All Star Batman #4 Review

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Posted November 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

All Star Batman #4 is kind of a weird book to read. In fact, it has been since it kicked off earlier in the summer. The reason for that is fairly simple – it takes place in continuity (at least as far as I know) and yet feels like an Elseworlds story. Actually, I think that that is the optimal way to read this book. Because one of my biggest concerns, not only about Scott Snyder and John Romita Jr’s My Own Worst Enemy, but also concerning The Cursed Wheel; is that they won’t have any lasting impact.

I mean, such is the way of superhero comics. Status quos rarely change, and when it looks like they do, it’s often just clever misdirection. It’s made it difficult for me to actually respond to superhero books in the same ways I used to. As a result of its unique and tone and feel, though, All Star solves that problem. In that respect, I actually find it to be quite similar to Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman and Gene Luen Yang’s New Superman. Coincidentally, those were also books that came out this week.

That being said, All Star is beginning to lose me. Plot wise, I’m still pretty invested. I absolutely love that Snyder is taking advantage of being outside of Gotham for this story. A simple change in setting has worked wonders in making this book stand out from the rest of the Bat books. Bruce is very much out of his element, and it’s nice to see him in a position of vulnerability, both literally and on an emotional level.

Yes, I know I lead into that last paragraph sounding like I was going to critique the book, and instead I went on to discuss something I really love about the book. Quality writing right there.

In all seriousness though, that is also where the book is starting to lose me. There’s a sense that Snyder is reluctant to actually push the boundaries of what he can do, because it always seems like Batman has the answers. I get that Batman is the type of character that is prepared for any situation, but it doesn’t make for particularly interesting stories. There’s never really a sense of danger, because every time he’s put in an unwinnable situation, he deus ex machinas his way out of it.

Now, this can be written in such a way that it suits the narrative, and Snyder is so close to that point. There just isn’t a high enough degree of self-awareness to the book to leave me thinking that it’s clever commentary on the character, or even chuckling at how goofy it is. Which makes All Star Batman #4 kind of a frustrating read, because it’s on the brink of being there. The writing is just a little bit too clunky to actually get over the hump.

Again, reading All Star as an Elseworlds book does help alleviate some of those complaints, at least for me. From my perspective, there’s a little bit more room for this kind of storytelling in an Esleworlds book.

Also, there are a lot of things I do really like about All Star. Snyder’s toying with the universe is fun to see, especially when it comes to his relationship with Two Face. I wish it didn’t feel so exposition dump-y at points. This issue is a major improvement over last month’s in that area, at least, which is nice. And of course, calling Batman’s relationship with the populous into question is a really cool angle that’s looking to get really paid off. It’s a bit on the nihilistic side, and the book skirts the line of being too grim-dark for my liking. But it never crosses that line, so I don’t ever feel completely turned off by the book’s tone.

Art wise, I’m still in the camp of this being John Romita Jr’s best work to date. There are a few panels that are kind of jarring, but his style fits the story Snyder is telling. I expect that the story was actually catered to play to Romita’s strengths, and the result has been plenty of rad, kinetic actions sequences. So even though Batman finding ways to get out of every imaginable situation is annoying, at least it’s really cool to watch unfold.

As for The Cursed Wheel… well… my thoughts on that are pretty mixed. It was actually the part of the book I was more excited about early on, but it’s failed to be the deep dive into the lore of the Bat-family I had hoped for. Instead, it’s basically just a Thomas Duke story. Which is fine, because it’s doing some neat things with the character (like, y’know, fleshing him out). I just wish there was a bit more there. And who knows, we could be building towards that. It just hasn’t resonated with me the way I feel like it should.

Overall, I’m not entirely sure I can recommend All Star Batman. It isn’t quite living up to the promise of the first couple issues, and yet, there are parts of it I’m really enjoying. It’s just that those parts aren’t being pushed far enough. There’s a really original, quirky Batman story in here somewhere. It’s just not quite showed its face yet.


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.