All Star Batman #1 Review

Posted August 10, 2016 by Jean-Luc Botbyl in Comic Books

Written by: Scott Snyder

Art by: John Romita Jr, Danny Miki & Dean White (My Own Worst Enemy); Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire (The Cursed Wheel)

Publisher: DC Comics

A few months ago, I came home to my family after finishing my first year of university. Within a few days, I had also reconnected with my high school friends. All of this lifted my spirits, and filled me with nothing but joy. Sitting down and reading All Star Batman #1 was a comparable experience. It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve read something new from Scott Snyder, and now that his new book is finally here, I can say with resounding confidence that it was more than worth the wait.

I’m not quite ready to say that it’s on par with some of his best work on Batman (Black Mirror, Death of the Family, Court of Owls, etc),  but based solely on this issue, it’s on the right track. This issue legitimately sees Snyder doing what he does best. It sets up an intriguing mystery, but the issue is defined by the character moments and dynamics. Batman seems to come naturally to Snyder, and he makes writing the character seem easy.

The thing is, the Batman that’s being written in All Star doesn’t read like the Batman Snyder wrote for nearly five years. There’s a little bit more levity to this version of the character, which is a welcome addition. Considering that this story is superhero ridiculousness nearly at its peak, it makes sense that Snyder is having some fun writing it. Of course, that isn’t to say the story is without depth. The exploration of Batman and Two Face’s relationship is incredible, and I’m really looking forward to reading more of it.

Also, this issue sees Snyder playing around with narrative structure a little bit. The non-linear narrative is a nice break from what pretty much every other DC book is doing right now. It actually works too, which is nice. The cuts always seem to go from quieter moments to the action sequences, and they work pretty well. I mean, I had to read the issue through twice to fully get the sequencing, but I was probably going to read it a second time anyways.

Perhaps the kindest thing about Snyder’s writing in this issue is that he illustrates restraint. He’s never been one to overwrite, but I really like the choice to move away from internal monologues entirely. The result is that we’re shown nearly everything that happens, rather than told about it retrospectively. There are a few panels where the exposition gets to be a bit much, but I’m fairly sure that’s just a result of this being a debut issue. Still, those moments stand out because of how well the rest of the dialogue is crafted.

The most important part about all of this is that it gives John Romita Jr, Danny Miki, and Dean White a ton of room to do their thing. And they do it really well, so I’m all for allowing them to get as much page space as possible. There are entire pages and sequences of panels that have either zero or minimal dialogue, and they work really well because of the art. Adding more words would only serve to clutter up the page, and cover up the incredible work being done here.

On the topic of art, this may be my favorite work that Romita Jr has done. Danny Miki’s inks definitely help, but I do really think that Romita is doing career defining pencil work in this issue, and perhaps this entire story. The action sequences are portrayed with a kinetic force that many artists fail to capture, and even in the quieter moments (of which there are very few), his work accentuates the script. I really don’t have any issues with the art, and the entire team does great work on the visuals.

Being almost 700 words deep, I’m going to try to keep my thoughts on the backup story, The Cursed Wheel, brief. The art team does some great work, but that’s to be expected of Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire. Bellaire’s colors draw a clear contrast with the main story, and The Cursed Wheel actually seems a lot more fun. It is a bit more overwritten, due to not having as much page space. Still, Shalvey and Bellaire get a ton of room to breathe, and their art really shines. Plus, the story seems to be the first really interesting dive into Batman’s relationship with Thomas Duke.

But yeah, I really need to wrap up this review. The long and short of the first issue of All Star Batman is this: it’s excellent. Considering pretty much everyone enjoyed Snyder’s past Batman work, I can’t imagine the audience for this series will feel any differently. Because, as it turns out, Snyder still writes great characters and attracts some of the best artists in the business.

About the Author

Jean-Luc Botbyl

Jean-Luc is a grizzled veteran of We the Nerdy. Most days, he just wonders why he hasn't been formally fired. Follow him on Twitter at @J_LFett to make him feel validated.