Scott Snyder is the reason I read comics. A lifelong fan of comic characters—specifically Batman—thanks to cartoons and movies, I never really got into reading the actual books when I was a kid. Then DC’s New 52 reboot came along, and I heard all the positive buzz surrounding Snyder’s work on Batman. It seemed like the perfect time to jump in so I picked the book up and, like everyone else in the known universe, I loved it.
Snyder’s Batman was my gateway into hardcore comics reading; from there I jumped into all kinds of books, to the point now where I probably need to cut back on a few just so I can keep plots straight in my head from month to month. Batman was the touchstone, though, the one book I made sure to read the day it came out every month, and it never once disappointed.
But all good things come to an end, and if Snyder had decided to make Batman #51 his last issue with the character I would have been sad, yes, but also content with the five years worth of amazing Batman comics I could revisit any time I wanted (not counting The Black Mirror, which is also great).
Lucky us, though, that Snyder decided to continue with the character. All-Star Batman is a series that will see Snyder teaming up with a staggering array of artists, from John Romita Jr. to Tula Lotay, in short arcs and single issues tackling villains that Snyder didn’t get the opportunity to play with in Batman.
First up is “My Own Worst Enemy” with artist Romita, inker Danny Miki, and colorist Dean White, which sees Batman leaving Gotham City and thrust into the light of day on a 500 mile road trip with Two-Face. Batman is trying to transport Two-Face to some kind of house designed by the Harvey Dent side of the dual personality, but the other side has different ideas.
Two-Face has put a bounty on Batman’s head that anyone, villain or common citizen alike, can claim. If someone stops Batman, they receive the combined wealth of all Gotham’s crime bosses, but if Batman makes it where he’s going, Two-Face will release all of the blackmail he has on a multitude of Gotham denizens.
There’s an Americana/western vibe to this story right from the get-go that I love. Batman is described as “the most wanted man in the state,” and the premise is set up like any number of classic Western stories, with Batman as the lone frontier lawman trying to bring his charge in to justice. Snyder also sets up what’s sure to be a fascinating debate between Batman and Two-Face over the next four issues. Two-Face is arguing that everyone has a villain inside them waiting to be unleashed, while Batman thinks that Harvey isn’t giving people enough credit.
After this first issue, Two-Face seems to have the upper hand in that argument. In addition to straight-up bad guys like Firefly and Killer Moth coming after him, Batman also gets held at gunpoint by some common diner-goers.
The most fascinating thing that happens in All-Star #1, though, is what happens with Alfred. In what I would call a catastrophically misguided attempt to protect Batman, Alfred actually shoots the Batplane out of the sky. Probably my favorite thing about Snyder’s time in the Batverse is how he’s absolutely nailed the relationship between Bruce and Alfred, so I can’t wait to see what happens when Bruce inevitably finds out what Alfred did.
*End Spoiler Warning*
I only really have one problem with this issue, and that’s a minor quibble about the art. There are a couple of occasions where, through a combination of apparently light inking and the use of very similar colors, some of the details in certain panels can be hard to make out and things look a little muddy. I want to stress that this is only a problem in a few panels; for bulk of the issue everyone’s work on the art team—from Romita through letterer Steve Wands—is superb. Romita’s designs for Two-Face and all the other villains are very cool, and Dean White does a great job of rendering Batman in a brighter daytime setting than we usually see him in.
While there’s actually a lot of action in All-Star #1, it’s still very much a setup issue for the rest of the arc; Two-Face and Batman only manage to make it one mile, after all. The big takeaway here is that Snyder still has an unerring handle on these characters, and on figuring out daring new situations to place them in. Future issues of “My Own Worst Enemy” would be exciting just on the promise of Batman and Two-Face’s ideological battle, but knowing that we’ll also get to see Snyder have fun with C- and D-list villains like Gentleman Ghost and KG Beast? Bring. It. On.
In addition to all of that there’s also a backup with art by Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire. It’s about Duke entering a new stage of his training under Batman, and while there’s not much to go on here yet, I love it. Why do I love it? Because it includes this:
As a diehard Batfan, the premise of what Snyder wants to accomplish with All-Star Batman is incredibly exciting. With All-Star Batman #1, Snyder proves that he and his all-star roster of artistic talent are more than up to the task of executing that vision—not that there was ever any doubt. I can’t wait to see what comes next, not only in the remaining issues of this first arc, but in the next year of stories Snyder has planned for us.