All-Star Batman #2
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by John Romita Jr., Danny Miki, Declan Shalvey, Dean White and Jordie Bellaire
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
On the final page of All-Star Batman #1, Scott Snyder, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire proposed the idea of the quality of heroism or villainy being represented by colors. Using his past sidekicks and allies as examples, Batman tells one of his latest proteges Duke Thomas, “Dick leans blue. Damian, green. Barbara, purple. It’s a secret history that unites them, connects them and differentiates them.” Then on the first page of All-Star Batman #2, Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Bullock sit in a car outside of Wayne Manor and the lights of the sirens cast their hues on the cops, rotating blue and red. The opening page of the second issue immediately picks up on this idea of colors revealing character with a wild card color thrown in. Batman never said who or what was represented by red. Could it be another ally like Tim Drake or Cassandra Cain or could it be an enemy like the Joker or Two-Face? And what does it mean that Gordon and Bullock alternate between these colors?
The first story in All-Star Batman #2 continues Batman’s race to “that house,” where he believes a cure for Harvey Dent exists. With art by John Romita Jr., Danny Miki, and Dean White, Batman takes a beating from a number of second- and third-tier villains, all trying to rescue Two-Face and become the next crime king of Gotham City as their reward. The Two-Face/Harvey Dent and Batman relationship has been explored many times in the past, but this is the first time that Snyder has focused on Dent. With his previous stories, Snyder has focused on what made the villainy of the Court of Owls, the Joker, the Riddler or Mister Bloom twisted reflections of Gotham City. Unlike those villains who fought Batman for the heart and soul of the city, Two-Face fights for his own survival, using villains, civilians and even Batman’s allies against him as his weapons. Two-Face is fighting for his life, and he’s more than willing to play dirty by showing the two-faced nature of everyone else.
For a guy who for a long time was a Marvel Comics artist, John Romita Jr. is doing some career-best artwork in All-Star Batman #2. As a dedicated Jack Kirby disciple, Romita Jr. gives nearly every panel in this issue a feeling of power and force, The impact of the hulking punches that Batman absorbs in the first few pages is drawn with a lot of that raw Kirby-esque energy behind it. Even a brief fist fight between Two-Face and Batman has a physicality to it that highlights the brutal danger facing Batman on this road trip. Danny Miki’s clean inking and Dean White’s sunlit colors help establish that this is a Batman removed from Gotham City as you can practically smell the clean, rural air in this issue.
The second story, focused on Duke Thomas’ continuing superhero education, more resembles the type of Batman stories that Snyder previously told with artist Greg Capullo. With Shalvey and Bellaire, “The Cursed Wheel: Part 2” remains more Gotham-centric, and the darkness underlying this plot is more pervasive. As Snyder, Shalvey and Bellaire continue with Duke’s education, they also pick up on older plot element, particularly Duke’s parents, who are still infected by the Joker’s toxin. Shalvey and Bellaire bring a different texture to this issue than Romita Jr., Miki and White. The first story is rural and bright; this second story has a sinister tone to it thanks to the artwork.
The great thing that Snyder and his artists are doing in this title is creating two adventurous stories without making one just the “back-up story.” Shalvey and Bellaire’s story may technically be the back-up due to placement in the issue, but that story doesn’t feel any less significant than the Romita Jr./Miki/White production in the front of this issue. Thanks to the subtle interplay of themes as demonstrated on the first page of this issue, both stories play off of each other in fun ways. Particularly, the vividness that the two colorists bring to this issue creates a nice tension between the two stories, with White telling a sun-lit story while Bellaire practices her art in Batman’s usual home of the shadows of Gotham. There’s a colorful and visual give and take between the two parts of All-Star Batman #2 that bridges the different focuses of the two tales.