All-Star Batman and Robin #9
January 5, 2015
The issue where everyone in it was huffing paint fumes. Quite literally.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Welcome to the first new episode of the show in 2015! The future is now, my friends! And dear Lord, the future sucks already, because we're starting things off with "ASBAR".
(Cut to black)
Linkara (v/o): Last time on "Crazy Steve's Magical Journey of Madness"...
(A recap the eighth issue of "ASBAR" is shown)
Linkara (v/o): Steve ranted in his own brain about how much cooler he was than Green Lantern because he... uh... drugged a guy and threw him into some water, whereas all Green Lantern has is his ring granted to him by powerful aliens because he is someone without fear and thus is not intimidated by Steve's murderous ways. Dick Grayson, age twelve, decided on becoming "The Hood", but Steve put the kibosh on that since a criminal can pull the hood over his eyes, unlike that cape he's wearing. And you would think that he would teach the kid to fight blind anyway. Oh, wait, I keep trying to compare him with Batman's teaching. I'm sure Steve has just only now gotten used to going blind from that moonshine he's been distilling down in the cave. But anyway, yes, Steve says he's going to be Robin because he's a dick. And Dick is Robin! Wait, what?
Linkara: Whatever. Let's just dig into (holds up today's comic) "All-Star Batman and Robin #9" and see what new spore of madness awaits us in 2015.
(AT4W title sequence plays, and title card has "Polka Face" by Weird Al Yankovic playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): The cover is boring! I love how most modern mainstream comics have officially just stopped caring about the covers. This came out in 2008, and what does it have? Batman and Robin in front of a green-tinted spotlight. You might be able to get away with saying it's Green Lantern doing that if there had been a Green Lantern symbol in there, but instead, it just looks like a regular spotlight. That's it. You could only get lazier with this cover design if they weren't posing, just standing up straight. And I've seen modern comics where that is all that's on there. Or them running; that's also a popular one. This comic is one of the most infamous of the series, though you could probably argue that every issue of this book is infamous in one way or another, with a very memorable setup and premise, and this is what Jim Lee decided to do with it: a spotlight on the two. (sarcastically) Goody, goody gumdrops! This'll get people buying the book in droves!
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open with Green Lantern and Crazy Steve so close to each other that they look like they're about to kiss.
Linkara: (as Batman, wearing his mask) I hate you, Green Lantern! I'm so much cooler than you! HATE!! (beat) Let's make out.
Batman: (narrating) It's a SHAME to expose one of my SAFE HOUSES. Now it'll be USELESS. But I've got DOZENS around town, and this one's RENT wouldn't amount to a VALET TIP.
Linkara: If it's a shame and you hate that it'll be useless now, why did you bring him here, and why do you not care in the next sentence?
Linkara (v/o): Dear Lord, Steve apparently painted his teeth yellow, too. Or are they naturally like that? I mean, I'm not exactly perfect in my own dental care, but if that's not paint, that can't be healthy. Speaking of not being healthy...
Batman: (narrating) This guy really GRINDS MY GEARS.
Linkara: Evidence that this is some kind of malfunctioning Batman robot.
Batman: (narrating) Here he's got a POWER RING that can do ANYTHING he can IMAGINE-- but that's his whole PROBLEM. He's got the IMAGINATION of a goddamn POTATO.
Linkara: Hey, don't be knocking potatoes. I much prefer their company to yours.
Batman: (narrating) He makes giant green FISHING POLES and MOUSETRAPS when he could, well... Put that ring on MY finger and just as a WARM-UP I'd send a few TIDAL WAVES in just the right DIRECTIONS. Knock out a few ENEMY FLEETS.
Linkara: (confused) Does he think he's Neutro?
Linkara (v/o): Also, what enemy fleets? Who does he think we're at war with? Or this Frank Miller perpetuating his conspiracy belief theory that Al-Qaeda has the full resources of any nation's armed forces?
Batman: (narrating) Then get started on REAL firepower to a nasty GROUND WAR or two.
Linkara: (sarcastically) Our hero, everybody!
Batman: (narrating) Then maybe I'd spank SUPERMAN'S butt back to what's left of KRYPTON. Just for LAUGHS.
Linkara: Crazy Steve, age twelve.
Batman: (narrating) Thing is, old Hal (Hal Jordan, that's his real name--the moron can't keep any secrets from ME)...
Linkara: (exasperated) WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO?!
