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All Star Batman #1

Review by Paul Bowler

After the phenomenal success of his five year run on Batman, critically acclaimed writer Scott Snyder is back with an all new Batman series, one that will reimagine many of the Dark Knight’s Rogues Galley, along with legendary artist John Romita Jr. – the first of many of the industries best artists who Snyder will work with on the title – to bring us All Star Batman #1, and the first villain of the piece is Two Face!

Taking an extreme course of action Batman decides to bring Two Face to a secret location outside Gotham, but the scarred villain’s warped duality has devised a terrifying quandary for Batman. Bound together by circumstance and trapped on a highway to hell, with every two-bit assassin, gun for hire, and even ordinary citizens out to kill the Dark Knight, get ready for a Batman and Two Face story quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

In many respects, All Star Batman #1 makes it abundantly clear from the outset that it will redefine what we expect from the way Scott Snyder writes Batman. It’s still connected with the rest of the Rebirth DCU to a degree, but this is a decidedly fresh take on the Dark Knight. All Star Batman is tonally very different from anything Snyder has done before, both story wise and visually, and it all kicks off with My Own Worst Enemy: Part 1, drawn by John Romta Jr. and featuring a remarkably dark and terrifying new version of Two Face.

Following his recent corrosive attack on Gotham, Two Face has been captured, and now Batman is flying him to a special place outside the city in an attempt to counteract Dent’s increasing reign of power in the city. But what should have been a routine trip goes drastically awry when Two Face after manages to make a surprise proposition that reaches out to everyone in the state, in which he claims, that providing anyone can stop Batman from delivering him to his fate and free him, Two Face will offer up the hidden fortunes of three of Gotham’s biggest crime bosses, and his stake in this deadly game doubles down on everyone’s untold secrets just for good measure!

All Star Batman #1 COVER

From the everyday peace shattering opening, the issue unfolds in a flurry of flashbacks across minutes, hours, and weeks, all blended masterfully in with present events, where bombastic action and brooding drama infuse every scene. The insightful verbal and psychological sparing between Batman and Two Face during the early stages of their journey is marvellous, and Snyder presents us with a chilling examination of the flipside of darkness Two Face’s unflinching defaced gaze can see within all of us. We’ve had the big Joker and Riddler storylines, now Snyder brings us a story that provides Two Face’s moment in the spotlight, this is very much Two Face’s time, the heavy hitters in Gotham’s criminal fraternity are even rattled, and All Star Batman #1 will certainly gives us all cause to reconsider our preconceptions of this duplicitous villain because Scott Snyder makes Two Face more diabolical, manipulative, and ruthlessly cunning than you ever could’ve thought possible.

This story also gives Snyder a chance to write Batman in an entirely new and much more exuberant way. This is, after all, a Batman renewed after the events of Superheavy, there’s such a fresh sense of vibrancy and energy about Bruce now that really shines though here in spite of the incredibly dark themes this story tackles, and its clear that Snyder is having an absolute blast writing this reinvigorated Dark Knight outside of his usual Gotham environment.

Following his run on Superman and Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade, John Romta Jr. now brings his dynamic artistic style to All Star Batman, and the result together with Danny Miki’s exceptional inks and the striking palette of colors employed by Dean White, are truly astounding. To have Scott Snyder and John Romata Jr. working together on Batman is like a dream come true, John Romata Jr.‘s art syncs in perfect harmony with Snyder’s intricate storytelling and characterization, and the page layouts and settings both in and outside of Gotham are all beautifully realized.

Who’d have thought that such bright wide open spaces could feel as ominous and as threatening as Gotham’s dark streets? There’s also a slightly grittier, harder edge about John Romata Jr.’s work on All Star Batman which gives the Dark Knight a defined, yet somewhat more rugged appearance. The action is fast and furious too. Romata Jr’s Two Face is equally impressive, the contrast depicted between the healthy and scarred side of the character – both physically and mentally – is genuinely unsettling at times, and the depiction of his hideous looking scarred color blind eye and Two Face’s uncanny perception of the world is ghoulishly chilling.

Numerous standout moments in All Star Batman #1 will make you want to read this issue many times over just to immerse yourself in the thrilling experience this new Bat-Title has to offer. Those initial scenes in the diner blindside us with a false sense of ordinariness, but as the full scope of the narrative kicks in a surprising roll call of villains, a wonderfully moody scene between Gordon, Batman, and new sidekick Duke Thomas, there’s also an iconic horror themed addition to Batman’s arsenal that is simply brilliant, and the powerfully staged exchanges between Two Face and Batman all collectively add up to make this first issue a gripping read indeed.

The back up stories featuring Duke Thomas and his training by the Dark Knight is another key ingredient of All Star Batman that makes this new DC Comics series feel so special. The Cursed Wheel Part 1: written by Scott Snyder, featuring pencils and inks by Declan Shalvey, and colors by Jordie Bellaire sees Duke’s training really begin in earnest. I love how the characters address the enormity of the task ahead, with the role of being a “sidekick” transcending even the moniker of simply being defined as Robin, to evolve into a refined challenge that will make Duke into the hero he will become… Tautly plotted by Snyder, and with striking visuals – that view of the Bat-Cave is a real showstopper – by Declan Shalvey and colors by Jordie Bellaire, the first part of this backup story complements the main storyline in the issue perfectly.

I’ve been eagerly anticipating All Star Batman #1 and I was totally blown away by how good it was. It’s everything I could’ve hoped for, and then some! Scott Snyder and John Romita Jr. have crafted one hell of an issue here, you’ll see Two Face in a completely different light afterwards, and those killer final moments are guaranteed to make your jaw hit the floor! All Star Batman soars beyond all expectations, with its brilliant all star creative team and wealth of variant covers, this is one Bat-Max fury road trip that you won’t want to miss for anything!

Publisher: DC Comics / Writer: Scott Snyder Pencils: John Romita Jr

Inks: Danny Miki / Colors Dean White Letters Steve Wands

Cover & Variant by Romita, Miki, White

Variant Cover: Jock

Variant Cover: Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire

The Cursed Wheel Part 1 Writer: Scott Snyder / Pencils & Inks: Declan Shalvey

Colors: Jordie Bellaire / Letters Steve Wands