Over the past year or so, several major events have taken place in Batman comics: Europa, Last Crusade, Rebirth; the list goes on and on. Some of the biggest names in comics have released some of the most talked about Batman stories in nearly a decade, and every single one has failed to exceed expectation. Now I make mention of this because it segues perfectly into my mindset toward All-Star Batman. Now, like any true fan of the Dark Knight, I was over the moon to learn that Scott Snyder would be making his return to the cape and cowl; however, based on the precedent being set by his contemporaries at the time, I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t just a tad apprehensive. I guess you could say I was hoping for sunshine but prepared for rain. After reading issue #2 of All-Star Batman, it saddens me to say that the sun is definitely not shining in Gotham City; grab your umbrellas because it’s pouring cats and dogs. Snyder has abandoned continuity altogether. We left off with Batman and Two-Face having only travelled one mile in a transport truck, and the Gentleman Ghost hanging off the back like a ship’s stowaway. The story picks up some 150 miles down the road and offers absolutely no explanation as to what happened in-between; rather Batman is thrown full tilt into the middle of an Old-West-style train-fight between Killer Croc, King Shark, and Amygdala. Now, this isn’t me complaining about seeing a lack of resolution/confrontation with a very C-list Batman rogue (and in all honesty, the train fight is pretty cool) but if you aren’t going to offer any insight or reason behind a character’s appearance in the story, why cast them at all? Also, why are Batman and Two-Face just suddenly on a moving train? Where did Croc come from? What happened to the truck!? So much is constantly being thrown at you at all times throughout the issue, it’s hard to stay grounded. Snyder’s out-of-the-blue multi-angled approach makes reading All-Star Batman feel like you’re looking at the ledger of an attention deficit eight-year-old, recalling his day at Disney World. The excitement is evident, the love is endearing, but making sense of the content is something else entirely. Speaking of making sense of the content: can someone please explain to me Alfred’s whole “child version” of Two-Face vs. “parent version”? That flew completely over my head.
I apologize if this next part sounds like griping or nit-picking (maybe it is) but quite frankly I don’t care. I understand that Scott Snyder has been writing Batman for years. I know that after a while there is really only so much you can do with the classic rogues, and then you start dealing with people harping “Oh, another Joker story?” I also understand that Scott Snyder and I come from two different eras of Batman; the villains he remembers aren’t necessarily the ones that I attach sentiment to and vice-versa. It would be, of course, more than understandable to assume that his favourite B-List/C-List villains would be different from mine. Ok – that’s more than enough due credit given. Sorry to say, Scott, but KGBeast is a terrible, terrible choice for a Batman foil. He’s satirical, laughable, and to assert that this relic from the Cold War era is a more formative, decorated assassin than both Deathstroke and Deadpool is ludicrous. With any luck issue #3 will simply follow suit with its predecessor, white-wash over the fight scene entirely and we can just pick up randomly down the road with Batman tied to the tracks by the Clock King or something equally pernicious.
Taking the notion of abandoning continuity a step further, I am still not exactly sure what to think about Snyder’s epilogue (that’s actually a prologue?) with Declan Shalvey “The Cursed Wheel.” Is it even a prologue to “My Own Worst Enemy”? How will it feed into the main plot? Does anyone even care? I’m sorry – I just can’t stand Duke Thomas and that stupid suit. I never thought I would encounter a character I that hated more than Damian Wayne, so congratulations, Scott Snyder – you did it. Adding to the problem is Declan Shalvey’s art being all too forgettable, uninspired and boring. There’s very little attention to detail in his pages; nothing unique or distinctly memorable at all. Snyder and Shalvey need to tighten up the screws because right now, “The Cursed Wheel” is seriously dreadful to have to endure and the worst part of All-Star Batman.
Well, maybe not the worst part… Come on, I got this far but did you actually think you could get through this review with me making no mention whatsoever of the "art" of John Romita, Jr.? Wrongo. So let me just first get the obvious out-of-the-way: yes it’s bad. Progressively worse in fact than the first issue as old JRJr is up to his old, lazy, Playmobil-character-rendering tricks again. I feel redundant saying this because it’s a quip everyone doles out but seriously: just look at the scale of how he draws hands in comparison to heads - it drives me insane! And do you notice how block-like his characters are? I don’t understand Snyder’s desire for this collaboration one bit. I don’t deny that JRJr isn’t a talented artist in his own rite; issue #1 certainly had some pages/moments that were truly excellent. However, in issue #2 it just got harder and harder to find good talking points or any real merit at all, artistically speaking. It’s no secret that Romita Jr. has carried a somewhat negative reputation with him these past few years regarding his art, and if I could say nothing else about the art in All-Star Batman #2, I would say that it’s consistent with that reputation.
So yes, I didn’t exactly have the kindest things to say about All-Star Batman. Everyone knows I hold the World’s Greatest Detective to the highest level of scrutiny but in truth, this is a series that is going to turn around. Right now, though - it’s a mess. There are more timelines than the CW’s The Flash, and the art of John Romita Jr. is nothing but a total detriment to Scott Snyder’s writing and storytelling capabilities. The only saving grace allowing me to push on is that soon JRJr will be gone, and someone new will be there to pick up the slack concerning the art. That being said, another huge element missing from All-Star Batman is Snyder’s signature narrative style; we’ve heard absolutely nothing of Batman’s inner monologue throughout the entire series thus far. Snyder’s strength has always been his unquestionable ability to project the inner voice of Batman to his readers, allowing us insight into the plot and the inner workings of Batman’s mind, without that we’re all just stuck looking at the awkward renderings of JRJr. So if I could say anything to Scott Snyder, it would be this: if you’re going to force us to looks at JRJr’s pages, at least give us some more extensive dialogue to help fill the gaps in the months to come.
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All-Star Batman #2 Writer: Scott Snyder Artists: John Romita Jr. & Declan Shalvey Publisher: DC Comics Price: $4.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital