If the name All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder means anything to you, it’s probably because you remember the never-finished series by Frank Miller and Jim Lee. The new All-Star Batman #1 has nothing to do with any of that beyond the title, and of course, the Dark Knight himself. This is also the easiest Batman publication to read in some time, as it feels almost continuity-free despite clearly taking place in the current DC Rebirth era.
All-Star Batman #1 marks the return of writer Scott Snyder, who really didn’t stray far from the Bat-franchise in his brief break from the adventures of Bruce Wayne. The first issue featured a noticeably less introspective version of Batman, and he even came off as goofy a few times, including a panel with a very cheesy smile and a wink. It was almost as if Adam West‘s Caped Crusader tagged in for a few pages, while still kicking ass like the modern Batmen.
The premise for this issue finds Batman on a road trip of sorts to finally deal with Two-Face. In response, Harvey Dent’s alter-ego has put out a lucrative offer for anyone who frees him from Batman’s custody. And if that doesn’t work, he’ll simply expose everyone’s darkest secrets. That led to the cliffhanger revel of the first story in this issue, which featured an apparent betrayal by someone close to Batman. Judging it from this issue alone, we’re not a fan of that twist and Snyder really needs a great explanation to justify it. He’s earned a lot of trust with us, but this is really pushing that trust to its limit.
Perhaps the only person enjoying himself more in this issue is John Romita, Jr., who is still pretty early in his DC run after spending decades at Marvel. Much like his famous father, Romita is one of the greatest sequential storytellers in comics, and he makes the wide screen action shots seem easy. Romita also rendered a few intense scenes between Batman and a hooded Harvey Dent. Plus, he got to draw Batman with a frickin’ chainsaw!
Romita’s redesigns for Firefly and Killer Moth weren’t very impressive, but his rendition of Two-Face had some genuinely intimidating moments…especially when only Harvey Dent’s deformed eye was visible underneath his hood. Inker Danny Miki and colorist Dean White also played significant roles in making the art pop in this issue. The cameo appearance of a non-Batman villain was quite funny and well-drawn.
Synder’s backup story with artist Declan Shalvey wasn’t as good as the main feature, but that’s certainly not Shalvey’s fault. His art is eye-pleasing and easy to read. Instead, Synder’s first chapter in this backup serial felt like an excuse to show off some research that he did into torture techniques. There is also the implication that someone Batman trained turned out to be a villain in the past, and the story goes out of its way to make sure that we don’t think it’s Jason Todd. Duke Thomas is the primary viewpoint character of this story, but Snyder still hasn’t committed to giving him his own superhero name as Batman’s new partner.
Even with a few minor hiccups, All-Star Batman #1 is one of the few comics that feels like it’s worth the $4.99 cover price. It’s not perfect, but it is entertaining.
RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
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Images: DC Comics