("Miller Time" title is shown)
Linkara: Welcome once again to "Miller Time", where even if the artwork is good, chances are, the writing is not.
(Cut to a shot of an alternate cover for "Detective Comics #27", showing a sexy version of Catwoman)
Linkara (v/o): Oh, Frank Miller, you have been busy! And by that, I mean, "not really". The most pertinent news related to you recently was an alternate cover to "Detective Comics #27" that made every single person who saw it slap their own forehead. Said cover is awful, but the decision to use it as a cover is even more baffling. The comic actually came out a couple weeks ago, and I think like one or two stories have Catwoman in them, but she's not that important a player. You'd think that this was just standard Miller idiocy at play to draw women with questionable anatomy... Where is that tail attached to, exactly? ...but I've heard it rumored that he didn't even draw the damn thing for "Detective Comics #27", but as stock artwork for "ASS-BAR". Plenty of artwork developed for a series never actually sees the light of day. Mostly concept sketches, diagrams for common locations; you know, stuff that most professionals would do to keep things feeling consistent, even though a lot of the comics we see here tend to forget to do that.
(Cut to the cover of "ASBAR #6")
Linkara (v/o): I'll say this to the fact that it might be stock artwork: one of the good things that DC is doing right now is keeping themselves from actually making contact with Frank Miller. I mean, sure, they tried to do the Orson Scott Card Superman story, and he's only and proudly homophobic, but at least he still has fans. Frank Miller, though?
Linkara: I don't know, Frank Miller's fans seem to have quietly retreated. No one's insulted me for critiquing Miller in years. They'd better get started again soon, though, lest I start believing that I will someday be as popular as the Bee Gees.
(Cut to black)
Linkara (v/o): Previously on "All-Star Batman and Robin"...
(A recap of "ASBAR" is shown)
Linkara (v/o): Crazy Steve, America's favorite hobo, kidnapped Dick Grayson, age 12, to become his ward and eat rats in a dank cave. Vicki Vale was injured and then wasn't, thanks to Superman, who was made fun of by Crazy Steve, even though Superman could just super-speed into his damn cave and pulverize his face into a wall before the thought even crossed Steve's mind to go for Kryptonite. The Justice League of this universe are made up of impotent, annoying jerks who just bicker with each other in an abandoned brewery or something, which would include the presence of their version of Wonder Woman, who I have dubbed "Bonkers Betty". Black Canary took six months to wander around before finally making it to Gotham. Everybody is repeating the "goddamn Batman" meme, and said meme has lost all the charm it once had.
Linkara: And most importantly, we have learned that time is merely an illusion, and for the first time, I'm doing an issue of the series without having previously done a text review of it. So let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "All-Star Batman and Robin #7" and see what new spore madness awaits us.
(AT4W title sequence plays, and the title card has "Here Comes the Sun" by The Beatles playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Reading from the trade, so no sense looking at the cover, especially since it's just Batman and Black Canary fighting thugs like at the end of the last issue. Canary's leg looks more like she's doing splits in the air rather than fighting. There's a Frank Miller variant that depicts some kind of gorilla in a shroud charging through what I presume are bullets, but I don't know what that has to do with– Oh, it's supposed to be Batman. Silly me.
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open with Crazy Steve... doing something. I'm sure you could say he's kicking someone in the face, but considering how high in the air he is, it'd be more likely he's doing the can-can. Hell, it doesn't even look comfortable since his arms are in the middle of grabbing his cape, he's leaning in while doing the kick, and he's landing on some boxes. If you're gonna fly down at someone, you're not kicking, you're using your full body weight for the collision. Or perhaps Crazy Steve has finally embraced my nickname for him and just decided to start dancing in the middle of a fight.
Batman: (narrating) Striking TERROR. Best part of the JOB.
Linkara: (as Batman) The muscle pulls, on the other hand, are not as fun.
Batman: (narrating) Once you scare the CRAP out of them... they scramble away like COCKROACHES. Gotham City's FULL of COCKROACHES.