Batman: (narrating) ...old Hal, he can't even make himself a green DANDELION with that RING of his if what he's up against is YELLOW. Dumbest WEAKNESS I ever HEARD of...
Linkara: As opposed to your weakness: petty childishness and a fragile ego.
Linkara (v/o): I remind you, this guy is supposed to be the one we're rooting for. This is not a deconstruction. All of the stuff he says in this comic is echoed later in "The Dark Knight Returns" and "Strikes Again". The only difference is that "Dark Knight Returns" handled a lot of the phrases better, plus it was a very different Gotham City than what we see in this comic. And "Strikes Again" was just moronic.
(Cut to a shot of Bruce Wayne in "The Dark Knight Returns")
Linkara (v/o): You know, one of the things Miller said concerning Batman and his relationship with other heroes for "The Dark Knight Returns" was that he didn't think they ever got along with him, Superman in particular. Except, clearly, we see in that story that he did get along with him. That was the ultimate tragedy of their final battle in the book.
(Cut back to Batman in "ASBAR")
Linkara (v/o): In this, why would anyone be friends with or agree with this murderous fascist with delusions of grandeur? Batman, and by extension, all superheroes, exist in their respective universes to combat crime that can't be normal law enforcement within the system, that there are just people that can't be stopped by normal means.
(Cut to a shot of Peter Parker in a Spider-Man comic)
Linkara (v/o): But of course, there's a reason why "Spider-Man" has the catchphrase: "With great power, comes great responsibility." Because when you do have the kind of powers that guys like Green Lantern have, it's important to not abuse that power, or else you aren't any better than the criminal with a gun who thinks he's superior to others because of it.
Linkara: And before anyone says that that lesson is obvious and I shouldn't need to espouse it, (becomes upset as he points to "ASBAR" comic) I'm holding a comic book where someone calling himself "Batman" wants to UNILATERALLY TAKE OVER THE WORLD AND IS SUPPOSED TO BE THE HERO! So clearly, it's not quite as obvious a lesson as we thought!
Linkara (v/o): It's especially funny when we bring up Green Lantern into this with Batman. Steve keeps yapping about how Hal is stupid for not executing a plan for world domination...
(Cut to a shot of a Green Lantern comic, emphasizing the villain, Sinestro)
Linkara (v/o): ...except, as part of the Green Lantern mythos, Hal's partner was Sinestro, a Green Lantern who ended up turning his world into a dictatorship EXACTLY LIKE STEVE WANTS TO HERE!! I would say it's Frank Miller being clever and that Batman was intended to grow out of this attitude, except Miller is not that subtle, not that clever, and it's the ninth damn issue! I'm still waiting on this supposed development!
Linkara: Or are we supposed to infer that he's gotten better now, because he doesn't call people "retarded" to their faces anymore?
Batman: (narrating) I don't know about this YELLOW hang-up of his. Seems to me the GUARDIANS OF THE UNIVERSE could've whipped up an ULTIMATE WEAPON that was COLOR BLIND. In their SLEEP.
Linkara (v/o): Dude, design flaws happen. Also, giant alien space bugs made of living fear that happens to be contained within the central power battery, but let's not get into that. Crazy Steve is really that one asshole who has never read a comic book in his life, but feels he can comment or joke on things in them, as if he has any authority on the subject. But whatever. He had Robin paint this entire place yellow... and himself.
Batman: (narrating) The kid impressed the hell out of me after I showed him the PAINT CANS and ROLLER. Sure, he BELLYACHED every MINUTE and QUIT being THE BOY WONDER eight times, but he FINISHED the job with nearly an HOUR to spare.
Linkara: (as Batman, wearing his mask) It was really difficult getting that paint roller into every nook and cranny my body, but I think it was worth it. (grins)
Batman: (narrating) Fast hands, my little ROBIN.
Linkara: I WAS KIDDING!
Batman: (narrating) Fast hands, big mouth...
Linkara: STOP TALKING!!
Linkara (v/o): Green Lantern tells him that a lot of people want him brought down, but Steve isn't worried about it.
Batman: ...Then there's you and that little Joy Luck Club you're putting together.
Linkara: He's just mad because they don't invite him to play mahjong anymore.
(Cut to a sketch involving Lewis as Batman, Pollo and another person, played by Will Wolfgram, playing mahjong)
Pollo: Your turn, Batman.
(Batman takes his turn)
Will: Ah, four of a kind.
