By Scott Snyder, Jock, Lee Loughridge, and Steve Wands
Finally, we have the conclusion to the latest arc of All-Star Batman from Snyder and co. that ties up our story from Dr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, and The Mad Hatter, bringing it all together. Over the past few issues, each featured a different art team to match a different infamous Batman villain. Now, we finally get to see who is behind all the planning of trying to end the world. Batman tries to maintain that one step he always has ahead of his enemies, but this mastermind seems to out-think Batman at every turn. All goes according to the mysterious villain’s plan, so will All-Star Batman #9 be the issue where the bad guy takes down our caped crusader?
Jock is back on art duty for this issue, which is a nice way to have the visuals come full circle, considering Jock did the art for the first issue of this arc: issue #6, featuring Dr. Freeze. When Jock is on art duty, there is a kinetic energy that escapes the page, from his character design to his panel layouts. This type of art is perfect for what Snyder had in mind to finish this arc. Without giving too much away, there is a fitting end to this tale that really spotlights the more sympathetic villains in Batman’s little black book of bad guys. The big baddie who is behind it all may not surprise you as much as how tightly the past three stories fit together. The art from Jock really steals the show in this book, with his fun little hidden details and fantastic pacing, the story is really just singing backup to Jock’s front and center vocals (if I were to compare this book to a song, and I am).
The other question this book posits is: how can Snyder continue to influence the character of Batman story arc after story arc and not have it feel old or forced? Every arc that he completes, we as readers are just accepting and grateful to learn more of the Bat’s psyche and history. It is a personal relationship he has built over time with the readers that allows him to play around and add to the canon of the much beloved Batman. If almost any other writer attempted to rewrite Batman’s past, many reader’s would revolt or even boycott the issues. Snyder receives adulation and gratefulness from the readers because he has earned their trust from understanding how great comic storytelling takes place: the communication between art and story.
Jock and Snyder prove that the partnership between art and writing is what makes comic books great. All-Star Batman #9, without any narration or dialogue, is a great display of a book expressing tone, theme, and emotions through art alone. Go ahead and try it, read this book by looking at the art alone and then read the words to see if you understood what was going on. Then, for extra credit try it again with another random comic. It might not have the same results.
The colors from Loughridge also give each panel from Jock a nice undertone. If you actually look at the colors from beginning to end, they reflect the sun’s cycle. The first pages depict a sunrise and the last few a sunset. That is some deep shit right there.
The panel layouts are unorthodox, or perhaps more aptly, sporadic. The only pattern they appear to follow is following thenatural flow and movement of the story, focusing the eye on the action; occasionally, the panels has interactions and sometimes not. Jock puts his dark noir twist on this story that really adds to the gravity. With any other artist, the final confrontation might not have felt quite this climatic or the reveal might not have been this dramatic. The pairing of Jock with Snyder for this issue was really a nice symbiosis, and brought this story to a truly fulfilling conclusion.
Don’t even pretend like you won’t get All-Star Batman #9. Let us just put aside any pretenses that you may or may not be purchasing this issue, because everyone who loves comics is buying this one. The only right thing to do when a book is this good, and a comic creator has this much impact, is get someone else into it. Preach the good word that is Scott Snyder and All-Star Batman and get a friend hooked.