How many times have we seen Batman's origin? We all know the story. Young Bruce Wayne went to the theater with his parents. There was a mugging. His parents were killed. Bruce vowed vengeance and trained to become Batman. That may be the core of who Batman is, but there are different ways to continue this premise which could result in a slightly different Batman than what we're used to.
BATMAN: EARTH ONE is an example that Batman's origin can be told in a different manner.
Similar to SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE, the idea is to take the familiar elements and present them in a different way. It's a way to look at the characters in a different light. New twists and updates can be given as this is a clean slate. The idea is there but you also get the sense that anything goes...almost.
Geoff Johns' take on Batman is a little different. We do have a Batman that isn't as perfect as we know he will become. He can't do everything and isn't prepared to deal with every single situation. It might sound like YEAR ONE but there are plenty more differences.
We do start out with a younger Batman. He struggles to chase after his intended target. The story then flashes back to before the tragic incident that will change who Bruce Wayne is. This is where the differences start rolling in. Thomas Wayne is still incredibly rich and successful except now he is running for mayor. Alfred is an old friend of Thomas.' Alfred was in the Royal Marines and worked for a security firm. Unfortunately his presence at this moment isn't enough to change fate.
It's interesting how Johns depicts young Bruce. We've only seen a handful of depictions in the past and this is a different take on him. It makes perfect sense given his upbringing. He has a sense of entitlement in the few scenes before the fatal night.
It's these changes that run through the entire story and is also what fully separates this from past origins and Year One stories.
Of course this isn't the Alfred we know either. I mentioned a little on his background. It's not the same situation where he was from a line of butlers and following tradition in becoming the Waynes' butler. Bruce and Alfred will have a different sort of relationship and it adds a new element in guiding the journey of becoming Batman. They don't see eye to eye.
The idea of how Bruce became Batman, despite the tragedy, is almost like a storybook tale. As hard as Bruce's life and training was, everything had a way of working out perfectly. Alfred was the loyal and obedient servent. There may still be fellows like that out there but having some elements of disagreement gives this a more realistic take on their relationship.
There is a major change with someone close to Bruce. I won't go into the details or even hint at who I'm talking about. Once you read it, you'll know. It's changes like this that will draw the line for some readers.
Change can be a good thing. When it comes to beloved characters, fans can be very resistant to change. I will admit, I read through this story two and a half times. Of course at first I was wondering what was going on. I can easily accept some changes and different interpretations but I won't lie in saying a couple here threw me off. But then I stepped out of my Batman-fanboy shell and thought it over.
The idea of seeing these familiar characters in a new light is what the "Earth One" concept is all about. The creators can take the characters and do anything they want. They aren't under the constraints of decades history. If the background of a character needs to be changed for the sake of the story, there's nothing stopping the writer.
This also allows the story to have a bigger sense of suspense. In a typical Batman story, we pretty much know what the fates of the major characters will be. In an Earth One story, no one is safe.
After reading, I'm curious as to why Johns made some of these changes. It makes this an interesting read rather than simply rehashing what we already know. This is a Batman different than what we're used to seeing. Throw in the art by Gary Frank and you have all the reasons you'd need in deciding to pick this up.