Comic Book / Batman: Earth One

Batman: Earth One is a 2012 graphic novel from DC written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Gary Frank. The second installment of DC's Earth One line after Superman: Earth One, it aims to update the story of the Dark Knight for a new generation. The book has been critically acclaimed so far, although Bat-purists are likely to... well, go batty.

You know the basics of the story: Young Bruce Wayne sees his parents brutally gunned down in front of his eyes, and devotes his life to fighting crime, aided by his trustworthy butler, Alfred Pennyworth, and the stalwart cop James Gordon... except Alfred isn't really a butler. And James Gordon isn't very stalwart. And Bruce isn't about "fighting crime" so much as he is about "fighting the man who killed his parents": the mayor of Gotham City, Oswald Cobblepot. About the only thing to remain the same is Gotham, which is as much a Crapsack World as ever.

Batman: Earth One provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • Harvey Bullock is a handsome former TV star, instead of an overweight, unshaven wreck. Though the ending strongly hints he's going to start rapidly sliding towards his mainstream canon appearance.
    • Oswald Cobblepot may not be a good-looking man, but he's a damn sight better than the heavyset, and frequently disfigured Penguin of the mainstream comics. This makes sense, as he probably wouldn't have been elected mayor of Gotham with his canon appearance.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • Alfred's military background is played up a lot more than it is in most adaptations. In this version, he's a former mercenary who's initially brought on as the Wayne family's bodyguard, only to receive custody of Bruce when Thomas Wayne is killed. Though he sarcastically refers to himself as a butler (even though he isn't), he's still very capable in a fight by the time Bruce becomes Batman.
    • Oswald Cobblepot as well. He's not terribly formidable in a fight (though he holds his own against Bruce), but the fact that he's the Mayor of Gotham means that he's much more dangerous here than in most other versions.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Killer Croc is a pretty decent guy here, if misunderstood. After being rejected and attacked by a world that judged him for his disfiguring illness, he retreated into the sewers. Chased there by hunters, he pre-emptively attacked any people he encountered. He eventually ends up saving Bruce from the Riddler, and joins Team Batman.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Gordon gets hit by this, though reluctantly, and he rejects it by the end. While usually depicted as a resolutely incorruptible police officer, here he has a history of taking payoffs from the mob purely out of fear for his family.
    • In Volume 2, Riddler has this. He's a Mad Bomber who wants to take control of the late Mayor Cobblepot's crime network, and in terms of riddles, he has none of his main counterpart's Honor Before Reason, lying about being willing to not kill a train full of people when Batman successfully solves one of his riddles.
  • Adaptational Wimp: The Earth One version of Batman more or less learned everything he knows about fighting from Alfred, having never travelled around the world mastering different forms of martial arts like his mainstream counterpart, never learned the different kinds of medicine and other forms of being a polymath of his main counterpart, including being a rather poor detective. It shows when he has trouble fighting off a group of cops, and when he gets caught off guard by the Penguin.
    • Volume 2 reveals he also has next to no skill as a detective, absent-mindedly making a lot of common sense mistakes at a crime scene to the point that he asks Gordon if he can tutor him in detective work. He gets incrementally better as the book goes on.
    • James Gordon is nowhere near as brave and uncorruptible as his mainstream counterpart. He's just as corrupt and ineffectual as the other Gotham cops, though more out of fear of reprisal against his family than greed. It's still jarring to see him basically tell Bullock to not arrest certain criminals because they're untouchable.
    • Killer Croc applies to this, in the sense that he doesn't have a three-digit killing record like his original self. This version is basically just a normal human whos been put under extreme circumstances and sought out isolation rather than lashing out with murder.
  • Adult Fear: The Birthday Boy, who kidnaps young girls, is implied to cut their throats and then keep their corpses rotting in Arkham Manor's basement.
  • The Alcoholic: Harvey Bullock, at the end of the first book. The Birthday Boy case destroyed him.
  • Alternate Continuity: Is in its own continuity, separate from the main DC Universe. An extra in Superman: Earth One Volume 2 confirms that both Earth One stories take place in the same universe, which was backed up by The Multiversity saying that all Earth One books take place in the same universe, but haven't connected yet.
  • Artistic License Biology: Killer Croc tells Batman he suffers from ichthyosis, which is a family of genetic disorders that do cause scaly skin; Croc's condition, though, is not like any known cases— in particular, he appears to have bony plates on his brow, which doesn't happen.
  • Badass Beard: Alfred Pennyworth.
  • Bait and Switch: Harvey has gasoline poured on his face and lit, making it appear this is his origin as Two-Face. But then he dies from his injuries while Jessica presses her face against his, with the trauma causing her to snap and develop a split-personality.
  • Batter Up: Bullock, when he decides to go after Axe.
  • Battle Butler: Played with. Alfred is not a butler, but decides to call himself just that after he takes custody of Bruce. As for the battle part, well...
  • Bedlam House: Averted with the Arkham Mansion, which hasn't yet been converted into an insane asylum at the time of the story (though it's just as nightmarish as ever).
