Batman Earth One Volume 3 Continues Saga of More Grounded Batman Becoming Less So

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Batman Earth One Volume 3

The BATMAN: EARTH ONE graphic novels from Geoff Johns and Gary Frank represent a fresh take on the characters -- the heroes and villains -- of the Batman mythos and give them something of a more "real world" foundation. The crimes are more gruesome, the villains more demented, but to date the only presence of any real super-normal capabilities have been exhibited by Croc -- who in this telling becomes an ally of Batman instead of an enemy. Alfred is the butler, but only as a cover of necessity, having been a former merenary in debt to Thomas Wayne and saddled with young Bruce upon the death of his parents.

Given the relative instability of publishing at DC Comics, I prematurely mourned that we would never see more books set in this universe. Thankfully, there was room for yet one more, and we get to follow up on those tantalizing bread crumbs dropped throughout Volume 2, bringing Catwoman and Two-Face into the story. Catwoman's appearance is a blend of Julie Newmar meets K-Pop, and there's very little depth to her motivations. Two-Face, however, will look nothing at all like the character we're familiar with, and to tell any more would be to spoil pretty much the bulk of this story, as Two-Face coordinates the distribution of high-grade weapons to the gangs and thugs of Gotham City in order to punish the town and cleanse it of all evil.

But Bruce Wayne's quest to seek out the presumed-dead Harvey Dent gets sidetracked when a mentally ill homeless man is picked up and found to be none other than Adrian Arkham, Bruce Wayne's paternal grandfather. This allows the writers to flesh out even more of the mental illness that has plagued Bruce Wayne's lineage right down to his mother Martha (and, arguably, to Bruce himself). On top of that, Bruce must contend with unrest among his own troops, as Alfred's distrust of both Croc and Commissioner Gordon force Bruce to take the reins from his teacher and mentor to finally be the one who calls the shots for his mission to save Gotham.

With the future of this particular franchise in flux, Johns tends to rush the post-climactic wrap-up, introducing a handful of new characters almost as afterthought -- again familiar creations but with visually different twists. But, perhaps with some hope that there will be a way paved for a fourth volume, the team ends the book on yet another cliffhanger, this time introducing the one character who has been missing all this time, and the one no Batman interpretation can be without.

Despite its handful of flaws, this is still a Batman I would enjoy reading more. However, I'd prefer it to be a Batman closer to the flawed-and-learning character from the first volume, rather than the version we end with here, as he starts to become less strange and too familiar.

3.5 / 5.0