Review – All-Star Batman #9 (DC Comics)

Publisher: DC Comics
Script: Scott Snyder
Artwork: Jock, Lee Loughridge (colours), Francesco Francavilla
Release Date: 19th April 2017

“This is not a Batman story.”

The opening page of the final chapter in Scott Snyder’s “Ends of the Earth” arc stakes its claim dramatically and unapologetically.  And for an arc which has seen our hero traversing the globe and crossing paths with the likes of Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, The Blackhawks and The Mad Hatter in an attempt to stop the gradual spread of a deadly prehistoric plague, it’s somewhat surprising that the denouement here is so refreshingly grounded.

Yes, we finally discover who the mastermind behind the entire plot is, which is a reveal in and of itself, but the bulk of this issue is all about perception.  Fact versus fiction.  Truth versus lies.  And at the heart of it all, a burning question – just who is Batman?  It’s difficult to delve too deeply into the issue without spoiling its impact, but suffice to say that Snyder takes a typically unconventional look at the legacy of the Caped Crusader here, framing his exploits in a whole new light without actually having to change anything significant along the way.

The thrilling power struggle that goes on throughout the course of this issue provides a perfect showcase for the strength of Snyder’s writing.  Batman and his adversary each think they have the upper hand, but the tide of control continually ebbs and flows as the pages turn, with ruses being revealed and strengths being rapidly turned into weaknesses.  This is the Batman I grew up loving.  The intelligence.  The battle of wits.  The tension.  And Snyder brings it all to bear as he wraps up what has been a wildly enjoyable and beautifully crafted tale.

The arc has rotated artists to match the aesthetic of the different villains Batman has encountered to this point.  We’ve had Jock, Tula Lotay, Giuseppi Camuncoli and now, somewhat fittingly, Jock again.  His trademark loose, almost sketch-like pencil style is perfectly suited for a story where nothing needs to be too clear or too well-defined.  He helps Snyder’s narrative flow beautifully from panel to panel, and the scratchy, kinetic style of his artwork makes the battle of wills between Batman and his opponent really resonate with each shocked, defeated expression.

Once again, the thing that gives Snyder’s Bat-stories that extra impact is the fact that they all feel like they matter. All too often, Batman tales can feel like a creator playing with a pre-chosen set of toys, having their fun before making sure everything’s back in its proper box when playtime is over.  With Snyder however, the boxes don’t even really matter, because the overriding feeling that he can do whatever he damn well pleases – changing the status quo, rewriting backstories, expanding characters in new and unexpected ways – infuses every issue he writes with an extra level of excitement.  And, while he doesn’t actually change anything substantial here, his creative look at the truth and fiction of the Batman character couldn’t be any more timely, particularly in today’s era of “fake news” and forced perception.

This latest arc has seen Snyder weaving contradictions into every aspect of his story.  It’s wildly improbable yet relentlessly logical.  Epic on a global scale, but still deeply personal.  It’s not a Batman story, but at the same time, it’s the Batman story.  And, in spite of his critically acclaimed New 52 run alongside Greg Capullo, it’s All-Star Batman that really feels like Scott Snyder painting his masterpiece.   Highest possible recommendation for this series, folks.

Rating: 5/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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