Miller Time: All-Star Batman and Robin #8
August 11, 2014
Let's put a frown on that face!
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. (suddenly looks up in thought) Say... (takes out a pocket watch and looks at it) It's Miller Time!
("Miller Time" title is shown)
Linkara: Welcome once again to "Miller Time", which is less an actual time and more like a shattered mirror of time hastily glued back together again in the wrong shape.
(The cover for Frank Miller's "Holy Terror" is shown)
Linkara (v/o): Yes, we're having a "Miller Time" rather soon after the evisceration of "Holy Terror", a review that, according to one commenter, they stopped watching when I said we should give Al-Qaeda the benefit of the doubt.
Linkara: It must be really fun living in your own made-up world where I say and do things that didn't actually happen. Perhaps, in some people's eyes, I'm actually a badger that reviews late-night talk shows. However, here in the real world, I have to review another issue of "ASBAR".
(Cut to black)
(Shots of the "ASBAR" series up to this point are shown)
Linkara (v/o): Insane, dangerously psychotic hobo Crazy Steve has broken into Bruce Wayne's mansion and now thinks he's Batman. He kidnaps a traumatized child named Dick Grayson, aged 12, and proceeds to cripple and violently attack criminals. In addition, Black Canary is inspired by Batman to stop being a Hooters waitress, violently attack people, ride around on a motorcycle for six months, and then potentially have sex with Batman in the rain. Also, the Justice League is apparently around and meeting in dingy abandoned factories, where Superman can be grumpy and Wonder Woman can be grumpy and Green Lantern can be ineffectual and Plastic Man can be a dick. Vicki Vale is also around, but she has no bearing on the plot; she is there for fanservice, because Frank Miller is a dirty old man. And that's pretty much all that's happened in seven issues!! Oh, and I guess the Joker was responsible for the murder of Dick Grayson's parents. Because that sure is a novel concept and not just really contrived and stupid.
Linkara: So let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "All-Star Batman and Robin #8" and see how deep this rabbit hole goes.
(AT4W title sequence plays, and the title card has "Hooked On Polkas" by Weird Al Yankovic playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the cover)
Linkara (v/o): Our cover is blecch and bland! It's the Joker, with the giant tattoo of a dragon for some reason, wiping off blood on his hands with the Batman cowl.
Linkara: Spoilers: Crazy Steve and the Joker do not encounter one another in this comic, and Steve never takes off his cowl. Someday, I should write a book about this. (holds up hand to say the title of his book) "Lies This Cover Told Me".
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and a random blood splatter, I think, in the background. While this was drawn by Jim Lee and not Miller himself, the splatter thing is also kind of a trademark of Miller's art, to a lesser degree. Maybe he's just trying to remind us that his art could be worse. It could just be him randomly throwing paint splotches everywhere. And yet, I'm not convinced it wouldn't make for a better representation of the human body than his art. And you know, I'm usually on board with Jim Lee's art, but this rendering of the Joker is kind of awful, unless the Joker is supposed to have a really tiny butt and legs not much thicker than his arms.
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open with the Joker narrating to himself.
Joker: (narrating) Gotham City CRIES. Gotham is an UGLY city, full of SHAME far beyond REDEMPTION. She's a sad old WHORE.
Linkara: Because with Frankie, it always invariably comes back to prostitution.
Joker: But she's BEAUTIFUL when she CRIES. I LOVE her when she CRIES. I love her only when she cries.
Linkara: (frustrated) Oh, my God, Frank Miller, just go and have sex with a building already!
Linkara (v/o): Even the villains are gushing about how much they love their friggin' city! Hey, I know! Let's play a game called "Good Writer, Bad Writer".
(Cut to a black screen with the words "GOOD WRITER" written on it in blue)
Linkara (v/o): Good writer: Scott Snyder.
(Cut to shots of two Batman comics: "Gates of Gotham" and "The Court of Owls")
Linkara (v/o): In his Batman books, in particular, "Gates of Gotham" and the "Court of Owls" storyline, he talks extensively about the architecture of Gotham, the symbolic meaning behind every brick and mortar, and then creating storylines where that architecture comes into play and asking the question of who really in charge of said city.
(Cut again to the black screen, this time with the words "BAD WRITER" written on it in red)
Linkara (v/o): Bad writer: Frank Miller.
(Cut to a montage of shots of "ASBAR")
Linkara (v/o): (melodramatically) "I love this city because of vague poetic metaphor! Purple prose, purple prose, purple prose!"