(Will then takes his turn)
Will: (taking tile) Now, this tile...
(He laughs when he sees the tile he has and slaps it down on his place)
Will: Rinshan kaihou! You lose, Batman. That's 8,000 points right there.
(Batman stares, then knocks down all the tiles in anger)
Batman: This game is stupid! I'm not wearing hockey pads! (stalks away)
Pollo: Well, that was weird.
Will: Where are we gonna find another player?
Snowflame: (calling out from off-screen) Snowflame is the best at parcheesi!
Will: (to Pollo) No, not him.
(Cut back to the comic)
Batman: Four of you, by my count: the Wicked Witch of Lesbos Island...
Linkara: Just want to remind you all that the guy who's trying to be sexist and homophobic is the one who put paint on his teeth.
Batman: ...the Last Candy-Pants of a blown-up planet...
Linkara: (as Batman, wearing his mask) Stupid poop-head lost his parents and his entire species. Nerd!
Batman: ...a shape-shifter who's nuttier than a fruitcake...
Linkara: Yeah, I still don't understand why Plastic Man is part of this group. I mean, yeah, he was in "Dark Knight Strikes Again", but it's not like he was really all that pivotal a character.
Batman: ...and you, master of the giant green egg beater when you're not plagued by a certain primary color. Care for a glass of lemonade?
Linkara: (again as Batman, again wearing his mask) Robin got pink lemonade by mistake, but we painted it yellow anyway.
Linkara (v/o): Actually, Steve accidentally eating tons of paint would explain a lot. Dear Lord, can you believe we're only on the third page? There's just so much text crammed into every panel! Miller, you're not writing a friggin' novel! Oh, but we certainly couldn't miss out on this scintillating dialogue. It'd just ruin the whole story if we didn't have Steve trying to insult Wonder Woman by calling her a lesbian, because apparently, in his mind, that is apparently something to be ashamed of. No, I think it's pretty clear what happened: Steve made a pass at her and she rejected the smelly man in a bat suit who liked to talk about the "fast hands" of the little boy he kidnapped. Anyway, Lantern says they don't mind him fighting crime, just the way he's doing it: by scaring people. Steve reminds him that scaring people is the entire idea: to scare street-level criminals, while guys like Green Lantern handle giant monsters and the like.
(Cut to a clip of the Justice League animated series)
Batman: (to Green Arrow) Those monsters you don't fight? They tend to step on little guys.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Hal responds that all he does is put victims in the hospital instead of in jail.
Batman: Have you taken a look at Gotham's crime rate lately, Hal? Never mind the corporate stuff, I'm not taking them on, just yet...
Linkara: And yet, Candy-Pants Superman regularly takes it on since his arch nemesis is businessman Lex Luthor. Point: Superman.
Batman: You should really try the lemonade. On a hot day like this, it's a godsend.
Linkara: It's the middle of the night! Not even this guy knows what time it is anymore!
Green Lantern: Damn you and your lemonade!
Linkara: (holding up a can of Diet Sunkist Lemonade in confusion) Well, screw you, too.
Linkara (v/o): What I love about this whole "painting everything yellow" bit is how utterly pointless it is.
(Cut to an issue of "Booster Gold", showing the title character's encounter with Sinestro)
Linkara (v/o): In an issue of "Booster Gold", Booster once traveled in time and encountered Sinestro as a Green Lantern. He figured he was safe from the ring because of all the yellow on his outfit. Of course, since the Lanterns are all aware of the weakness to yellow, they train to get around it.
(Cut back to "ASBAR")
Linkara (v/o): For example, all that Hal has to do is fly outside, grab a car with his ring, and slam the car into this place! Suddenly, the yellow is covered in dirt and car, and this exercise in dick-measuring is over. But no, Hal instead just decks Crazy Steve, which I've got to admit is actually pretty satisfying to see after all this crap.
Green Lantern: You son of a bitch! You'll ruin everything!0
Linkara: Aaaand happiness over, because I'm now reminded of Superboy-Prime.
Linkara (v/o): Hal yells at Steve over the fact that he put Dick Grayson in a costume.
Batman: Excuse me...? I'm not sure I get you, Hal.
Robin: He's a rube.
Linkara: It's the 2000s in this comic. No child says "rube".
Linkara (v/o): Steve claims that Robin is not Dick Grayson.