Linkara: (as Batman) Seriously, the exterminator business is the only booming industry in this town.
Linkara (v/o): And it seems that Steve has decided to start really digging out the psychotic ramblings and insults for these criminals.
Bamtan: You don't know from screwed, you losers!
Linkara: Ah, yes, the dark, menacing figure that is The Batman: calling criminals "losers" and saying they're screwed. Might as well say, (makes "air quotes", as Batman) "You suck, you poop faces."
Linkara (v/o): And in the battle, crates are getting destroyed and emptying their contents everywhere. Said contents are... bottles of bleach?
Batman: (narrating) Will you look at that. Bottles of BLEACH. These thieves will sell ANYTHING.
Linkara: Ah, black market Walmart distributors. (shrugs in confusion)
Batman: (narrating) And here I am with all this THERMITE. It'd be a DAMN SHAME to let it go to WASTE.
Linkara: (as Batman) All this thermite really could be whiter.
Batman: (narrating) They're shooting SCARED. They're shooting STUPID. Killing their OWN. Life is GOOD.
Linkara: Hey, further proof that this isn't Batman, just a crazy guy who got a hold of his outfit. Batman cares about all life. It's why he hasn't snapped the Joker's neck like so many say he should.
Linkara (v/o): Crazy Steve takes a thermite charge and shoves it into a bleach bottle.
Batman: Let me take you to school, suckers...
Linkara: (incredulously) "Suckers"? You are not Mr. T!
(Cut to a clip of an episode of The A-Team)
B.A. Baracus (Mr. T): (to Howling Mad Murdock) C'mon, sucka, I ain't got time for your crazy rap.
(Cut back to the comic)
Batman: ...in chemistry.
Linkara (v/o): Aaand apparently, this combination caused the bleach bottle to explode, setting a lot of the criminals' bodies on fire. Yyyeah, ignoring the homicidal part for a second, I don't know how accurate this is scientifically. I didn't want to delve too deeply into Google searches on the topic, since I'd rather not raise any flags for doing searches on homemade explosives. I'm sure I'm gonna get a gajillion responses in the comments on this explaining this in depth, but from what I could find, bleach can be used to make thermite, not that you mix thermite with bleach for an explosive. So... yeah, Steve, you're not really taking us to school. And even if you were, congratulations! You're a murderous psychopath who is setting people on fire! You know, I got into a brief argument in the comments with someone who said I just don't get this story, that it's deliberately designed as a deconstruction of Batman as a psychotic figure, damaged and deranged, and that it's just a good idea that's been poorly executed.
Linkara: Which... okay, but (holds up index finger) one: it's still poorly executed. (holds up two fingers) Two: even if that is true, it wasn't what the book was supposed to be about. And (holds up three fingers) three: no one wants to read that story.
Linkara (v/o): Well, to be accurate, no one wants to read that story here. Deconstruction of superhero tales are a dime a dozen, and they don't really need to have the actual superheroes for them. There's a reason why people use analogues in those stories instead of the real thing. It's an often-quoted remark about superheroes, that they are an adolescent power fantasy – a male one in particular, but let's leave that one out for the moment. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with the catharsis of seeing violent, terrible people get their comeuppance via gloved fist to the face. There is something to be said about the mythology of a person putting on a costume designed to evoke emotions in people and trying to right the wrongs of the world. There's something in believing in symbols, in figures larger than ourselves and drawing inspiration from that in our everyday lives.
Linkara: Aaaand then there's something to be said about taking that power fantasy, (sotto voce) one that's also beloved by children, is on toys and in cartoons, and then making him a crazy psychopath who forces a little kid, one who just lost his parents as he did, to eat cave rat. (beat) Just saying, there's a time and place.
Batman: You don't know from hurt, either, you wads.
Linkara: You don't know from insults, you knob.
Linkara (v/o): Seriously, what the hell is with the insults he's throwing? "Wads"? "Suckers"? "Losers"? For someone who's supposedly trained to be the smartest and best crimefighter, he's not exactly being all that creative with his insults.
Batman: This is hurt.