(Cut to a clip of The Spirit)
Linkara (v/o): "Because I love it! I love it! The buildings are like my penis – erect! Because I love it!"
(Cut back to the "ASBAR" comic)
Linkara (v/o): Although, from a narrative perspective, I do get why the Joker is suddenly talking like this, even though he has never talked about Gotham like this before. He's being set up as a dark reflection of Batman, who talks about Gotham as this (as Batman) beautiful, sad thing (normal again) that he also wants to bang. I'll give credit for the attempt, but unfortunately, it really can't get around the fact that it's horrendous writing, continuing Frank's trend of writing everyone in this thing as if it was Sin City. So, what's the Clown Prince of Crime been up to in this comic? Why, he just finished having sex with a lady [Donna Gugina]. Of course.
Donna: I was just joking that maybe you slipped something into my drink. It's really not my style, doing...well, this sort of thing. Not with somebody I just barely met.
Linkara: (laughs) Casual joking about date rape! Frank, I hope you get punched in the crotch by an ornery child.
Donna: I don't think I even got your name.
Joker: They call me the Joker. But I'm not very funny.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, showing various Batman villains all staring in awkward silence. Back to the comic again)
Donna: It's a funny name, though. Wasn't there somebody else called "Joker" who poisoned the water supply, a year or so back?
Joker: That was me. I was just getting started, but that was me.
Linkara: Yyyyeah... Noticing a lack of smiling, aren't we? I'll get back to that.
Joker: But enough about me, Donna Gugina. Let's talk about you. You're a woman of some accomplishment. You're an attorney of much repute. A crusader, some say. With a particular passion for hunting down child molesters and bringing them to justice. By most accounts, you're a remarkable woman.
Linkara: And yet, despite that, she apparently was so stupid that she did not recognize a well-known, high-profile criminal like the Joker! (puts his finger to his ear) What's that, you say? He's not as recognized because this is still the early days? (shrugs) Well, you're probably right. So, uh, how does she react to learning that he was the one who poisoned the water supply?
Donna: No wonder they call you "Joker." The things you say.
Joker: I mean it all, Donna Gugina. Every word.
Linkara (v/o): Aaaand not even running away at this or showing any concern. She then just wonders how he knows who she is and her whole resume... AFTER HE JUST CONFESSED AND SAID HE WASN'T JOKING ABOUT TRYING TO MURDER PEOPLE!!! Maybe her "repute" as a lawyer is more just how bad she is at it.
Linkara: Aaand just to avoid some image triggers, I will not show the next part, which consists of the Joker punching her, then straddling her body and choking her to death for a whole page while he proclaims that he loves her in his own special way. (inhales deeply, then massages his forehead) Can I go back to talking about Jell-O Man?
Linkara (v/o): But yeah, the Joker does not smile during any of this. In fact, the Joker does not smile at any point in this comic. Let me repeat that: THE JOKER DOES NOT SMILE! Even the terrible Brian Azzarello "Joker" comic had him smiling! And he says he's not funny?! The Joker is one of the most egotistical villains in Batman's rogues gallery! He would never, ever say that he wasn't funny, and he'd kill you straight away for implying he wasn't! Is this comic set in Bizarro World?! Batman is a laughing lunatic who traumatizes children who lost their parents the same way he did; the Joker is unfunny, never smiles, and kills because of love?!
(Cut to a clip of The Dark Knight)
Joker (Heath Ledger): Why so serious?
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): And then the Joker walks out, with the artwork showing Donna's dead body with her shirt open... Sexual violence – thanks! ...and tells his henchwoman to get rid of it. And the henchwoman is a short-haired woman with swastika pasties covering her nipples.
Linkara: Most of you are probably confused right now about that, and depending on your point of view, either fortunately or unfortunately, (holds up index finger) I can explain this.
Linkara (v/o): See, Frank is still operating under the delusion that this comic takes place in the same universe as "The Dark Knight Returns", despite the fact that none of these characters resemble the people in that work. This lady is Bruno, a minor character from Part 2 of the story.
