With this week's All-Star Batman #5, writer Scott Snyder has not only concluded his first story arc on the title, but he was able to show readers the type of dark yet humor-infused storytelling he wants to be able to play with in the new series.
And, in this final issue with artist John Romita Jr., Snyder tried to redeem Alfred Pennyworth after his betrayal of Batman earlier in the story.
The five-issue arc focused on Batman's relationship with Two-Face, adding a childhood friendship to their story while emphasizing the differences between the two characters.
Although the story went unabashedly over-the-top with Bat-gadgets and villain battles, Snyder says he's taking All-Star Batman in even more surprising directions in the next story arc.
Newsarama talked to Snyder about the story of All-Star Batman #5, why Alfred did what he did, and what comes next in the series.
Newsarama: Scott, you finally gave Alfred his moment to explain himself. Does it come down to him feeling like a father? Is that what drove him to do what he did - a father's love?
Scott Snyder: Yeah, that's the thing about Alfred. I think I relate to him almost more than I relate to any other character in the mythology sometimes. He is a father whose son does something that he doesn't want him to do, but respects tremendously. He's like an Army dad or the father of a police officer, where he admires what his son does.
But he fears for him every time he steps out the door. And I think here, that love gets the best of him, and ultimately, he winds up doing the wrong thing to protect Bruce.
It's a forgivable sin, but I think the thing that he's trying to say here is, there is some part of him that always wants to weigh Batman down, and wants Bruce just to be Bruce. And I think some of the stuff that he does here, whether subliminally or not, speaks to those urges.
It also speaks to what Two-Face has been saying during this arc, that we're a collection of needs and desires that we don't want to admit, and we hide things from each other and we hide our real face from the world.
But sometimes - like the thing that Alfred did - those things are forgivable and understandable. And I think Bruce knows that too.
At the end of the day, what I wanted him to realize - and the reason he keeps the coin instead of throwing it away - yes, you can kind of mint a coin so it's two-headed, so everything by force of will looks like it's heroic and people are the best versions of themselves. You can look at that and only see that. But when you see the ugliness in them too, and you see the struggles and the pain and the suffering, and the things they're hurting about, the reasons behind why they're acting badly, you only find what they do that's good to be even more heroic. When you understand that there are these other sides to them, you appreciate even more when they act in ways that you hope they will.
When they show up at the end and they do the right thing, it's even more admirable, because you understand the heart of it. You see the effort it takes to do the right thing.
Nrama: The story that Alfred tells - did he contact Two-Face to stop the Joker, or someone else and Two-Face found out?
Snyder: He contacted somebody through kind of his old MI-6 connections, but Two-Face knows everything criminal that ever happens in Gotham.
Two-Face always knew that Bruce was Batman - that was set up in the "New 52" - but he didn't have the proof. But when Alfred did that, Two-Face was like, "Oh, here we go. I see what Alfred is doing. He's taking money to pay for this hit and he's using this fund. Let me access that fund. Oh, in that fund, now I see."
So Two-Face broke in and saw all the designs that are there for the construction of the cave at the very beginning. So he got the material he needed if he ever wanted to blow Bruce's life up.
That's the idea - Alfred opened the door by going down the road where he almost committed a criminal act and put a hit out on Joker.
Nrama: But the cops couldn't find the Batcave. Instead, they found a sort of panic room. And there's that humor again, as someone called it a "man cave."
Snyder: It's fun, right? The "man cave" joke? That's one of my favorite lines, I think. The issue, I feel like it's one of the favorites I've done.
Nrama: I noticed that Batman used the word "bet," when he said he didn't think the people would attack him at the end. He's been betting on them throughout this arc.
Nrama: But why do you think they didn't attack?
Snyder: They just saw Beast about to kill them, aiming at them, and Bruce - even though they're going to kill him - is willing to throw himself off a cliff for them, because he still believes that on the other side of it, they're going to do the right thing.
In my initial draft, to be totally honest… in the initial draft, they actually show up to help. And it just felt false. And editorial was like, "They wouldn't just switch that quickly." So it was hard, because I didn't want it to be too dark, as they came to get him.
But the way it is now, I feel like it's more realistic and also more inspiring. It doesn't feel false. It feels like they come there, some of them, I'm sure, just to get Batman, but other ones are unsure of what they're going to do. But then when they see this person believing that you're going to do the right thing, to that extent, where you see him, like, throw his own body off a cliff to save you from the villain? I think it's just the shock of saying, "This person believes that much in me."
And that's what Batman does. He believes that we're heroes. He believes that we'll save ourselves rather than being able always to save us.
From "Superheavy," I think that short-circuits the way we're wired, to be selfish, to be self-interested.