Linkara (v/o): Aaaand the guy he's hitting? He actually kinda looks like John Hurt to me. So that just makes this doubly amusing. (announcer voice) And introducing John Hurt as the war guy elbowed in the face.
Batman: So's this, sweetheart. And so's this, boy of mine.
Linkara: (as Batman) And so's this, (makes punching motion) lover. (as the goon, cowering) What? (as Batman, delivering another "punch") And so's this, cupcake! (as goon) I don't think you know what those words mean. (as Batman, "punching" again) And so's this, shnooky-wookums!
Linkara (v/o): And nearby, Black Canary is watching and narrating to herself.
Black Canary: (narrating) He DOESN'T STOP. He doesn't spare a ONE of them. Not a ONE. Before I can even catch my BREATH, they're a bunch of bleeding, burning HEAPS, they are. And god help me, here I am thunderstruck in LOVE with the man.
Linkara: The surefire way to a woman's heart: murderous violence.
Black Canary: (narrating) The goddamn BATMAN.
Linkara: (massaging his temples in frustration) Okay, Frank, this issue came out two years after (makes an "air quote") "the goddamn Batman" became a thing. And I know this entire series is a bad joke, but it stopped being funny a while ago! GIVE IT UP!
Batman: Sleep tight, princess. And don't you go messing again with any Gotham City girls.
Linkara: Yeah, don't go messing with those girls! Those... 25-year-old girls.
Black Canary: Has anybody ever told you, my good man, that you are totally hot?
Batman: Not for the last few days, no.
Linkara: Considering he hasn't slept or showered in a few days, has been really active, probably hasn't changed the Batsuit... mmm, I'd say he's about as attractive as a sweat stain on tight pants.
Black Canary: Consider yourself told.
Linkara (v/o): And she leaps into his arms and starts making out with him. Because nothing gets someone in the mood more than dead criminals in the rain. I'm serious, they have to be dead. Some of them are still alive, no doubt, but Steve critically injured them and set them on FIRE and did nothing to put out said fires. Sure, it's raining, but this is a chemical fire, so it's probably not gonna help all that much. And considering how severe their injuries are, if they don't get immediate treatment, they're probably not going to live for much longer.
Batman: (narrating) Her TONGUE'S a little bit SANDY. She's a SMOKER. Cigars. Cuban.
Linkara: Just a reminder: our cigar-chomping Black Canary is an Irish ninja. No doubt the cigars are what help her breathe when she's running around in a tight outfit, doing complex martial arts moves. (sotto voce) The smoke pushes her lungs out, giving her expanded lung capacity. (rolls eyes)
Batman: (narrating) I haven't kissed a SMOKER in WEEKS. Not since SELINA.
Linkara (v/o): Weren't you the guy who was all pissed off at Black Canary in the last issue for being "a damn amateur"? I guess you don't quite care as much when she wants to have sex.
(Cut to a clip of Batman saying goodbye)
Batman: (to a female acquaintance) Sorry, been a while since the bat's been in the cave, if you know what I mean.
(Back to the comic again)
Batman: (narrating) We keep our MASKS on. It's BETTER that way.
Linkara (v/o): Aaaaand loud lightning strike.
Linkara: This is one of the more infamous moments of the series, much like "goddamn Batman" or "Out of the way, sperm bank". The implication here is that Batman and Black Canary had sex in their costumes on a rainy pier. To be fair, though... (hesitates slightly) that's not entirely clear.
Linkara (v/o): See, they still have the rest of their clothes on, and there's nothing in the previous panel to indicate they were stripping or anything. As such, aside from the "keeping their masks on" line, the only thing to really give a symbolic cue to them screwing is the lightning bolt... which could actually mean that Batman just threw his Batarang too early, if you get my meaning. That being said, with the continuous references to sex and Frank Miller's previously mentioned obsession with prostitutes, I'm starting to wonder if Frank is just really sexually repressed, like, even more than Tony from the "Johnny Turbo" comics. Maybe the reason Frank's writing took such a downhill turn is because he hasn't gotten laid in forever and it's starting to mess with him.
