The “All-Star” moniker is both a blessing and a curse. With All-Star Superman, Morrison and Quietly managed to transcend the traditional conceptions of Clark Kent and create a modern classic. On the other hand, with the former All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, Lee and Miller created an embarrassment to the medium. This latest book quickly turned into one of the most hyped titles to come from the DC Rebirth project. How could it not be? Scott Synder is one of the architects behind the great modern Batman run. At this point, Synder could claim to be the Dark Knight himself and people would buy into it. Thankfully, the extensive creative team of All-Star Batman ensure that the title lives up its potential.
This time around the main story focuses on a much discussed road-trip wherein a lucid message from Harvey Dent compels Batman to take Two-Face across the country and deliver him to an unspecified location. Bruce’s reasoning is as much as mystery to his allies as it is the readership, though it’s hinted that the trip may allow Dent to resurface full-time. Two-Face, to make things interesting, puts out a bounty on the Bat to ensure that they never reach this mysterious end-goal. Villains clash like a scene from Rat Race as the secrets that others would rather remain hidden are threatened. The nature of secrets is that they can have a corrupting power over us, and, as one twist demonstrates, those closest to us can be fundamentally changed by them. All-Star Batman is the tragic story of a man trying to help a friend lost within himself as the world slowly turns against him.
John Romita Jr., one of my artist crushes, does a superb job in illustrating the imposing figure of Batman. Romita’s Batman is a powerful and intimidating presence with a seemingly inhuman speed for a man of his size. The infamous “deadline style” is in full effect, but that doesn’t take away from the emotion that each panel conveys. Indeed, the dynamic setting of this comics allows for Batman to be placed in unique situations which provide a fascinating visual comedy to the story. This is contrasted with the horrifying visage of Two-Face.
Following the main feature, a back-up switches perspective to Duke Thomas, the not-Robin, as he engrossing himself in Batman’s training. It’s short and sweet like a serialised British comic, but it offers our first real glimpse into how Duke views his new partnership with Batman. Duke is struggling to come to terms with what he wants from their relationship. This instruction gives him the opportunity to be a hero, but it could also lead him down darker paths if he lets it. Leading to the central question this issue presents, “why you?” Synder goes to great lengths to emphasis that Duke is different from the Robins of the past, but whether that is a good thing remains to be seen.
The always wonderful Declan Shalvey provides the interior artwork for this backup, which is highly reminiscence of his Moon Knight work were it to be inverted. Shalvey, like the Caped Crusader, is the master of shadows and silhouettes. Yet, it is made more effective thanks to the fantastic colouring of Jodie Bellaire which commands your respect. This striking imagery, those piercing white eyes, show that one of the super-stars of the Irish creative scene is more than up to the task ahead.
Loaded with heart-wrenching twists and stunning visuals, this all-star creative team demonstrate that standalone books can be just as compelling as their continuity heavy cousins. All-Star Batman is the comic you need and the one you deserve.
A review copy was kindly provided by the publisher.