  • Big Bad:
    • Mayor Oswald Cobblepot for volume one.
    • The Riddler in volume two.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Alfred's rescue of Batman at the end of the first volume.
  • Brits with Battleships: Former Royal Marine Alfred Pennyworth.
  • Body Horror: Killer Croc, who's specifically played up as having a horrible skin disease rather than some bizarre mutation.
  • Chekhov M.I.A.: The 15-year-old girl reported missing, with birthday candles placed at her open window. She presumably shows up later as the Birthday Boy's first in-comic victim.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Alfred is drawn to resemble Christopher Lee and Sean Connery.
  • Composite Character: In this version, Martha Wayne was born Martha Arkham, and given she dies as tradition, this makes Batman himself the Arkham family's last living heir, much like Dr. Jeremiah Arkham in the main series.
  • Corrupt Politician: Oswald Cobblepot is this all the way. Bonus points for resembling a Napoleon-sized Richard Nixon.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: Harvey Bullock arrives in Gotham, naive and happy, hoping to capitalize on being a detective in the most dangerous city in America. But very soon the city begins to break him as he realizes how deep the corruption and fear run, culminating in him witnessing the countless rotting corpses of Birthday Boy's victims.
    Bartender: What can I get you, pal?
    Harvey Bullock: Whatever's the strongest.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Oswald Cobblepot is shot and killed by Alfred at the end of the first volume.
    • As shown in Reality Ensues below, Harvey Dent is not merely scarred by the burns he receives from Sal Maroni, but dies from them.
  • Death by Secret Identity: Oswald Cobblepot discovers Batman's identity right before he gets killed.
  • Decomposite Character/Gender Flip: Two-Face. Jessica Dent, not Harvey, is the one who becomes Two-Faced and crazy.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: Gotham is particularly brutal here, with every single institution corrupted. Harvey Dent is being worn down by the corruption, has to campaign in secret, and is no white knight himself. Gordon is basically a dirty cop at the start of the story, his spirit crushed. Batman here is no omni-disciplinary expert, as he's young and you cannot be perfect at fighting, driving, detective work and science. Lethal force is repeatedly encouraged by Alfred, and shown to be a more effective alternative to Bruce's methods.
    • BUT Batman still acts as a symbol of hope to Gotham and can cause effective change, while Gordon has his hope restored and begins to train Batman in detective work. And while Bruce was ultimately unable to do anything about Cobblepot's corrupt hold on Gotham, he is shown to be fully capable of taking down a terrorist threat like the Riddler without resorting to taking his life. Slowly and steadily, Bruce resembles the older and more typical Batman more and more.
  • Demoted to Extra: Harvey Dent. He is still D.A., but his sister plays more of a role than he does. Harvey does show up in a flashback to deliver some exposition and get punched in the face by an angry Bruce.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Harvey Bullock goes crashing through this after he hits a light in the aforementioned basement.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Subverted.
    Harvey Bullock: This is Gotham City. It's bad cop, bad cop!
  • Handicapped Badass: Alfred has a limp and uses a cane. A fight with Bruce shows that his right leg has a prosthetic, thus the need for a cane. Thomas Wayne apparently made it for him during the war they met in.
  • Haunted House: How most Gothamites see the old Arkham Mansion (it's not an Asylum yet). It's been abandoned ever since Martha Arkham's mother killed her husband and herself in it, and it has a reputation for driving people insane.
  • Heroic Wannabe: Batman actually starts out this way, not being nearly ready enough for the job, being a failure at keeping a low profile, and equipped with malfunctioning gadgetry to boot. As the story progresses, he becomes a more capable fighter and finds a better source of equipment, slowly becoming the badass we all know and love.
  • Honor Before Reason: Bruce refuses to wear body armour, despite Alfred's constant insistence.
    Batman: Do you know what body armour says about a guy? It says that he needs body armour.
  • Implacable Man: The Birthday Boy during his battle against Batman, Gordon, and Bullock. Nothing will keep him down, and his massive strength lets him overpower all three of them for most of the fight.
  • Insistent Terminology: "It's Mayor Cobblepot."
  • Irisless Eye Mask Of Mystery: Rare and notable aversion for Batman, as his irises and pupils are drawn clearly in the comic.
  • Jabba Table Manners: Mayor Cobblepot.
  • Knife Nut: The Birthday Boy favours a carving knife.
  • Mayor Pain: Oswald Cobblepot is this all the way, running Gotham like a mob operation.
  • Morton's Fork: Riddler tells Batman that he has to solve a riddle. If he doesn't, he'll blow up a train full of people, if he solves it, they live. He was lying, even when Batman answers correctly, he blew up the train anyway because he never expected Batman to answer correctly.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: Killer Croc helps take down the Riddler after he realizes he could have saved countless lives if he stopped him early on.
  • My Sibling Will Live Through Me: The effect of Harvey Dent's last words on Jessica, coupled with the trauma of his death.
  • Mythology Gag: Several.
