All-Star Batman #3
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by John Romita Jr., Danny Miki, Dean White, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
After Scott Snyder’s defining run on Batman during the "New 52," it was anybody’s guess where the writer would take the Dark Knight next. As it turns out, Gotham City was only the beginning, and Snyder was ready to test the World’s Greatest Detective by taking him out of his urban comfort zone.
With John Romita Jr. handling art duties, Snyder is able to explore Batman’s rogues in a different way, and the “My Own Worst Enemy” arc sees a redefinition of Two-Face. Snyder has been careful to mention that he’s not changing accepted origins, mostly just expanding and morphing them to bring added intrigue. In the third chapter of the arc, Snyder ups the ante and fleshes out the back story while bringing a balance of action and exposition that is deftly handled.
Let’s talk about John Romita, Jr. first. His work here is violent and moody in ways that we haven’t seen during his tenure at DC. While he is one of the highest-profile artists working in comic books today, his approach was never quite suited for Superman and coupled with underwhelming scripts, the art was never truly able to reach its full potential. The world of Batman is much different. Similar to the street-level heroes that Romita has really thrived on, there’s a gritty gutsiness to Batman that plays to Romita’s strengths. Snyder is sure to include an imposing combatant in the form of the KGBeast that requires Bruce to pull out every trick in his utility belt not just to win, but just to survive at all. That’s where Romita’s fight choreography really comes into play. Quick cuts lead to a sort of brutal efficiency that really helps communicate just how dire the situation is for Batman.
I think I prefer Danny Miki’s inks to Klaus Janson’s, as well. While Miki doesn’t have as much of the big name appeal of Janson, he doesn’t hesitate to spot his blacks when it's needed. It creates great contrast for colorist Dean White to work and it helps set the flashback sequences apart from the main narrative visually.
Snyder’s script is like the narrative equivalent of the bus from Speed. The pedal is always to the metal, and it won’t slow down for anything. From the KGBeast’s intensity to Oswald Cobblepot’s sheer villainy and then the sudden inclusion of a rarely-seen character, Snyder’s script might seem very expensive but it’s laser-focused. Flashback scenes give us a look into Bruce and Harvey’s past, deepening the parallels in their stories and strengthening the emotional core of every story they’ve been a part of.
That’s what make All-Star Batman an essential title in DC’s "Rebirth" era. Rather than ruminate about the importance of the various aspects of the Batman world as he did during the "New 52," Snyder is committed to telling stories that are fun for uninitiated readers but have real emotional weight for seasoned fans as well. By diving into the depths of these characters, they stop being surface-level metaphors and they become fully realized characters whose actions have very real implications for everyone they interact with. This also allows Snyder to define Duke’s role in the Batman universe as well. There have been plenty of Robins throughout DC history and Duke is the least clearly understood of the bunch because he’s so recent.
With the main narrative as well as the “Cursed Wheel” backup (which features gorgeous Declan Shalvey art), Snyder lays the groundwork for a take on Robin that we’ve never seen before: one who pushes back, asks questions and is treated as an equal by Batman even throughout the learning process.
All-Star Batman works in tandem with the other titles in the Bat family to create a really complete picture of the world of the Batman. This is definitely the strongest that the line has been in a while and where the main Batman title might be the brain, All-Star is the heart, pumping lifeblood elsewhere in the line when needed. These stories feel like the essential takes on certain characters that we saw with Batman: The Animated Series. While the medium is different, the idea that these arcs deepen the established roles and continuity of these characters is really powerful. Not many other families of titles can claim to have an emotional core that keeps evolving. Add to that the fact that Snyder has a murderer’s row of talent joining him on the title, and you’ve got one of the best books currently running in superhero comic books today.