(Editor's note: "Part 3, Actually")
Linkara (v/o): She is a Neo-Nazi who works for the Joker and, for absolutely no reason at all, walks around topless with swastika pasties on her boobs and, although we can't see them in this panel, she apparently has them on her ass, too. Why does she work for the Joker? Who the hell knows? Frank just probably wanted to draw TNA, and since his Robin in "The Dark Knight Returns" was a teenage girl, he couldn't do that with her, not that that seems to stop any other comic artists these days. Frankly, I'm just reminded of a crossover comic between Batman and Captain America, where the Joker works with the Red Skull... until he realizes the Red Skull is an actual Nazi and decides to kick his ass, since he may be a violent sociopath, but he's an American violent sociopath.
Linkara: And now you know who Nazi Boob Lady.
Linkara: And knowing makes it even more confusing.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): We cut back over to the Batcave, where it's right after the events of the last issue, where Dick Grayson, age 12, almost murdered his parents' killer without our "hero" thinking about stopping him.
Batman: (narrating) I gave him a chance to MURDER the creep who shot his PARENTS to death and he didn't TAKE it. He's a born DETECTIVE.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Data: The facts to date would lead to the objective conclusion that he is not.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Dick asks who the Joker is.
Batman: He's a very bad man. A psychopath. Do you know what a psychopath is, Grayson? I'm not sure you're up to polysyllables.
Linkara: You're one to talk about grammar and words, Frank, considering you repeat yourself more than Law and Order reruns.
Dick: Be specific. Who is this Joker?
Batman: (narrating) I'm starting to LIKE this little SNOT. I've always been the smartest kid in the CLASS--but this GRAYSON, he's SOMETHING...
Linkara: (making an "air quote" in confusion) "Smartest kid in the class"? You really are mentally ten years old yourself, aren't you, Steve?
Linkara (v/o): Crazy Steve explains that the Joker is a serial killer, but whatever he's up to is something new for him, and somehow the murder of Dick Grayson, age twelve's parents is involved. Grayson says he wants to get started, but Steve refuses.
Batman: You're not ready, son. You're not trained. That spinning kick of yours is from hunger.
Linkara: Oh, yeah, I know that when I get hungry, I perform complex martial arts moves. (makes a sour expression while shrugging)
Batman: You don't even have a mask. Christ, look at you. You could pass for Little Nemo.
Linkara: And now I just imagine Bruce Wayne during his Batman training sitting down to watch a whole bunch of animated films. (looks up in thought) Think he liked The Iron Giant?
Linkara (v/o): And yes, I know he could be referencing the original comic strip. Either way is hilarious to me. He tells the kid to make himself a costume and a mask... Out of what, axes and batarangs? ...and then he'll consider it.
Dick: Why in hell do I...
Linkara (v/o): Ugh, that phrasing. Who the hell says, "Why in hell"?
Dick: Why in hell do I need to wear a mask? I mean, a costume is queer enough...
Linkara: (listlessly) Just keep piling on the casual homophobia, Frank. You sure know (pumps arm) how the kids these days talk.
Batman: So you'll have a secret identity, stupid.
Linkara (v/o): "Crazy Steve's Guide To Talking To Children: Chapter One – Insulting and belittling them only results in good." Dick Grayson, age twelve, points out how idiotic his secret identity is when everyone on Earth saw Steve kidnap him. Steve says he'll figure something out.
Linkara: Batman, the world's greatest public relations spin artist.
Batman: I know what I'm doing, boy wonder.
(Cut to a clip of Dracula)
Renfield (Dwight Frye): Isn't this a strange conversation for men who aren't crazy?
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Dick objects to the "boy wonder" name.
Batman: So come up with something better, kid. I'm not made out of time.
Linkara: But apparently, you think the readers are, since it took ya (holds up three fingers) three years to get to the point where Dick started putting together the Robin persona!
Batman: And it's time you did something around here!
Linkara (v/o): Whoa now! Let's not get into the insanity of us trying to figure out how long he's actually been down in this cave. As far as I can tell, it's been a day, tops. Oh, and then Dick Grayson, age 12, asks about the robot t-rex in the cave.
Batman: Shut up. And get to work on your costume.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Scrubs)
Dr. Cox: (to a female nurse) I was in a costume, too. I went as someone who doesn't make a fool out of himself. How'd you not get that?
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): And of course, once he's in the car, the only thing Steve can do is whine about how much he hates the kid.
Batman: (narrating) He's driving me NUTS with all his* QUESTIONS... And I'm plenty crazy enough as it IS.
- NOTE: Batman actually says, "...all his damn QUESTIONS...".
Linkara (v/o): No argument here, considering you earlier said you were starting to like him. However, his attention is shifted when he notices a great big Green Lantern symbol in the sky.
