Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist(s): John Romita Jr, Danny Miki, Declan Shalvey
Colours: Dean White, Jordie Bellaire
Release Date: 10th August, 2016
With Tom King currently stamping his mark on the Batman solo title in the post-Rebirth DC Universe, All-Star Batman serves as something of a passion project for former writer Scott Snyder as he unloads the remaining rounds in his creative chamber into a series of villain-centric Bat-stories.
Calling it “his Long Halloween”, Snyder has been gushing about the stellar crew of artists he has assembled for this project for quite some time now, with names like Jock and Sean Murphy whipping fans into a frenzy. The project will take the form of a series of one-shots and short stories featuring some typically inventive takes on established faces from Batman’s rogues gallery. And hey, if one of the most acclaimed Bat-writers in the history of the character feels like flexing his creative muscle a little with some characters he hasn’t previously touched, who the hell are we to deny him?
The first story, and the one which commands the bulk of the page count here, is entitled “My Own Worst Enemy”. Essentially, what we have here is the Two-Face equivalent of Snyder’s run with the Joker, providing a faithful recreation of an iconic villain complete with a brand new slant. While we got to see Synder have fun with the Clown Prince of Crime and The Riddler in his iconic New 52 run, we never got to see him take a stab at ol’ Harvey Dent, and based on the story we’ve been given here, it’s pretty damn fortunate that All-Star Batman became a real thing, because he absolutely killls it with this creative take on Two-Face.
I’m not going to delve too deeply into the actual plot, because if you’re a Bat-fan you’re pretty much guaranteed to be picking this one up already, but I will say that Snyder has Harvey Dent executing an absolutely inspired criminal masterstroke that puts Batman in a seemingly unwinnable situation, while still possessing the signature duality of all good Two-Face plans. We also get an opportunity to see some of the ‘lesser’ Bat-villains along the way, with Snyder poking a little fun at them and their obvious inferiority to the Dark Knight himself.
Visually, John Romita Jr does an impressive job with a series of panel-heavy pages packed with detail, expression and dynamism. There are very few artists who could help ease the transition from Greg Capullo, and in spite of some occasionally flat moments, Romita puts in some solid work here, particularly in the designs of the villains – and, of course, with a stunning rendition of Two-Face himself.
Oh, and as a side note: if you ever wanted to see a chainsaw-wielding Batman towering over a horrendously outmatched villain, this is definitely the comic for you.
The story has a fantastic hook that looks set to run and run, with Batman being forced to run a gauntlet in order to bring Harvey to justice, and the villain utilising some of his trademark manipulation to hold up a mirror to society and let them decide whether they’re a hero or a villain. Sublime stuff from start to finish.
The backup strip, entitled “Cursed Wheel”, doesn’t quite have the same punch as the first, and sees Batman and Duke investigating a sinister mass murder as the former undergoes some intense, specially-constructed training for his role as not-Robin.
Perhaps more than anything else, this strip serves as a showcase for the incredible, Eisner Award-winning colours of Jordie Bellaire. I mean, why stumble onto a crime scene in a grimy, abandoned warehouse when you can find one in what appears to be a textile factory, complete with multi-colour rolls of samples stacked up all around? Hell, even the titular wheel is colour-coded, given Bellaire even more opportunity to dazzle the reader. Don’t get me wrong, Declan Shalvey does a typically impressive job with the artwork, and Snyder crafts an intriguing – if fairly vague for the time being – tale, but for my money, this is Jordie’s show from start to finish.
In summary, the fact that it contains one of the best Bat-stories I’ve read for quite some time is more than enough to justify the $4.99 cover price, and the opportunity to see Scott Snyder pouring out his creativity in such an unrestricted arena makes for absolutely essential reading. You can count me in for all thirteen issues of this one, that’s for darn sure.
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