The NCAA regional semi-finals pre-empted my show so …

Cary Ashby
Mar 29, 2010


… once I again I'm compelled to blog about another topic covered here: a certain cowled crimefighter. Remember this blog is named "Cary's Crime Craze," so I can opine on all things "CSI" as well as the Caped Crusader.


"All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder": Do you remember waaay back in spring 2005 when I ranted in my column "Cary's Comics Craze" (can you tell I dig alliteration?) that I firmly believed Frank Miller had lost touch with the Batman character after I read the first issue? It seemed as though Miller was wandering aimlessly through Gotham City, trying to desperately write until he found his Bat-mojo again.


Since the first couple issues, I have almost quit buying the annoyingly slowly published series at least three times.


Fast forward to earlier tonight when I just read issue 9. Well, I'm finally getting what Miller is trying to do. I think. Before I tell you how I got there, let me backtrack — again.


In the mid-1980s, I had stopped collecting comics because I was sick of Jason Todd/Robin II, whom I considered a Dick Grayson retread with a crappy attitude. A few years later, as I perused the comics at Waldenbooks, I saw a Batman graphic novel with this enticing subtitle: "The Dark Knight Returns." It didn't remind me of any Batman I knew as I flipped through the pages. I was mildly offended by seeing my lifetime idol being so gruesome and snapping The Joker's neck. Then I was blown away when I later read the series. This was Frank Miller (whom I adored from his "Daredevil" run) putting the dark back into the vigilante who protects Gotham's scary streets. This was a man who knew how to take Batman seriously — very seriously — and how to put the "the" back into the Batman.


Soon after, Miller wrote "Batman: Year One." For some unknown reason, I ignored it when it first came to my local comic book shop.


Another bad choice I realized later too, I know.


Fast forward to '05. When I heard Miller was writing "All-Star," pitched as a reinvisioning of early Batman adventures, I figured we'd see the Dark Knight as he transformed from being the loner in "Year One" into a crimefighter who needed a partner to keep him in the light.


Wrong again, Ashby!


This seemed to be a mentally disturbed, scary man (see, I'm putting the "craze" into this blog!) who has no qualms with kidnapping Dick Grayson, who was distraught over seeing his parents killed. This so-called "All-Star" Batman flung this terrified 12-year-old into the darkest depths of the Batcave and told him to fend for himself. This unshaven Caped Crusader looks down on the Justice League of America. He doesn't want to play nice with others and despises Superman; he simply wants to protect his city — his way.


Wait a second, I began thinking, that last part is beginning to sound more like "my" Batman. Maybe my initial assumption about Miller's story wasn't so far off after all …


Then the light bulb finally went off: Miller was writing the "Dark Knight Returns" Batman as a young man. This is the bada-- "my way or the highway" Bruce Wayne. This is before he became the jaded Bruce Wayne in "Returns," who once again dons the cape and cowl years after he and Dick are estranged because his city needs the Batman again.


The "All-Star" Batman is the really dark Batman before he became slightly less so. My theory started forming in issue 7 when Batman takes down a rapist with vengeance — and with the same gleam in his eye when he brought The Joker to his maker in "Returns."


20/20 hindsight help me see the JLA members were concerned not about truth, justice and the American way, but making sure all heroes — and especially the dangerous Batman —were in step with the government's wishes. Hmmm …


By issue 8, my theory got stronger: The Joker's henchwoman with the blond buzz cut and the swastika on her bare breasts was too similar to the "Returns" character to be a coincidence.


I had my theory confirmed in issue 9. The clues were all there: Batman being so complimentary of Robin in his hard-nosed way; Robin saying "sir" and "boss" to Batman, just as Carrie Kelly (essentially Robin IV) did in "Returns"; the Dark Knight who can't bring himself to out-and-out lie to Green Lantern about Dick Grayson; Batman rushing to save GL's life after Robin delivers a fatal blow to his throat; Batman later beating himself up about training Robin to be a killer …


This was not only the young "Dark Knight Returns" Batman; I also recognized the nobility and basic good nature of the character I've adored for years.


The clincher was the final sequence: Batman sends Robin to say his final farewells to his parents at their grave sites in the pouring rain. Then the giant hand of the Dark Knight puts his hand on Robin's shoulder … and wraps the boy into a giant hug.


Now there's the caring Caped Crusader (with a definite edge) I love.


Thanks, Frank Miller! I'm glad to see finally the light in your Dark Knight.