Batman: I rescued Dick Grayson from a pack of corrupt cops. I admitted him to a trauma clinic. They keep his identity a secret to avoid undue attention. Figured the boy had been through enough.
Linkara: In case you thought he couldn't be any more of an asshole, he knows what he should have done, and still tried to make Dick eat rats! OUR... HERO.
(Cut to a clip of the old Batman serials of the 1940s)
Linkara (v/o): You know, it really says something when the Batman from those old Batman Vs. the Wizard serials is a superior incarnation. And that Batman kept his outfit in a file cabinet!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): And yeah, we get a flashback to yesterday, where Dick is talking to reporters with a newspaper behind him featuring the last page of the first issue as a photo. Normally, I'd call this out as bullcrap, but upon looking at the first two issues again, Vicki Vale did have her camera out at the end of the first issue and was still conscious and able to speak at the beginning of the second, so yeah, she could have gotten this shot. Kudos.
Linkara: (shudders) Ugh! I feel dirty giving this comic any kind of praise!
Linkara (v/o): Hal doesn't buy it, actually deducing pretty quickly that Steve must be a billionaire who paid off everyone in the clinic. So much for him being stupid.
Robin: He's got a point, there. Maybe he's right. Maybe I am Dick Grayson.
Linkara: Sorry, but I'm still not sold on you being the people you're supposed to be.
Linkara (v/o): Hal gets paint on his face, which I assume is supposed to be funny or show him as a dork, but it's not funny. He's just got paint on him because he's walking around a freshly-painted environment. You are trying to pass him off as looking silly WHEN YOU LITERALLY PAINTED YOURSELVES ENTIRELY IN YELLOW!! It's even dumber because of internal continuity. Long shots showed paint on Hal's boots, but the full-body shot doesn't show any paint on them. Also, Robin is reading a comic book that has also been painted yellow, aside from the inside pages. And yet, we can see text on its outside, which we shouldn't be able to discern, because the yellow would COVER IT! Steve starts to spin a yarn about who Robin is, but he stops himself.
Batman: I don't know you and I don't particularly like you, but you wear the tights. That's got to count for something. I just can't out-and-out lie to you.
Linkara (v/o): And then he immediately out-and-out lies to him by saying he's not Dick Grayson. I hate this comic! Oh, but it gets better: Hal starts walking off and tells him to go to Hell.
Robin: Then where's that ring of yours, Mister Green Jeans?
Linkara (v/o): "Then"? What do you mean "then"? He said, "Go to Hell." Did no one edit this?! Ergh! In any case, Robin has stolen the ring right off Hal's hand.
Linkara: UGH! I want to argue about this, but it's pretty inconsistent across the board whether someone can just snatch a power ring off someone's finger like that. Sometimes they can, sometimes they can't. And the fact that it's inconsistent bugs me like hell!
Linkara (v/o): It's an obvious safety feature for a weapon like this and really not outside the realm of possibility that they'd be programmed to stay firmly attached to a Green Lantern's finger while it still had power! The Guardians of the Universe are arrogant, self-important, short-sighted dickweeds, but they're not that kind of stupid. This is basic! And yet it seems to be that the wearer needs to be actively aware of a theft in progress in order to keep it from being stolen, which is just dumb! When it happens like this, it's just yet again there to have all glory to the Bat God, to show how "cool" Batman is, because he doesn't need fancy powers to defeat his enemies.
Linkara: Except, it is a superpower. It's called lazy writing. Because true cleverness is finding ways to fool or get around difficulties, not just letting them get away with whatever is convenient for the moment!
Linkara (v/o): I'm also really curious about when he got the ring off. Looking back, there's only one opportunity for Robin to be close enough to Hal to take the ring off: when he's pointing at him, except his ring is in a closed fist when he's pointing, so he would have noticed. But whatever. He charges at him to get the ring back, but Robin dives between Hal's legs and tosses the ring over to Steve, who drops it in a yellow-coated tube.
Linkara: (sarcastically) Congratulations, Steve! You can now take over the world with all that power you now possess! Because I'm sure in this universe, he can totally figure out how to make the ring work for him! (scowls)
Linkara (v/o): In the ensuing fight, Robin kicks Hal's ass, but all of a sudden, he delivers a chop to Hal's neck so hard, it must have damaged his throat severely. Angered by this, Steve tosses Robin into a wall. And he punches him right in the face. Child abuse! Our... hero... everyone!
Robin: I do... something wrong...?