    • Mayor Cobblepot is mentioned to dress in trademark "penguin suits". He also maintains his habit of keeping birds in his office.
    • Alfred at one point says "tt". Mayor Cobblepot later delivers a "kk".
    • Much as in The Dark Knight Saga, Lucius Fox is a demoted researcher languishing in the lower levels of Wayne Industries.
    • When Bruce punches a young Harvey Dent in the face as a child, there's a close-up shot that makes half of his face look distorted and ugly from the punch's impact.
    • After being saved from Birthday Boy by the combined efforts of her father, Batman and Harvey Bullock. Barbara draws herself as Batgirl.
  • Not-So-Abandoned Building: The old Arkham Mansion isn't quite as abandoned as everyone thinks — it's actually being used as a lair by The Birthday Boy.
  • Old Soldier: Alfred is characterized as such, with his being a veteran a major part of who he is.
  • Parasol of Pain: Mayor Cobblepot uses a sword umbrella to surprise Batman during their final confrontation.
  • Private Military Contractors: Alfred worked for one in Seoul.
  • Promotion to Parent: Alfred. He hadn't seen Thomas Wayne for years and just briefly reunited with him before Thomas's death - then Alfred found out that the Waynes had named him Bruce's legal guardian should anything happen to them.
  • Psycho for Hire: The Birthday Boy, a serial killer whom Mayor Cobblepot keeps on the payroll by supplying him with victims.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Martha Arkham's mother wasn't a psychiatrist herself, but she was a prominent crusader for mental health coming from a long line of them. Then she went insane and killed herself, and her family's mansion was subsequently abandoned (becoming Gotham's resident Haunted House in the process).
  • Reality Ensues: The spin on Harvey Dent's tale in Volume 2: he gets hit in the face with a molotov cocktail by Sal Maroni, and though he does receive his trademark Two-Faced appearance, he quickly dies of the burn wounds due to their severity.
    • The setting does this in general: Batman is not nearly as effective as he is in his mainstream appearances, Gordon is not able to keep himself clean and is forced into corruption to protect his family, and the flamboyant supervillains of the comic books are virtually absent: Oswald Cobblepot is not the Penguin but the corrupt Mayor of Gotham, Birthday Boy is an all-too realistic serial killer who targets teenage girls he is psychotically obsessed with, The Riddler is a terrorist who uses the Riddler identity as a cover for his true goal, and Killer Croc isnt a villain at all, but simply a social outcast who takes refuge in the sewers.
  • Serial Killer: The Birthday Boy, who kidnaps and murders young girls, and leaves candles on their pillows. He usually bakes a cake for his victim as well, and demands that they "make a wish" before he knifes them.
  • Sequel Hook: Barbara Gordon is seen drawing a Batgirl costume. The Riddler is seen musing about Batman's secret identity.
    • The lady who stitched up Batman in volume 2 is Selina Kyle — and she didn't actually live in that apartment, she was ransacking it when Batman fell there. Also, Jessica Dent got half of her face burned and has developed a Split Personality.
  • Shadow Archetype: The abandoned Arkham Mansion (owned by Bruce's mother's family in this version) is a dark reflection of Wayne Manor in more ways than one. They were both owned by two of the most powerful families in Gotham, but one is a resplendent beacon of wealth and status while the other is a decrepit wreck, showing how high one family has risen and how far the other has fallen.
  • Split Personality: Two-Face, naturally. But here it's Jessica, and the new violent personality is 'Harvey'.
  • Spoiled Brat: Young Bruce. Then his parents die.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Subverted, during Vol 2. It appears Batman has pulled one of these to Gordon... but he's not quite gotten out of the room.
  • The Stinger:
    Volume 1: "Who is Batman? What a riddle."
    Volume 2: "Meow."
  • Terror Hero: This is Bruce's objective, though his presentation still needs some work.
  • Took A Level In Cynicism and Took a Level in Idealism: Interestingly, in this universe Bruce and Alfred appear to have swapped places on this particular sliding scale. In the regular continuity, Bruce is frequently depicted as a dark, brooding cynic constantly at risk of looking too deeply into the abyss thanks to his crusade, and Alfred is the advisor who has to use his counsel to ensure that Bruce both remembers why he is doing what he does in the first place and that he doesn't cross the line. In this continuity, Alfred is the cynical one who is constantly advising Bruce to just fully embrace the Vigilante Man approach, warts and all, and it's Bruce who idealistically believes that there's a better way he can take.
  • Villainous Breakdown: In the final parts of Volume 2, Riddler undergoes a rather quick one, going from calm and confident as he kills people with his various tactics to screaming at Batman and trying to shoot him as soon as he finally catches up with him.
  • Wretched Hive: Gotham City is even more miserable than ever, and under the control of The Penguin to boot.
  • You Killed My Father: Bruce's motivation in this version. He becomes Batman so he can bring down Mayor Cobblepot, who had his parents murdered so that Thomas Wayne couldn't get elected Mayor.
  • Younger and Hipper: As opposed to other versions, where he's older than Bruce, this Lucius Fox is younger than him.