Batman: (narrating) ...not THAT moron.
(Linkara raises his index finger, about to say something, but then stops himself and wiggles his fingers as he tries to think of something clever, but ultimately gives up)
Linkara: Eh, I can't really disagree. Hal Jordan is kind of a moron.
Linkara (v/o): But, first things first, he has to get rid of Jocko-boy.
Jocko-boy: Worms. Why are there worms coming out of my ears? How come my throat is full of maggots?
Linkara: The terrifying aftereffects of the McRib.
Batman: Because you're stoned out of your mind, you tub of lard. Maybe this'll wake you up.
Linkara (v/o): And he throws him into a lake or river.
Linkara: Well, he's handcuffed, stoned off his ass, and went face-first into water. Yeah, he's dead.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, wait, somehow, he manages to come back up out of the water and scream that the Joker is going to "rip him a new one." Also, he can still feel maggots in his throat.
Batman: Your condition is permanent. You're never going to get any better. Welcome to Hell, Jocko-boy. Forever.
Linkara (v/o): However, he's quick to narrate that he's lying.
Narrator: Editor's note: We can't print Jocko-boy's response, due to standards of decency.
Linkara: That didn't seem to stop you after what happened with Issue 10, buuut I'll get to that in a later episode. (smiles)
Linkara (v/o): Also, for some reason, Steve is bathed in green light in these panels despite being nowhere near the Green Lantern light right now. Although, the Batmobile is supposed to have atomic batteries, so maybe now he's radioactive! That can't be good! Back at the Batcave, there is a half-decent scene where Dick is looking at all the weapons and picks up a bow and arrow, thinking of Robin Hood. Alfred then speaks to him from the shadows, Dick thanking him for giving him food before asking for the materials to make a costume. This is what we needed more of in this comic. It's a little dramatically overwrought, but it feels more significant and, for a lack of a better term, important to the story, because it's actually about Dick Grayson figuring out the kind of superhero he wants to be. Buuut enough of that nonsense; let's check back in with Crazy Steve as he narrates about how he's probably screwed over Dick's life.
Batman: (narrating) But I can't THINK about that right now. I've got a retarded DEMIGOD to take care of.
Linkara: If you keep speaking like an immature grade schooler, of course we'll like you eventually! (beat) You know, if (makes a curving motion) space is curved and everything circles back around from hatred to likeability.
Linkara (v/o): And of course, Hal Jordan is just sitting with a hot dog and soda while he does the Green Lantern symbol in the sky.
Batman: What do you want, Jordan?
Green Lantern: How the heck do you know my name?
Batman: I know everything.
(Cut to a clip of Pulse)
Man: But I'm not telling it!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): This scene is just here so Steve can boast about how Hal Jordan sucks and he's stupid (as Batman) and his outfit and car are so totally not gay, and SHUT UP! I'M NOT NINE YEARS OLD, I'M AN ADULT AND MATURE, YOU POOPHEAD!
Batman: (narrating) The clown makes oversized EGGBEATERS and MOUSE TRAPS and VACUUM CLEANERS--when he could set the whole WORLD straight with that RING. What a damn IDIOT. The THINGS I'd do with POWER like that... It's such a damn WASTE. He's worse than KENT.
(Cut to a clip of The Dark Knight)
Alfred (Michael Caine): (to Bruce Wayne) Some men just want to watch the world burn.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): In a lot of papers analyzing Frank Miller's work, there's this continuing trend of interpretation that Frank Miller is a fascist, mostly because his heroes, the ones he writes about and continually claims are the good guys, have this authoritarian trend to them, demanding everyone around them obey them and that they know best. The rest of the world is stupid or naïve or corrupt, and he's the only smart person in the room. "All-Star Batman and Robin" is no different in that regard. But the thing is that Frank Miller's fascism is a weird kind of fascism. Instead of believing in a central government is what should be in charge, it's this bizarre non-establishment moral hero like Crazy Steve or the Fixer or the Sin City main "heroic", quote-unquote, characters.
(Cut to a shot of "Robocop vs. the Terminator #1")
Linkara (v/o): Hell, you can even see that to a degree with the woman from the "Robocop vs. Terminator" comic: a resistance fighter who knows better than everybody else.
(Cut back to "ASBAR")
Linkara (v/o): His form of fascism is not to a dictator or an elected official, it's to someone who's just better and smarter and more skilled than everybody else, but is an underdog in society, and if only everybody listened to them, everything would be better. And thus, we have this version of Batman, who wants to use the Green Lantern ring to force everyone on Earth to obey his whims and will simply because he had the power to back it up.