Linkara: Or perhaps I'm just reaching because this comic is stupid and repetitive and boring, and I have no qualms about making fun of a racist, homophobic sack of crap like Frank Miller.
Linkara (v/o): Or, if you don't believe he's any of those things, then I'm just insulting the guy who wrote a comic that featured Batman's premature ejaculation in his Bat-pants.
(Cut to a clip of Batman (1989))
Joker (Jack Nicholson): He's at home, washing his tights! (cackles)
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): But back to the "story", shall we?
Batman: Need a ride home? In this rain, you'll freeze yourself to death on that Harley.
Black Canary: What, you've got a car? You're the goddamn Batman and you need yourself a goddamn car?
Linkara: No, he's got a Bat-Segway. What the hell's the problem with him having a car?
(Cut to Linkara wearing a blue suit and walking up to a bookshelf)
Linkara: (singing) Game on... Get your game on... (looks to see he's on camera) Oh. (adjusts his hat) We'll be right back, people.
(He leaves, humming, as the AT4W logo appears in the corner and we got to commercial. Upon return, Linkara returns)
Linkara: (singing) Tough times, hard climbs... (sees he's on camera again) We're back. (walks off, singing) We'll take 'em on together...
(The AT4W logo appears in the corner and we cut back to the comic as the review resumes)
Batman: Sure I do. I'm not the one who can fly. Although that idiot doesn't even know he can fly...
Linkara (v/o): Okay, one, Superman and the Justice League are well-established by this point in this continuity. Why doesn't Clark know he can fly? Two, if Superman doesn't know he can fly, how the hell do you know he can fly? Crazy Steve has no detective skills. Or did he just cripple somebody who knew that Superman can fly?
Batman: Batmobile. Find me.
Alfred Pennyworth: Very good, sir. Right away, sir.
Black Canary: "Batmobile"...?
Linkara: Huh, I guess chicks don't dig the car, dude.
Batman: Not one word. I've taken enough grief about calling my goddamn car the goddamn Batmobile. I'm the goddamn Batman and I can call my goddamn car whatever the hell I want to call it.
Linkara: (repeatedly poking at something with a pole) Goddamn it, this goddamn horse isn't goddamn dead enough! Must keep beating its goddamn corpse!
Black Canary: Whatever you say, man of mine. That's just a totally queer name for a car, is all.
Linkara: (listlessly and sarcastically) No, no, please, I'd love to hear more about why Frank Miller is such an awesome writer and this comic is truly the stuff of deconstructionist legend. Someone tell me again why it took so many years for this thing to die?
Linkara (v/o): Batman picks up the body of Jocko-boy... You know, the guy who killed Dick Grayson's parents, who was, for some reason, in a cop car near the site of an illegal bleach-selling operation? ...as the Batmobile moves in closer to the two.
Batman: Let's get you home. It's almost dawn. Sometimes I hate the sun.
Linkara: (as Batman, singing) Here comes the sun... (hums) Here comes the sun, and I say, it's all right...
Linkara (v/o): I guess Black Canary is cooling on the whole "Batman is the best guy evar" thing, since now she's telling him that he could really benefit by having somebody talk to him and not be a crazy person. He tells her to shut up... and then immediately decides she shouldn't shut up with his narration captions.
Batman: (narrating) Nuts to THAT. She's got a right to say whatever she WANTS. She's got a RIGHT to say whatever she WANTS.
Linkara: Maybe it's not that a crazy hobo got a hold of Batman's suit, it was just Johnny Two Times.
Batman: (narrating) She's got the RIGHT. THOMAS JEFFERSON and all that.
Linkara: Batman: true-blue American patriot.
Batman: (narrating) And she's dead RIGHT to say I'm half-CRAZY. But only half. The OTHER half is doing JUST FINE.
Linkara: Yeah, we've really seen the half of you that isn't completely insane when you... uh... Well, you offered Black Canary a ride home, so I guess that proves you're not completely cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.
Linkara (v/o): Aaand Dick Grayson, age 12's, face in an extreme closeup and within a black void.
