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All Star Batman #6

Review by Paul Bowler

All Star Batman #6 brings the Dark Knight to Alaska as he attempts to stop Mr Freeze getting his frozen mitts on an ice core that could plunge the world into a new ice age! Critically acclaimed writer Scott Snyder is joined by the phenomenal artist Jock for All Star Batman’s new arc, Ends of The Earth, and their new take on Batman’s deadliest ice-cold adversary presents the Dark Knight with a hauntingly dark, wintry challenge as he battles to save the world from Mr Freeze in the icebound wilderness of humanities last frontier…

Scott Snyder continues to deliver a fresh slant on the Dark Knight’s rogues with DC Comics All Star Batman. Having successfully done so with Two Face in “My Own Worst Enemy”, Snyder now turns his attention to Mr Freeze (Dr Victor Fries), as the fearsome sub-zero villain embarks on a sinister plan to extract the world’s oldest ice core.

All Star Batman #6 gets Snyder’s new Ends of the Earth story-arc off to a confident start, plunging us directly into the frigid heart of this story right from the outset, with Batman – kitted out in a heavy-duty Mech-style Bat-suit that fires specially forged Batarangs – resolutely making his way to an outpost in Alaska, while the narrative gradually offers a chilling insight into his mission. Batman soon discovers the terrible fate of the researches, but it seems there’s an even nastier surprise awaiting him here at the top of the world!

Snyder masterfully builds the suspense and horror. Mr Freeze and his lumbering carbon bonded ice-zombie minions make fittingly terrifying adversaries for Batman in this issue. While its perhaps no surprise to see the familiar Mr Freeze tropes employed, such as his beloved Nora and themes of cryogenic resurrection, but its refreshing to seem them handled in a was that brings such a strong dramatic edge to the issues. The inclusion of the poem, Fire and Ice, by Robert Frost, is another masterstroke, and it’s this subtle half-guessed blend of mystery and suspense that Snyder uses to keep us guessing all the way to the final page. Even the story of how Batman’s Mech-suits Batarangs were specially crafted for this mission beautifully complements the bleak environment, stark brutality, and often reflective tone which this tale seamlessly shifts between at times.

all-star-batman-6-cover

Needless to say, artist Jock does a fantastic job with All Star Batman #6, Ends of the Earth Part 1 looks incredible. From the almost complete whiteout of the landscape 300 miles north of the artic circle, to Batman’s kick-ass Mech-Bat-suit, and Mr Freeze – who to my mind has rarely looked as ruthless and as fearsome as this – is at his maniacal deep-frozen best to provides a thrilling and palpable threat to the Dark Knight. Jock crafts so many standout moment in this issue, Freeze’s panoramic vision of the future, for instance, is gloriously realized, but my favourite scenes were with the screeching ice-zombies, I found them genuinely unnerving with their shuddering movements and blood curdling cries – especially when they overwhelm Batman at one point. Matt Hollingsworth’s colors provide a perfect accompaniment for Jock’s art, with exquisite artic blue tones, opaque, almost pearlescent whites, and shadowy hues that effortlessly melds the tension and emotional beats of the story.

All Star Batman #6 builds to a nerve jangling cliff-hanger, with danger closing in on all sides, and the Dark Knight in mortal danger. A resolution of sorts is found beating furiously at the heart of this story, one that drags protagonist and antagonist into the warped embrace of fire and ice in a scream of jaw-dropping action set-pieces, and it will leave you awestruck by the sheer overwhelming realization this arc is only just beginning!

The Cursed Wheel Part 5 written by Scott Snyder and with art by Francesco Francavilla continues All Star’s backup story focusing on Duke’s training through the wheel. Opening with a fiendish trap set by the Riddler for Batman and Duke to solve, events then flashback to their trip to Arkham to visit the Riddler in his cell, for a bizarre kind of Zero Year anniversary. But this year there’s something connected to more recent events waiting for Duke to confront. Snyder ensures the script it taut and engaging, and Francesco Francavilla’s artwork, with its angular panel layout, provides an impressively colourful mix form and shadow. This highly atmospheric story moves at a quick pace, there are some great moments of characterization for Batman and Duke, and everything quickly reaches a fittingly explosive puzzle-tinged final scene.

There is more than a hint of John Carpenter’s film, The Thing, about this opening chapter of Ends of the Earth, especially with its setting, remote base, something nasty frozen in the ice, and its themes of contaminated blood. I love this darker, more atmospheric, horror toned story, and I think Snyder and Jock have excelled themselves with this remarkable issue which splices story and art in such a way that it actually feels like it reads more like prose than a comic book – Steve Wands uncanny use of lettering makes every word leap from the page. It’s great to have Scott Snyder and Jock working on a Batman book again. No question about it, All Star Batman #6 is a must-read issue, with its terrific cover by Jock, as well as a Jock Variant cover , and Francavilla Variant, this issue sets the stage from one of Snyder’s most compelling story-arcs to date!

Publisher DC Comics

Writer Scott Snyder / Art Jock

Colors Matt Hollingsworth / Letterer Steve Wands

The Cursed Wheel Part 5 written by Scott Snyder with art by Francesco Francavilla

Cover Jock / Jock Variant / Variant Cover Francesco Francavilla

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