All-Star Batman #10
Written by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque and Rafael Scavone
Art by Rafael Albuquerque, Sebastián Fiumára, Jordie Bellaire and Trish Mulvihill
Lettered by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
No longer confined to Gotham City, Scott Snyder has used All-Star Batman as the opportunity to go on a cross-country tour of various locales and to showcase the Dark Knight’s rogues gallery. Yet while this book’s high points have been fueled by an ambition linked to a murderer’s row of artistic talent, this start of a new arc is more like an easy double than a grand slam, leading to an issue which offers something different, but not varied enough.
With this issue, Hush takes the spotlight, with Batman and Alfred in pursuit on the streets of Miami, alternating with a flashback set in London. Hush gets a rip-roaring chase sequence, but the issue is far more focused on Bruce and Alfred’s dynamic. Snyder often relies on first-person narrations with his stories, but this time, rather than seeing the world through Bruce, he climbs into Alfred’s head. Their dynamic is heart-warming, particularly when Alfred refers to the Dark Knight as his “son.” The dynamic is the core of the issue’s DNA, in both past and present, but also gives way to one of Snyder’s more frequently, perhaps even overused tropes - a secret from the past coming back to haunt the present.
Now, Snyder does subvert this to an extent, and if you aren’t aware of the premise of this arc, the twist of it all isn’t inherently telegraphed, nor out of nowhere, but it does feel similar to the hooks of previous arcs. Like the rest of those stories, this is competently delivered, the pace of the issue builds without requiring a sudden decline when the action slows, but for a series which has felt unrestrained by the familiar ebbs and flows of Gotham City, it’s a piece of baggage that didn’t necessarily need to be brought on this cross-country tour.
That same competency carries across to Rafael Albuquerque’s art in which the flow and motion of the storytelling is clear, but outside of close-ups, the art has a rough thumbnail-like texture to it, particularly in the figure-work. He’s also working with a new colorist here in Jordie Bellaire, and her mere presence on the book makes the art stronger that it would as line-work alone. The flashbacks in London have this wispy air to them, as if some smog of yore still hangs in the air, not to mention Albuquerque’s strongest line work of the issue, while Miami sees the colors pop. The best page in the book sees Alfred and Bruce talking, overlooking the skyline, and it’s like Collateral-era Michael Mann experimenting with lights, but this time, they’re disco lights.
Albuquerque also pulls double-duty here, being one half of the team writing the back-up story, which is about the Russian mafia and a man who would like you to call him Knockout. Albuquerque and Rafael Scavone don’t have a lot of space to work with, but it feels largely standard, especially in the way that Batman becomes involved in the story and that’s before the similarities to the main story are noted. Responsible for the art, Sebastian Fiumára and Trish Mulvihill are a stronger pair, and while there are some background elements which feel less defined, they’re able to blend brutality, shadow and light sources effectively.
This stands out because it feels different in an issue that otherwise feels surprisingly familiar, not solely because Snyder’s using one of his go-to narrative tools, but after the previous arc’s twisting of formal storytelling conventions, this brings us back down to earth with something that feels a more typical. Compared to the first arc, the narrative has a more solid foundation, but it doesn’t get the blood pumping like both of those have tried to. That said, based on the execution alone, All-Star Batman #10 will clearly appeal as a solid opener, but given the ambitions that have defined this title, I hope this arc will ramp up as we get deeper into the story.