Linkara: The image of a head inside a black void. Let's throw out some references, shall we? (snaps fingers)
(Cut to a clip of Zardoz)
Zardoz (Arthur Frayn): I am Arthur Frayn, and I am Zardoz.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Red Dwarf)
Holly (Norman Lovett): I am Holly, the ship's computer with an I.Q. of 6000.
(Cut to a clip of the music video for Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody")
Freddie Mercury: (singing) I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me.
Queen: (singing) He's just a poor boy from a poor family...
(Back to the comic again)
Dick: (narrating) I've got no IDEA how long I've BEEN here, in this BAT-CAVE. I've got no IDEA how many HOURS. How many DAYS and NIGHTS.
Linkara: Glad someone else is acknowledging the bizarre time scale of this series.
Linkara (v/o): And now the head in the black void, but considerably tinier. In any other comic, this would actually be kind of stylistically minimalistic and cool. In this comic, it's just another example of laziness, considering how many splash pages and two-page spreads we've had. Also, the black void and everything aren't exactly real, as the next page reveals the cave is perfectly well-lit. What actually happened is that Dick Grayson, age 12, took that battle axe from a few issues ago and killed a rat with it. He did not eat the rat, but he is throwing up that burger Alfred had supplied him with.
Linkara: Yeah, don't worry about it, Dick. I have the same reaction when eating Hardee's.
Linkara (v/o): We then see sound effects... Now, there's a phrase that can only be written about comic books. ...of "TAK TAK TAK". Now, this confuses me because it's mighty similar to the sound Bonkers Betty's massive high heels were making on metal. Instead, it's the sound of Crazy Steve's boots on dirt. Oh, well, maybe I'm reading too much into it. After all, that sound effect was "TANK", while this is "TAK". There's just so much difference, and clearly, I was not so confused that when I first saw that, I thought that Steve was wearing high heels. So Steve has gotten back to the cave, carrying Jocko-boy with him over his shoulder.
Batman: Grayson. Front and center. I've brought you the man who murdered your parents... and his fate is in your hands.
Linkara: (as Batman, pointing to camera) Only you can prevent murderers.
Batman: You can hear me, can't you, boy? It's time for you to decide. Are you an avenger-- or a detective?
Linkara: And that's when Dick Grayson walks out of the shadows with Nick Fury and replies, "Avenger."
Linkara (v/o): Also, those are clearly the only two options. It's not like he could choose to not be a superhero, you sanctimonious prick, especially so soon after the death of his parents. And please stop pretending you're a detective, Crazy Steve. Encyclopedia Brown was a detective. Nate the Great was a detective. Hell, Obi-Wan Kenobi in Attack of the Clones was more of a detective than you! And so, Dick steps forward, wielding the huge battle axe and suddenly not talking like any child his age would be in this situation.
Dick: Yes. I hear you, sir. Thank you, sir. Give me his name.
Batman: They call him Jocko-boy Vanzetti. He's done a lot of things, Jocko-boy has--none of them good. These days, he's a trigger. You wouldn't know that term. It's an old one. It means if you give him money, he'll blow the brains out of anybody you'd like him to.
Linkara: (as Batman) I used an older term instead of just saying he's an assassin or a hired gun, because, uh... (pauses awkwardly, then points at screen) SHUT UP! I'M THE GODDAMN BATMAN, SWEETHEART!
Dick: Does he have any family?
Batman: Nothing human, as far as I know.
Linkara: (as Batman) He's married to a weasel, but he's an adulterer, seeing a prairie dog behind the weasel's back.
Batman: You've got a choice to make. And you have to make it now. Avenger or detective. What's it going to be?
Linkara (v/o): Dick raises the axe above his head, and his narration says that...
Narrator: GRAYSON makes a* CHOICE.
- NOTE: It's actually "...his CHOICE," not "...a CHOICE."