Linkara: Frank's characters are ones who believe that might makes right. They're proverbially (makes an "air quote") "stronger" in some way, and thus, they are right. They are correct. They are the paragon of everything we should look up to. (makes a sour expression) Whereas I firmly believe in might for right. Those who are powerful should use their power to do good things because they're good things. Because using your power to force others to do what you say is not heroic. It's being a bully.
Linkara (v/o): But enough speeches; let's see that in action some more.
Green Lantern: I want to talk.
Batman: Okay. So we'll talk. We'll talk where and when I say so.
Linkara: Aaand that's when Hal picks him up with giant green tweezers and says, "No! Screw you, asshole! We'll talk right now, or I'll drag you to the police station for kidnapping, assault and murder!" Or at least that's what should happen, since Hal Jordan might be stupid, but he's not that kind of stupid.
Linkara (v/o): But no, G.L. goes along with the specified location and just says...
Green Lantern: What a creep! I don't think I like this guy at all!
Linkara (v/o): Because, you know, Air Force pilots are well-known for being so milquetoast that Crazy Steve could have thrown rocks at him during this entire conversation without objection. We cut over to Gotham's east side, where we see Catwoman laying on a bed with a dozen cats around her. The Joker has come to see her, still not smiling, and she says she doesn't play it "as rough as he does." I'm guessing she's still supposed to be a prostitute in this. But no. Joker says he just wants to cause some mischief and asks if she's up for it. Aaaand useless three-panel scene over.
(Cut to another clip of The Dark Knight)
Joker: And I thought my jokes were bad.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Back over to the Batcave, Dick tries to kill Steve with an arrow, but unfortunately, Steve is able to catch it out of the air. Damn.
Dick: Don't call me kid. Don't call me boy. Don't call me brat. Don't call me a little snot.
Linkara: (as Dick) Call me the artist.
Dick: Call me Hood. My dad was always making me watch some old movie about Robin Hood. That's why I became an archer.
Linkara: (as Batman, stammering) B-B-But archers aren't detectives! (points) You're not playing right!
Linkara (v/o): However, Steve has a problem with this.
Batman: Do you know what any thug with half a brain would do with that hood?
(Cut to a clip of Airplane)
Johnny Henshaw (Stephen Stucker): Well, I could make a hat or a brooch or a pterodactyl...
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): No, he just pulls it down over his head.
Linkara: (sarcastically) Yeah, and it's a good thing that you don't have anything on that might be ill-conducive in a fight, like a cape or something! (rolls eyes and sways head in annoyance)
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with this declaration...
Batman: Lose the hood. You're Robin.
Linkara (v/o): You know what I find so damn funny about this? When Damian Wayne, Bruce's son – long story – became Robin, his costume was notable for having a hood on it. I wonder if Grant Morrison deliberately did that just as a middle finger to this story.
Linkara: I have no proof of that, obviously, but that's gonna be my headcanon. (suddenly becomes angry as he closes comic and holds it up) This comic sucks!
Linkara (v/o): Aside from the standard Miller crap on display, the characters are completely reversed from how any of them should act! Most of it is annoying bickering, unnecessary violence, or Crazy Steve complaining! You know, I wouldn't even be against the whole "Robin chooses not to wear the hood because of criminals pulling it over his head" thing, but why not actually have that happen during a fight with criminals and then they decide the hood isn't a great idea for him? And why does he drop the archery thing just because he's "Robin" now and not "The Hood"?
Linkara: Only two more issues of "ASBAR" remain, folks. Most of this story will be left incomplete, but it's not like the ending would have been that satisfying anyway. (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
How the hell did the attorney and the Joker even meet up? Does the Joker frequent many lawyer bars? And he apparently didn't put on any makeup to cover his face, so what the hell about the clown appearance attracted her?
Hal Jordan's idiocy is more in being impulsive and unable to take responsibility for his actions and never learning from his mistakes. Not in being ineffectual.
Also: couldn't he SHORTEN the hood?
(Stinger: The panel showing the Joker and Donna Gugina is shown again)
Linkara (v/o): You know what's even better about this opening scene of Joker murder? Aside from it not being funny, it's completely unnecessary. Why is it here? To establish the Joker is a bad guy? I THINK PEOPLE KNEW THAT ALREADY!