By Scott Snyder, John Romita JR, Danny Miki, Dean White, Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire and Steve Wands
The road trip is a tradition that spans through time and across the world. Its been captured and expressed through not only experiences, but books and movies as well. Everyone from Hunter S. Thompson to John Green have written about going out on the road. In comics we have creative teams like Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams throwing Green Arrow and Green Lantern together, who by no means see eye to eye, and sending them across America to help those in need. On the other hand, we have Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon who took three unlikely friends on a mission to find God. While trying to track him down they wind up on both costs, overseas in France. Even Heath Corson and Gustavo Duarte had Bizarro and Jimmy Olsen go on a road trip together with their pet Chupacabra Colin. Now Snyder with a bevy of some of the industry’s biggest art talents has decided that it’s his turn.
Snyder bring something new and different to the table for both himself and the character of Batman from the first page. “MILES TRAVELED: 0” are the first words in the first panel of this book. Now if you have been reading DC Comics in the last five years or so, more than likely Snyder is not a new creator to you. Meaning that most fans have some considerable mileage with Snyder going into this new title. Whether or not his work thus far has been enjoyable has to do with personal taste and preference, of course. However, the overall outlook is a positive meaning that the book already has a built-in audience. Regardless of what has come previously, Snyder makes a fresh start for new or returning readers when opening with an empty mile meter for the start of this new journey.
From the moment this book kicks off, there is this familiarity in the storytelling that’s comforting to fans of Snyder. The art may be different, but the characters sound the same, making this a little like visiting an old friend that got a haircut. The story itself has meter and a pulse that quickens with each passing page as characters continue to burst on scene and single panels make you questions what you thought you knew. A portion of the book is flashbacks and flashforwards spanning from minutes to weeks. With each sequence the stakes are raised and everything starts to becomes clearer. Once we understand what exactly Two-Face has done from a plot standpoint, it opens the doors for something that Snyder seems to like to do. So far it’s safe to say that when he can, Snyder really enjoys bringing underused and often forgotten villains into his stories. Sometimes to further plot, and other times just to make an appearance because it’s fun and they fit. The dialogue is easy to follow and each character has a cadence that feels like their own. It’s not only easy to keep up with who is speaking, but it also keeps it natural.
Romita Jr. is bringing his all to this book with gorgeous character design and striking layouts. Everything he draws looks and feels so gritty, but not in the way that normally gets associated with Batman. When most people think of Batman, the backdrop is Gotham’s dark alleyways, tall buildings, and the Bat Cave. But All-Star is set in rural upstate Gotham, and to be honest, it looks a bit like Iowa. But where else are you going to see Batman wielding a chainsaw and standing on a stack of logs, or in a standoff with the some early morning local folk? Romita Jr. brings some really good expressiveness to each face that he puts on the page and the variation in costumes and people in general really shows off his strengths. Danny Miki’s inks tighten Romita’s lines to add palpable heft and swift motions. Dean White’s colors are making everything on the page pop while still being able to show quiet moments like Batman walking through a field. There is a beautiful splash page of Two-Face and everything from his stance to the color of his clothes is just so texturally and tonally right. The tall grass around him and throughout the book has a rolling green and brown beauty to it that just screams rural America and really does look like you could be running through it. White also shows versatility and a keen sense of light source during flashback to Gotham and through various sequences that have both indoor and outdoor lighting.
The main story is an exciting take on a classic idea, but that’s not all we get out of All-Star Batman. The last eight pages of the issue are a back-up story titled “The Cursed Wheel.” From just this first short it seems like the back-ups will revolve around Duke’s training. Snyder is still writing, but Shalvey and Bellaire take over on art duties. It’s important to lead with color because it plays a lot into the story. Jordie Bellaire brings vibrant and stunning colors to the entire story. One thing that stands out instantly is that Duke’s costume is a bright, saturated yellow. Prior to this, any one of the Robins would have stood out like a sore thumb, but Duke doesn’t even have a cape that he can pull himself into. Snyder places our heroes in a fabric store where Bellaire gets to really go crazy coloring Shalvey’s tight pencils and living inks. Together the two create a visually interesting warehouse that otherwise may have not been as appealing to the eye. The pair overall really knock it out of the park as they render a double-page splash of the Batcave that really shows off their acumen as artists because it is a near one-eighty from the prior pages both in terms of hue, texture, and form.
Snyder leaves little threads that will more than likely be pulled on throughout the coming issues, he also introduces a new aspect in the way Batman trains people that he seems to have learned for Alfred. Getting to see where that alone goes and how it has really been applied to Batman’s allies will be interesting and we could possibly see more of how Batman himself was trained through others. That coupled with Duke’s first murder mystery will leave legions of Bat-fans this eager for the next issue.
Cover to cover this is an excellent comic that set up two really interesting stories that look promising and will hopefully continue to shock and surprise. Snyder is back and by the looks of things he’s cutting loose and letting everyone on the book with him do the same. All that can only mean is that we are in for a wide ride down the long road ahead because if the meter is to be believed, we still have 497 miles to go. Let’s ride.