The Boy Wonder FallsWritten by: Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller
Art by: Bill Sienkiewicz, John Romita, Jr.
Cover Price: $6.99
Release Date: June 15, 2016
*Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*
Pinch me. I mean it, somebody please drive to New Jersey and pinch me to make sure I'm not dreaming. This comic was announced to be released back in February, then it was pushed back... then pushed back again... then again... then again. By the look of it, I was expecting it to go the way of Batman Europa when it was first announced: Lots of hype, then disappears for a decade. Then one day, when Eric and Jim get checked into an old folk's home, it would come out to pull DC out of another financial crisis. Thankfully that's not the case, and now after thirty years, we learn what happened that made Frank Miller's version of the Dark Knight hang up the cowl. So what happened? Let's find out...
We open up with the Joker being returned to Arkham for the umpteenth time, as we get back our "favorite part" from the old Dark Knight series back in full swing: TV SEGMENTS! The news reporters go on to say while they are thankful that the Joker is put away, there is a piece of them that frowns on the whole child endangerment facet of the Boy Wonder. However when we actually MEET Jason, he is far from being a boy.
It may have been a while since I've read Jason as a Robin, but holy crap is he a brutal little snot in this. Yes, he's always been cocky, but there is a scene where after the dynamic duo crashes a car, he smashes in a man's head with the door. "But maybe he's just badly beaten," you'll probably say. That's when you see the image and think, "...nope that man is dead." While it would cause me pause in the regular DC Earth, this version of Robin actually fits extremely well in the same world where Batman breaks every bone in the Mutant Leader's body. It reflects the kind of lessons Batman is teaching him.
Throughout the issue, we see the most important people in Bruce's life(Alfred and Selina to be more specific) tell him that maybe it's time to hang up the cowl, that with Jason growing older it's the perfect time for him to sit in the back seat. Bruce argues that he can't allow it yet. While Jason is a better fighter with his goals clear, his deductive skills and brutal nature give him pause. He idyllically pictures a future where Jason is the Batman, and he is the old warrior mentor guiding him from the cave.
Now I bet you're wondering why I haven't mentioned The Joker in this review yet with the exception of the beginning. Well, that's because his story doesn't tie with the dynamic duo till the end. Yup. The Last Crusade of the Dark Knight has very little to do with The Joker. We do see how the Joker escapes, preparing to perform the cruelest of jokes by manipulating all the inmates of Arkham to initiate an escape, but we don't even see an actual fight between the legendary enemies. It's a dark little side section that shows the cruel, clever evil that the Clown Prince of Crime can muster.
Back with the Dynamic Duo, they follow the man that was talking to Croc at the plant to Gotham's Botanical Garden, where many other men gather. It's revealed that Poison Ivy used the men of the city to bring her very expensive 'presents' to make money with the help of Croc. As the duo dive in, Bruce sees that Jason is WAY too brutal as he's beating down innocents with what looked like glee... but smashing in a Joker Gang member's head with a car door is just fine. Bruce gets distracted and Croc tears him away from the main fight as Jason goes after Ivy. Bruce struggles due to his aging body but is able to get the upper hand by using a wooden plank as a weapon... before passing out after saving Jason.
We end the story with Batman getting the news of Joker's escape from Arkham but telling Jason to stand down till later. Alfred and Bruce talk alone, but Jason overhears one phrase that sends him on the path to Joker and his death... 'I don't think he'll ever be ready'. Parent of the year goes to Bruce Wayne everyone!
John Romita Jr. and Bill Sienkiewicz's art is friggin amazing and fits the Dark Knight world perfectly. If Klaus Janson and Andy Kubert weren't doing the art for Master Race, I would love to see more of this team's art in it, if not other Batman stories in the future.
Bits and Pieces:
This story was well worth the wait, plus it washes out the bad taste Master Race #4 might have left behind. While you might not get an epic Joker v Dynamic Duo clash, you do get the story of an old man accepting that his time is coming to an end while looking for his young ward to possibly taking over for him. It has it's moments of action, but this story feels like the classic Dark Knight Returns we know and love, with John Romita Jr. and Bill Sienkiewicz's fantastic art showing us this dark prologue to one of the most famous stories in comic history.