Written by Joel T. Lewis
With all the continuity shake-ups of the DC universe over the last 10 years or so it has been a daunting task to enter that comic book universe for me. With 'Flashpoint', 'New 52' and now 'Rebirth' there have just been too many titles shuffling too many threads of too many storylines for me to grab ahold of anything with any confidence. Then I heard about All-Star Batman. The first issue was described to me as a madman’s road trip with Harvey TwoFace and Batman. Sign. Me. Up.
Two-Face may have gone too far. In the aftermath of a Gotham-wide spout of acid rain leaving thousands of Gothamites suffering from severe burns, Batman decides to take Two-Face across state lines to an unknown location rather than letting him manipulate the criminal justice system again. This scheme was suggested by Two-Face’s other personality Harvey Dent who wants to be rid of Two-Face once and for all. But, little does Batman know that Two-Face has put out a bounty on Batman, threatening to reveal every scrap of dirt he's accumulated on the citizens of Gotham if someone doesn't prevent Batman from relocating Two-Face. Seconds after this is revealed the BatPlane is shot out of the sky and a quick aerial hop turns into a road trip scenario. Cue a roadside diner brawl starring Batman, Killer Moth, Firefly, and Black Spider complete with some killer Batman quips and chainsaw sculptures. Rest assured I am not exaggerating and it is glorious.
The artwork is sleek and crisp, and villain and hero alike leap off the page as you read. I was particularly struck by the character designs for the Fly, Moth, and Spider themed villains as they flew through panels and window panes. Being bad never looked quite so good as Batman trades blows with Black Spider. Also the hooded Two-Face that we meet aboard the BatPlane builds up tension and mystery that pays off in a big way when he is finally unveiled on the ground. His sheet mask mirrors how he sees the world: there is a thin veil of humanity that everyone hides behind. Underneath that thin veil, like his thin sheet, lies a dark core capable of monstrous things.
Apart from nailing the philosophy and tone of Two-Face’s character and the killer twist at the end of the issue, All-Star Batman captures the spirit of a road trip that I sincerely hope continues throughout the series. You feel like you've been in this roadside diner, and driven passed tacky chainsaw sculptures like these on every cross-country outing your parents dragged you along for. If this issue is any indication there is a lot to be excited for in the coming months as All-Star Batman continues. It's not often that we get to see Batman out of Gotham, in broad daylight , and in such intimate proximity to one of his most dangerous foes. Writer Scott Snyder gives us all that and more as the panels unfold with cinematic timing; jumping between the present and just before slowly revealing more details of the plot.
Further, Snyder’s take on Batman breathes new life into a character that can be a bit one-note at times. Too often we are presented with a dark and brooding Batman who carries the weight of his crusade for justice in every panel, but Snyder gives us a hero who seems like he actually enjoys being Batman and that’s quite refreshing. He quips, he innovates, and he is present during combat in a way that I haven’t seen before. Typically Batman will dispatch a room full of goons with surgical precision and an emotionless demeanor whereas All-Star Batman is almost as talkative as Spiderman. I haven't read a Batman comic in quite a while but boy is it good to be back!