All-Star Batman #1 Writer: Scott Snyder Artist: John Romita Jr. & Declan Shalvey Colorist: Dean White & Jordie Bellaire Letterer: Steve Wands Publisher: DC Comics
After the events of Flashpoint in 2011, DC Comics rebooted their superhero universe, much to the chagrin DC readers, and released the New 52. No one can question its success and the onslaught of new #1’s on the shelves sold like gangbusters. However, don’t confuse high sales for satisfying reception from fans, as the majority of fans seemed to dislike or even hate the New 52. The change-up of continuity, character reinterpretations, and disappearance of fan-favorites, i.e. Wally West, had some people fueled with rage. From Scott Lobdell’s Red Hood and the Outlaws, with its over sexualized portrayal of Starfire, to Cameron Stewart’s hipster Barbra Gordon.
One thing that has come out of the New 52 that everyone seemed to be onboard of though was Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman series. When DC announced the end of the New 52 with the launch of DC Rebirth, the up-and-coming Tom King(The Vision) was pegged as the new writer for the Dark Knight. While many were excited to see what this former CIA agent can do with Batman, they were sad to see Scott Snyder leave the character. All those hanging heads though were uplifted when they announced that Snyder will continue to write for the character in the new series, All-Star Batman.
The concept of this series, from what I can gather from Scott Snyder himself is going to be in continuity side-stories. Rather than having a singular journey, as his previous run had been, he will use this series to tell stories with different villains he couldn’t use before and the first up is Harvey Dent, Two-Face in “My Own Worst Enemy”. Batman needs to transfer the ex-attorney outside of Gotham, but the persuasive villain has an ace up his sleeve and is able to get bounty hunters, guns for hire, and even ordinary citizens hunting down the Caped Crusader with a common goal, Batman’s death.
Snyder is able to execute a script that takes its readers on a roller coaster of emotions, from excitement, to uneasiness, to confusion. The backwards storytelling is quite effective. Adding more intensity to the ride, revealing tidbits of the puzzle that are surprising and make the reader hungry to turn the page. Dent’s plan to get the public to turn on Batman is cunning as well as sinister. He shows the selfish, immoral side of humanity, which opens up an abundance of themes to play around with, and the betrayal in the closing is intriguingly uncomfortable.
As effective as Snyder’s writing is in this debut issue, it has its faults. The opening action set piece has Batman acting rather awkwardly. The Caped Crusader is throwing quips at his assailants and it’s rather jarring, the opening feels more like a Spider-Man book rather than a Batman book. It’s a tone issue but it evens itself out as the story progresses. This issue also contains a short side story at the comics closing, “The Cursed Wheel” and it’s not clear as to when this takes place. It’s clearly not part of the main story as they have two different artist but more clarity is needed and would be appreciated. That said however, Snyder is still able to really capture our investment with the premise, the out-of-order storytelling builds the tension, and the scenes are full of energy.
Speaking of energy, superstar artist John Romita Jr. brings some powerful images to this book. This issue is full of action and he’s able to bring a lot of movement to the visuals, making this a smooth, fluid read. It also compliments the anxiety feeling the writing brings. His Batman looks top-notch and the image of Batman with a chainsaw, is as intimidating and imposing as you can get. One portrayal I can’t get behind unfortunately is Two-Face. Dent just looks too young and is on borderline hipster, IMO. Auspiciously though, Dean White’s colors make for a great treat. Impressively, White is able to use an abundance of bright colorful palettes but is still able to paint them with a dark and gritty tone. Something that’s beyond difficult and so rarely seen, he’s able to succeed triumphantly in this debut chapter and has really created something special.
I’ve always been a casual Batman fan, never reading his comics on the monthly basis. Gaining most of my knowledge of the iconic character through trades of classic stories and from talking to fans that read his comics regularly. All-Star Batman, aside of the stigma of being closely named to the Frank Miller failure, is off to a strong start that allows readers with a basic knowledge of the Dark Knight to jump on board. There are some missteps in Snyder’s script but the premise is intriguing, there are some engaging character moments, and displays some solid themes to analyze. Not counting the misstep of Two-Face’s design, Romita Jr.’s and White’s visuals are nearly flawless. All that accumulates to a new series that I’d recommend checking out.
Score: 4 out of 5
Review by Eric Bradach
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