All-Star Batman #6
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Jock and Matt Hollingsworth
Letters by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Just because the first arc of All-Star Batman is over doesn’t mean the Dark Knight gets to return to his familiar stomping grounds of Gotham City. Far from it, in fact - All-Star Batman #6 continues the trend of the Caped Crusader traversing through unfamiliar territory, with our hero braving the harsh, frozen tundra of Alaska, 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
From the moment All-Star Batman #6 begins, it’s abundantly clear that writer Scott Snyder isn’t delivering a typical comic book. Sure, there are panels housing sequential art. However, the story essentially plays out in the form of prose, layered over the art to make the issue feel more like a compelling novel. But make no mistake, this is still very much a Batman tale, with the Dark Knight eventually making his way to the lair of arguably the most chilling (pun intended) version of Mr. Freeze we’ve seen in years. Snyder’s writing style definitely plays a large part in this, using the prose to his benefit by adding descriptive elements to the narrative that paint an eerie and frightful picture of Freeze in the reader’s head before he even appears on panel (“And then that voice - more a transmission than a voice”). When you read this, and then the subsequent dialogue, “Welcome, Batman…,” you can practically hear the deafening, robotic nature of Freeze’s voice in your head - something that’s far more difficult to achieve with traditional comic book writing.
As the issue progresses, Batman pleads with Freeze, warning him of an impending attack meant to incinerate his base of operations. It’s not just Freeze that needs saving, though. As Victor explains to Batman, he has awoken an army of people that have been held in deep cryogenic stasis, hoping to use them to secure the resources he needs to complete his research and revive his wife, Nora. As with most Mr. Freeze stories, this is a familiar plot point. Still, the methods Freeze has resorted to are far more disturbing than most previous depictions of the character, adding a new layer of sinister to the longtime Batman villain. Much like Two-Face in the previous arc, Snyder is once again reinventing a classic member of the Caped Crusader’s rogues gallery, and staying true to his word that All-Star Batman is very much a villain-centric title.
In addition to the villains, Snyder also promised All-Star Batman would be centered around the artists he works with, and this issue definitely delivers on that promise. Previously providing variant covers for the series, Jock brings his talents to the interiors of this issue, with a gritty, somewhat minimalist style that perfectly captures the tone of this story, which takes place in the brutal emptiness of the Arctic.
The panel layouts are simple yet effective, leaving plenty of room for Snyder’s prose. In some cases, more unique approaches are taken, such as a line of text cascading across a black wire in Freeze’s base. Letterer Steve Wands makes excellent use of the negative space, as well, using varying font sizes to ensure perfect balance. It’s also interesting to see Wands use a serif font to further distinguish the book from a standard comic book, enhancing the aforementioned novel feel of the story. It’s sometimes easy to overlook the lettering in a comic book, but in this case, Wands’ typography makes pages feel like posters.
What really brings the aesthetics to life, though, is Matt Hollingsworth’s color art. The heavy use of whites and pale blues result in a dynamic display of contrast against the dark background imagery. The use of pink for Freeze’s dialogue to mirror the pink of the thick lenses of his goggles is a great way to distinguish the speech of the two characters, and also speaks to Freeze’s overall demeanor. He’s a man that sees the world through rose-colored glasses, believing he’s doing the right thing in order to save his wife.
As the story comes to a close, we see that the World’s Greatest Detective was once again prepared for the worst, bringing in a heat-based virus to subdue Freeze. The dichotomy of heat versus ice is a beautiful reflection the poetic nature of the narrative, and further solidifies just how profound a story this is. The narration is an essential part of the issue, perhaps even more so than the dialogue, as it flows step for step alongside the art and lettering to form a complete and dynamic piece of literature that you can be proud to place in there longbox. The prose style of writing may not work for everyone, especially if you’re a new reader, but this is without a doubt one of the deepest Batman stories Snyder has delivered yet.