Nrama: Harvey has been fighting with Two-Face for a long time, but with their final scene, you changed the stakes a bit. Why did it end this way for that character, and how does that change things going forward?
Snyder: Harvey has been hoping to wipe out Two-Face. But Two-Face, in revenge, was like, "I'll take this stuff and it'll wipe out Harvey and I'll take over, once and for all." It's an easy fix, where it just burns away the other half of the neurology.
Bruce believed Harvey was the stronger half, so he wanted to help him win this fight. But then he got there, he realized that Harvey isn't the stronger half, and Harvey's actually surrendered. He's not going to win the fight.
So what Bruce gives him essentially blocks him from ever doing the kind of thing he tried to do here. Two-Face will never be able to just remove Harvey. And Harvey will never be able to just burn away Two-Face.
Ultimately, the hope is that Harvey will take over and win and become the dominant personality. But Batman is not going to put an artificial fix in there.
He's basically saying, "You have to fight it. You have to do it yourself."
Nrama: Another element of humor comes at the very end, with this short scene where Batman tricks the villains.
Snyder: Yeah! It doesn't feel too humorous, does it? For the arc?
Nrama: No. It's unexpected, so I think that's why it works. You left things so open with the Beast character that I think it feels like it's actually him, and the unexpected twist is what works in that scene. The humor is just an added bonus.
Snyder: Well, we had one page left. John drew it, like, a page short. And when we realized it, he was kind of like, "Why don't we do a stinger?" And I was like, "Stinger, like, after the credits?" And I was like, "All right. All right. This will be fun."
And so I was just, like, well, we've got to do something funny. And then we came up with it together.
Nrama: And this was John's last issue. What comes next?
Snyder: Yeah, you know, I loved working with John - and with Dean [White, colorist] and Danny [Miki, inker]. I couldn't be more grateful to them. They were so terrific.
And even though we're not doing more issues right now on All-Star, we'll be back together to do some stuff really soon.
What comes next is, we're doing an arc - it looks like it's a one-shot, but it's actually a four-part story that culminates with issue #9, with Afua Richardson.
It starts with Freeze and Jock. And it takes place in the arctic.
Every part of this story is written really differently to fit the character, and to fit the feel of the story - but also to sort of speak to what I think the artist is really going for.
So the Jock story, he wanted it to feel like this kind of transmission from this dead, permafrost world. So I wrote it in prose over his art. It's kind of stamped onto the art, without balloons or captions.
It actually reads like a short story. I'm really proud of it. I think it's one of my favorite issues.
And then the second story sort of follows that with Ivy and Death Valley, in the desert. So it's the opposite landscape all together. And that's Tula Lotay. And that has a completely different structure and writing style. It's very empty, and there's no narration. It's kind of the opposite of the Jock story.
Then the third one takes place in the Everglades, and it's the Mad Hatter. And that's with Giuseppe Camuncoli. That one has narration, but it's different - it almost ends up attacking Batman (literally the words). It's really fun. It's all about madness.
But each one leads to the next. Like, the cataclysm that Freeze starts in the first one, you think Batman stops, but it actually gets out. So he's going to Ivy for a cure for what Freeze unleashed, and with Hatter, he's trying to react to the impending danger of the fact that what he got from Ivy might not work.
And in the fourth one, in #9, he realizes there's a bigger plan behind all of it, and he's in Washington, D.C., to kind of stop it.
And then after that, I'll be working with Sean Murphy, Rafael Albuquerque, and Paul Pope.
Nrama: Wow. This series has got to be a lot of fun for you. You're trying so many different things with so many different artists.
Snyder: It honestly is the most fun I've had in superhero comics. And I don't mean that in any way to mean, like, I've never had a better experience than I've had with Jock in the past or Greg Capullo. It's never been that I didn't have an enormous amount of fun working with those guys as partners. Or even the experience of working on Batman - it was the best experience of my life, work-wise.
There's just a constant pressure and a constant grind and constant expectation with the main Batman title. It's one giant, singular story, and you're always in conversation with yourself, and the last issue, and the issue before, and the arc before.
Here, it's almost like the chains are off, and you can kind of be going in any direction, with any artist, and with any villain.
And getting to work with all these artists, that couldn't be more fun.
The irony is that I'm sort of hard-wired and love stories that do get bombastic and culminate and are singular. So even though I don't have to do it anymore, I wind up doing it. So the four issues coming up are like one big arc that end with, almost, the end of the world and war-games and all this crazy stuff, like I always love doing.
But not having to do that? Like, not needing to do it? And not having it hanging over my head, to build an arc that will tie in to other books and all that kind of stuff? It gives me the freedom to do it however I want, and I just love it.