Batman: Shut up while I figure out a way to trache this guy. The last thing we need is a corpse on our hands, you stupid little snot.
Linkara: (angrily) HASN'T SLOWED YA DOWN SO FAR, ASSHOLE!!
Linkara (v/o): He has Robin break off a tube to create a makeshift breathing tube to jab into Hal's neck. You know, putting the ring back on might help as well, but we never see him give the ring back. And Steve takes off his mask for no reason. Seriously, there is absolutely no reason for it; he just takes off the mask.
Robin: (narrating) This is the WEIRDEST time to find out that BATMAN is BRUCE WAYNE-- but this is no time for THINKING.
Linkara: The mantra of this entire series.
Linkara (v/o): They save Hal's life and Steve instructs Robin to call an ambulance.
Batman: And if you puke I'll break your goddamn neck.
Linkara (v/o): I looked at the credits again. The editor for this was Bob Shrek, the same guy who got laid off from DC and brought Frank Miller with him to produce "Holy Terror" for Legendary. This is all starting to make sense, actually. I mean, from a meta perspective. It's still not making any sense in-story, as we cut to them later walking in the outskirts of the city. It's raining, which washes off all the paint... except, it shouldn't wash off the paint on their outfits since it's soaked into their clothes, and even a heavy rain isn't going to fix that, but whatever. Robin narrates about how sick he feels about having almost killed a man and enjoyed the sensation, an idea that doesn't make him particularly happy. Steve's own narration on the next page proves that he's realized what a terrible mistake he's made. He had tons and tons of training over several years, plus Alfred's emotional support, before he ever tried to do this, and he forced this on Dick Grayson, age twelve, in weeks... Er, wait, weeks?! IT'S BEEN WEEKS?!?!
(Cut to a clip of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching The She-Creature)
Mike Nelson: Space is warped and time is bendable.
(Cut back to the comic)
Batman: (narrating) I had YEARS-- to GRIEVE.
Linkara: (as Batman, wearing his mask) This wouldn't have happened in my day. This is all rock 'n' roll's fault!
Linkara (v/o): So, Steve is just... squatting here.
Batman: ...Come on, kid. Let's ride.
Linkara: (as Batman) I'll summon the Batmobile by making you look like I need to poop.
Linkara (v/o): And indeed, they drive the Batmobile out to a cemetery, where Dick's parents are buried. In a rather unremarkable grave, I must say. It just says "Grayson" on it, not even their individual names. Dick is, of course, sad and angry and hurt and starts punching the gravestone, probably breaking his hands on top of the broken jaw Steve gave him. So, his parents wanted to be buried in Gotham? They were part of a traveling circus, after all, and a trapeze act. You'd think they'd have stipulated where they wanted to be laid to rest. And so, our comic ends with Steve embracing Robin as they cry in front of the slanted headstone.
Batman: (narrating) We mourn lives lost. Including our own.
Linkara: Huh. That's... actually rather profound. (feels uncomfortable) Once again, kudos. (grimaces) Ugh! There's that feeling again from giving this thing praise! I need a shower! But first, (closes comic and holds it up) this comic sucks!
Linkara (v/o): Congratulations, an entire issue of just our purported heroes talking to Green Lantern and Steve just talking about how much cooler he is than Green Jeans. And then almost getting him killed because of his improper training to the twelve-year-old! I'd almost say this issue was meant to turn this series around, but then you remember it's the comic where Batman covered himself in yellow paint – even to his teeth! Actually, maybe that's it; instead of causing further damage, the paint is actually repairing his brain.
Linkara: Fortunately, for our own sanity, there is only (holds up index finger) one more issue of "ASBAR" left. And it's not in this trade, for some reason, so I have to go get myself a copy of it. Then we can move onto non-Batman things that Frank Miller has made. (beat) And I just realized I never said this was "Miller Time". (hums the Miller Time theme, but then stops himself) Ah, screw it. Next week, more Godzilla! (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
Clark Kent is also a reporter, meaning he likely has done stories about corruption in business and exposed them to the general public, so he STILL has done more than you have, Steve.
If Steve doesn't want to kill people, why does he keep talking about using the Green Lantern ring on "enemy forces" or the like?
(Stinger: The panel showing Robin's thigh during the rainstorm at the gravesite is shown)
Linkara (v/o): Dear Lord, look at Dick's thigh! What has Steve been doing to his leg to make it so huge and muscley?!