"Batman has always been a character who demands your best" ~Scott Snyder
Surprise! I know I've said I only plan on reading and reviewing Tom King's series for Batman, but I decided to mix it up and add this other Bat-title on the rundown because why not? It's no secret at this point that I'm a Snyder loyalist, I must admit, and I'm very pleased that he is still writing Batman to this day and within a story premise that may prove to be less gritty and more entertaining and fun than what I'm used to from Snyder's writing and interpretation of the character. I don't think Snyder can give up Batsy that easy hence this off-beat series which promises road trips in line with a different villain to focus on for every character-centric arc. I'm down with that because Batman has the best rogues' gallery ever and I want to be reminded once more what makes them great in the first place. For this first issue, we have Harvey Dent, more notoriously known as Two-Face.
I'm reviewing a single issue, in case you didn't realize that the covers I featured above for this review are the variant colors for the first issue. It's my new thing now. I plan on posting all covers for an issue just to compare them side-by-side.
With the talents of John Romita Jr., Dean White and Danny Miki for pencils, inks and colors respectively, the first issue for All Star Batman entitled My Worst Enemy has been a mixed bag of awesome potentials and sporadic moments that baffled me all throughout. Visually speaking, it was a feast for the eyes. Everything looked vibrant and dynamic for every page, which definitely made the pacing more engaging and very action-oriented in spite of how much of Snyder's writing in general (including his dialogue) suffers expository indulgence. I definitely liked the opening sequence at the diner with Firefly and Killer Moth's attack on Batman. There was something endearingly Western about the entire tone and setting of that opener which I appreciated.
Otherwise, it's an uneven issue overall, but I blame it mostly on the needless time skips and flashbacks. As soon as I finished reading, I decided to re-read again but this time by following a more chronological sequence---and it made more sense! So I can only imagine that choosing a flashback device was just a gimmicky move for Snyder and co. which he isn't above doing, really. Still, when he had used that before in his own Batman flagship run, it was more cohesive. Here for All Star Batman, it just felt sloppy. That is my first complaint about the narrative for this issue. If Snyder just stuck to a linear progression, this issue would have been fine. Still, it didn't take away from the intriguing premise concerning Batman and Two-Face.
Now I've always found Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent's relationship to be layered and poignant, and I also have every confidence that Snyder can deliver some emotionally resonant punches later on as this arc progresses. One of the most interesting revelations in this issue is the fact that Two-Face is color blind in his left eye. There's a metaphor about it that's poetic. Batman's decision to bring Dent/Two-Face upstate somewhere to help restore his sanity should provide readers some twisted and amusing road-trip shenanigans, especially since Dent is making it unreasonably difficult for Batsy to do this. As it turns out, Dent has garnered more connections in the criminal underworld which also made him privy with everyone's business. This enables him to emotionally blackmail people into stopping Batman's mission to go upstate and free Dent from captivity by announcing he can reveal everyone's secrets for all the public to know. I think that's the basic gist of it. That explains why even simple civilians like the ones at the diner impeded Batman's escape with Dent. Before we go on, here's a cool panel of Batsy stalking the fields:
And now for my second complaint which might be a small nitpick: what is up with Duke Thomas, really? I don't want to jump into the bandwagon of Not Giving New Characters A Chance, but what has he done to deserve such a crucial role for the Rebirth Batman storyline anyway? I don't think he has earned his place beside Batman nor has he really grown and developed into a character I can honestly say is one I will actively root for from this point on. Correct me if I'm wrong but was he also the one who helped Bruce Wayne remember who he was back in Superheavy arc when his entire identity had been erased? How the hell did a complete stranger manage to do that? I might be misremembering a few details because I've been away for so long, but Duke Thomas certainly left no impression on me while I was reading Endgame or Bloom. But he's here now and I just have to get on with it? Look, all we're told is that he's just a good kid who is capable of becoming a part of Batman's crusade, and yet the readers are not shown as to WHY and HOW that is the case. He just shows up in Rebirth issue one day and accepts Batman's offer to become 'something better' than Robin. Excuse me, but what in the name of Mary Poppins' frock does that even mean, 'something better'?
First of all, that's very rude and an outright disservice for what all each Robin stood for as Batman's partner that went beyond being his underage sidekick. I know Duke Thomas must soon play an important role later on since all this hype about his character makes me believe that this will be the case, but can we all calm the fuck down and desist telling readers so early that he is 'something better' than Robin? That's a shitty thing to say about a character who has been a part of the Batman mythos for a very long time. I also don't think Snyder is giving his original character a fair fighting chance to prove himself as one day becoming awesome with his own making by just declaring him as someone above the Robin title already. Let Duke Thomas grow and develop as a hero I want to root for, much like Peter J. Tomasi did when he wrote Damian Wayne.
And yes, I still maintain that I am a Snyder loyalist but the biggest fan can also be the harshest critic. That's how much Scott Snyder as a Batman writer means so much to me; I truly want him to give his best for a character like Batman who deserves it the most, and so I would point out things I feel he must work on to improve his story for All Star Batman. I only want him to succeed.
There's also a backup story called The Cursed Wheel whose pencils and colors I actually prefer more than Romita Jr.'s work, surprisingly enough. I don't have much to say about this story yet since it's in its initial stages, and also because Duke Thomas is here again and I'm still pretty salty about this character for now. Anyway, I have only the highest hopes for All Star Batman. There are weaknesses here to overcome for the narrative's approach but I can't wait to read more of the next issues to see how Snyder will improve upon this debut issue. I'm certain he has more surprises up his sleeve! Like a chainsaw-wielding Batsy!