ALL-STAR BATMAN #1
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by John Romita, Jr., Danny Miki, Dean White, Steve Wands, Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: August 10, 2016
***SPOILERS AHOY, YOU’VE BEEN WARNED***
As I started reading All-Star Batman #1, I asked some questions: Do we really need another Batman title? Didn’t Two-Face die? Isn’t Killer Moth more a monster than a man?
I hate to answer questions with another question, but: does it really matter?
Not when you have a story like All-Star Batman #1, written by Scott Snyder and drawn by John Romita, Jr. Danny Miki brings some sharp, clean inks to help polish up Romita’s line work for colorist Dean White, who does not shy away from notching up the vibrancy in his colors for this issue. Steve Wands brings some gravel to rough up Two-Face’s dialog and balances the rest of the story around the art quite nicely.
Snyder has masterfully redefined Batman and his Rogues since his first stories pre-New 52, but since New 52, no single creator has added more to the Batman mythology, supporting cast, and history than Snyder. Now, he has a chance to take a good, hard look at Two-Face and, in this first issue, does a great deal to expand beyond the one-trick performance of a coin flip. Batman has taken Two-Face and is on the run, but Two-Face is trying to prevent them from reaching their destination. Snyder presents Two-Face and Harvey Dent in All-Star Batman #1 in brisk fashion, playing the personas at different times and through different means, giving readers a chance to grasp the tenuous balance between the two.
It’s the villainous side of Two-Face, however, that delivers the line of the comic. In referring to everyday people, Two-Face declares, “They all have a side of their face they hide.” That’s every one of us, and Two-Face knows. Batman is set to stop Two-Face from exposing those hidden faces, and that’s where the road trip kicks in.
In the past five or so years, Romita has been hot-and-cold for me. Some of his stuff has been great, other pieces failed to impress me. That’s as much a testament to his accomplishments as it is to the field around him, but in All-Star Batman, John Romita, Jr. is as good as he’s ever been. Like Uncanny X-Men level good.
The splash page reveal of Two-Face (wearing a blood-red suit and black shirt) is iconic and definitive. This is Two-Face playing by his rules and posing a larger-than-life threat to Batman. The less active moments, like flashbacks to Bruce resolving to take the case, and the passionate pitch Two-Face makes to Batman in the Batplane are poignant and give Romita space to focus on the characters, which, in turn, allows Steve Wands to tidily stack up the dialog without covering Romita’s pencils, Miki’s inks, or White’s colors. The latter plays around a bit, using watercolor effects to fill the past, while the present is bursting with intensity.
The lead story in All-Star Batman #1 sends in Killer Moth, Firefly, Black Spider, Gentleman Ghost, and Two-Face, features a diner, some tree-trunk sculptures, and Batman giving a smile and wink. This isn’t standard-fare for Batman comics, but none of this is painfully out of place either, as Snyder draws on the things readers like to see: Batman’s foes and Batman’s emotions. Bruce is a bit more human nowadays, and that comes through Romita’s artwork, as does Batman’s continued vigilance to make the world a better place as only Batman can.
In addition to the first chapter of “My Own Worst Enemy,” All-Star Batman #1 contains a back-up story by Snyder and Declan Shalvey with colors by Jordie Bellaire and letters by Wands. Titled “The Cursed Wheel,” this story only has eight pages to begin to analyze Duke’s costumed partnership with Batman. Set in a warehouse filled with bolts of fabric, this story bounces between the now and two days earlier, with Snyder providing a first-person narration through Duke.
Batman presents Duke with an opportunity, but also a warning. Their conversation turns to a discussion of color, which, combined with the costumes the pair wear and the location of the fabric warehouse, provides ample opportunity for Jordie Bellaire to add as much to the story as artist Declan Shalvey. If I had to guess, I’d say the foe Duke and Batman are about to confront might be a new Crazy Quilt, given the range of tones unleashed in eight pages, but Scott Snyder provides sufficient clues to direct the reader otherwise. Whatever the case, this tale brings a nice sense of mystery to add to the action and adventure of the lead tale in All-Star Batman #1.
If DC wants to bring the heart of their comics to the bigscreen, then they really need to consider swapping out Snyders. Zack Snyder is taking some heat from fans, but Scott Snyder seems to know how to make fans happy with his interpretations of not only Batman, but the entire DC Universe. He balances character and action, seasons it all with intrigue and adventure, but never loses sight of the characters while doing it. “My Own Worst Enemy” is a buddy action-flick on par with “Lethal Weapon,” but set in a world wide open for special effects and dynamic visuals. This seems like Scott Snyder’s buddy film, and I’m glad we have another Batman comic that plays fast and loose with the continuity, all in the name of a good, fun story. This is as approachable as Batman gets, both in terms of personality and in terms of continuity. Climb aboard. Let’s take this ride together and see where Batman and Two-Face take us.
The Verdict: 10/10