Before we dive into the newest issue of All-Star Batman #2, we have to throw up a spoiler warning because the very first page includes a pretty massive development that we need to talk about. If you haven’t read the issue yet, you may want to do that first and then come back and finish this review.
Still with us? Good. Because writer Scott Snyder could be taking a wrecking ball to Batman‘s world, if we buy into what he’s selling us here. At face value, we’ve already seen the apparent betrayal of Batman by one of his most trusted allies. In this issue, we see two more of Batman’s allies, Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock, apparently break under pressure of Two-Face’s blackmail as they storm Wayne Manor and prepare to arrest Bruce Wayne for being Batman. Now, they never actually come out and say why they’re gonna try to arrest Bruce, but considering that Gordon and the cops break down the entrance to the Batcave, the implication is clear.
But we’ve been reading comics long enough to expect some kind of swerve that will either explain away these betrayals or sweep them under the rug. Synder’s got a lot of skill, but it’s gonna take a lot to make that work. It seems like an odd balance for the book to be juggling what could be franchise shaking changes with a kind of grindhouse flavored Batman story that pits him against a number of familiar comic book villains. That part of the book is a blast, and John Romita, Jr. looks like he’s really having fun drawing characters that he never previously touched before coming to DC. The action sequences and pacing are immaculate, and lot of that is down to Romita’s command of the sequential artform. He’s been doing this for decades, and it shows.
For longtime Batman fans, there’s the return of a villain whom we haven’t seen in quite a while. It’s one of the issue’s nicest surprises, and there was some effective build up to his introduction earlier in the book. If Snyder and Romita give the visitor a good fight against Batman next issue, it could go a long way towards elevating his status in DC’s criminal underworld.
The backup story by Snyder and artist Declan Shalvey came into its own in this issue, as Batman’s latest partner, Duke Thomas, tried to reach his parents through the haze of their Joker-induced madness. Shalvey managed to make Duke’s mother into a particularly frightening creation, while Synder’s dialogue expertly twisted the knife in Duke’s heart. We’re not as sold on Mr. Zsasz as the villain of this piece, but Duke emerged from these pages as a more compelling and interesting character.
One of the more satisfying aspects of All-Star Batman #2 is that it’s worth the $4.99 price tag. There’s a lot to unpack in this issue, and it feels like a lot of bang for the buck. We do feel like the constant betrayals of Batman may be Synder’s way of making this issue’s primary story seem more important than it actually is. We’re not fans of the old bait and switch, and frankly, we’re starting to think that’s where Synder is going with it. That does temper our impression of the book. But overall, it’s been very enjoyable experience so far.
RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
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Images: DC Comics