Linkara (v/o): Except, the color of these narration boxes matches Dick's earlier narration boxes, meaning he's now referring to himself in the third person. Yep, he's fully embraced the madness. And he brings the axe down, but doesn't kill Jocko-boy, just brings it close enough so that it cuts his cheek and nose, because, again, a traumatized twelve-year-old has enough control over a heavy axe that he can just do that. I'm almost dead certain that the scene with him killing a rat was an edition by editorial. Why? Because I highly doubt said traumatized twelve-year-old, especially in such a short time after his parents have been murdered, when handed the opportunity to take revenge against his parents' killer, would not bring that axe down on his head. The addition of the rat-killing allowed Dick to feel disgusted and horrible after killing something so it makes it easier to believe he wouldn't then try to kill Jocko-boy.
Linkara: But hey, just because he didn't kill him, doesn't mean he still can't embrace terrible violence.
Linkara (v/o): Jocko-boy, in his own infinite wisdom, calls Dick a "son of a bitch", and Dick goes to town, kicking the crap out of him with his bare feet. Look, the kid's athletic, I'll admit it, but I have a hard time believing he's really that good at this. And for Pete's sake, he does a flying kick into Jocko-boy's face! Why? Jocko-boy wouldn't have sit up just to get punched and kicked some more. This doesn't make any damn sense! Oh, and speaking of not making sense, there's Steve's commentary...
Batman: (narrating) I had to find a spot with a clearer VIEW. I don't want to miss a BIT of this. We'll have to work on that KICK. If Jocko-boy had a GUN on him, Grayson would be left wide OPEN...
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, Jocko-boy would really be effective with a gun when his hands and feet are tied together behind him. What the hell were you doing? Why the hell didn't you intervene when Dick was bringing the axe down? Scenes like this are why I can't take this seriously as a Batman deconstruction, because there's no chance in Hell Batman would ever let Dick be in an opportunity where he might have killed someone. For all his proclamations in this comic about "not killing", we've seen no evidence that this version of Batman has any regard for others' lives whatsoever. This is Crazy Steve: madman, sociopathic hobo, with delusions of grandeur.
Batman: Decent start, kid. But one of those kicks was a mess. It could've gotten you killed.
Linkara: (confused) How? By tripping?
Linkara (v/o): Dick tells Steve to shut up and then starts interrogating the half-unconscious Jocko-boy, who I just realized had all his previous injuries healed in between issues so that Dick could give him new ones. Dick asks who hired him and Steve says he doesn't like the answer. And so, our comic ends with another splash page revealing who did: the Joker. A non-smiling Joker.
Linkara: (holds up comic) This comic sucks, but that's no surprise by this point.
Linkara (v/o): I'll give this issue something that some of the other issues lacked: it's actually about Batman and Robin. Mind you, it's still far too slow and contains whole swaths of stupidity, but it's actually about the characters. Actually, I take that back, because it's not about them. The All-Star line was supposed to be about distilling the characters down to their most basic elements, but everything about this story is wrong when it comes to these characters.
(Cut to a shot of "The Dark Knight Returns")
Linkara (v/o): You know, there are lots of bits in The Dark Knight Returns, one of Frank Miller's good Batman works before the aliens replaced his brain with mashed potatoes, where the media tries to paint this picture of Batman as a psychotic lunatic with no empathy and only wanting to hurt people.
(Cut back to "ASBAR")
Linkara (v/o): It's like Frank Miller became one of those very people and thinks that that is what Batman is about. And he seems to think that's a good thing.
Linkara: However, in the immortal words of my favorite movie: "Violence is not strength and compassion is not weakness." And the Batman of the regular comics understands that most of all. (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
So people have a right to say whatever they want... except for when they disagree with you, ain't that right, Frank?
Nearly half of the entirety of All-Star Batman and Robin has been Crazy Steve beating up people. I'm also thinking Frank Miller has some repressed anger issues.
(Stinger: A panel showing Dick Grayson kicking Jocko-boy is shown)
Batman: (narrating) But the boy can JUMP. I'll give him THAT.
Linkara: (as Batman) Kriss Kross will make ya...
(He dances and grooves in his seat as Kriss Kross' "Jump" plays in the background)