Writer Scott Snyder goes for the unpredictability that the second half of his Batman run was known for in the debut and premise of All-Star Batman. The comic is good in a general sense but it doesn’t reach the heights of his iconic Batman run is its first issue.
All-Star Batman #1 follows the hero as he attempts to take the villain Two Face to a house that can allegedly cure him of his split personality. But Two Face has other plans as he put’s a bounty on Batman that almost everyone is willing to chase, including some of his closest confidants. There’s a lot of Snyder in this debut from it’s monologues and reflection that’s become a hallmark of the writers comics work. Yet the premise of the books plot feels as if it’s stretching the limits of it’s own internal logic and probability. Aspects of the story feel as if they exist purely as contrivance to create the books unique set up. How does Two Face have information on everybody? How can he access three other crime families fortune to give up as a reward? If he’s made this public to everyone in the state of Gotham, wouldn’t the crime families just move the money to a different holding source that Two Face doesn’t know about? It’s distracting and mostly useless as the books best parts have little to do with plot details and instead, focus on the visceral action and suspense of Batman trying to outrun everyone that is gunning for him via the weird yet dynamic visual storytelling of John Romita Jr.
Romita Jr has a singular polarizing style that is unlike anything else in comics. While his figure work can feel stiff and blocky, he’s a master at creating bold and lively action sequences that are deceptively detailed and a joy to explore. In that way, the basic conceit of All-Star Batman’s story is nearly perfect for Romita Jr. strengths. He’s aided by former Batman inker Danny Miki and frequent Romita collaborator Dean White greatly. White especially has a special chemistry with Romita when they work together. His colors are all bright yet hazy contrasts that blend into one another. White’s colors benefit Romita so well in that it amps up his hyper cartoonishness while giving the work a hint of surrealism. Superstar art team Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire provide a back up comic that stands in sharp contrast to Romita’s for it’s relative realism. The first part of an ongoing story from the perspective of Duke Johnson, it has Snyder leaning back on his roots in horror fiction and is feels far more focused then it’s predecessor.
All-Star Batman has a lot of promise and it will be interesting to see where it goes. The core concept of Batman on the run tends to work more often then not and it’s exciting to see Snyder try it with Romita Jr and co. It doesn’t totally work but it’s enough to warrant consideration for what sounds like a fascinating series going forward.