In June, DC Comics kicked off the start of its Rebirth initiative. After a wave of criticism surrounding the way they have treated their characters’ rich histories since 2011’s New 52 relaunch, DC has decided to rebrand. They hope that by restoring their characters’ pasts, they will restore readers’ faith in them as well. Do they succeed? That’s what the Comics Beat writer John Seven is here to discuss. Book by book. Panel by panel.
Welcome to month three of DC Reborn!
Note: the review below contains **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on this book, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
All-Star Batman #1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Penciller: John Romita Jr.
Inker: Danny Miki
Colorist: Dean White
“Cursed Wheel” Backup Artist: Declan Shalvey
“Cursed Wheel” Backup Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
When you haven’t paid close attention to superhero comics for a long time, the view from the outside is that it’s hard to find an entry point. That’s because there seem to be sweeping changes in the universes every few years, the point of which are apparently to clear things up, even though the rule of superhero universes is that the longer they exist, the more complicated and, frankly, incoherent they become.
This means that, barring reprints of stuff from my childhood and the occasional animated TV show, I pretty much sat out the DC universe for a long, long time until the New 52 came around, which seemed like a good opportunity to check in with some of my old favorites and maybe find some new ones.
Well, that didn’t last long. Not as long as I thought it would, anyhow. I became bored with it soon enough, and it appears DC took only slightly longer to feel the same.
Rebirth is the latest universe-wide event for the company’s line and the latest proposed entry point for those of us outside the superhero bubble to use as a welcoming mat. I only marginally know what Rebirth is, and when Alex asked me to review All-Star Batman #1, I decided it was better for me to not know much about Rebirth. I wanted to experience it the way a casual reader would come to it. Is this a Batman that person can enjoy?
I’d say yes, very much. And I can’t say I really expected that. The New 52 Batman seemed like more of the same, but this doesn’t.
Scott Snyder’s first story, My Own Worst Enemy, starts out with the classic near-the-end-of-the-story tense opener that backs up and rewinds and even jumps back forward again, working in opposite motion to build up further tension and reveal mysteries, and then doing u-turns for clarity. So as the story begins, Batman is in a pickle, this time in the middle of a big fight with Killer Moth and Firefly, who have been hired to kill the caped crusader.
The fight is one thing, but the real interest is in the comments from the standers-by, who are very concerned about something Batman has done with “him.” As the details unfold, you find out who “him” is — no big spoiler here, Two-Face. Two-Face’s involvement with the story also hints at larger concerns with the populace turning on Batman, and utilizes a great insider scheme between the villain and his alter ego, Harvey Dent. It’s a very fresh portrayal.
There is also a mysterious new sidekick who, it is pointed out, is not a Robin. He may not actually be a sidekick, not in the traditional sense anyhow. The dynamic between him and Batman, which is at times antagonistic, is also fresh, and the entire story of their team-up has yet to be completely revealed. But it is set into motion in a second story, The Cursed Wheel, which is more low-key and a little less interesting than the first, and which features art by Declan Shalvey.
I should mention that John Romita Jr.’s pencils, with Danny Miki’s inks and Dean White’s coloring, in the first story is one of my favorite parts of the comic. It’s electric in its energy, and has a singular personality that I feel like I don’t often see in the world of slick, digitally-colored comics where everything looks the same, one of my pet peeves of the genre. The quirky lines do not look the same, not at all, and it gives the story not only a lot of good quirk, but also a down-to-earth quality that marks it as the product of actual human hands.
This is a fine Batman comic. A really good one that flows along, isn’t over-written, which is one of the worst sins of the modern Batman comic, and doesn’t mistake darkness for depth. It has action, it’s clever, Batman has personality and isn’t stuck in the grim avenger mode that can make Batman stories such a chore, anyhow. This is a Batman that knows how to talk to people. All of which adds up to the fact that the cover is a bit misleading. This isn’t brooding Batman really at all, but it’s not silly Batman either.
I don’t think an entire universe-sweeping event needed to happen to make this nice Batman story happen, but it does present a great entry point for people who have lost their way and want to rediscover Batman in comics again, and I imagine it offers new energy to those who never turned their backs on him.
Final Verdict: Buy
John Seven is a journalist and children’s book writer living in North Adams, Massachusetts. His books include ‘A Rule Is To Break: A Child’s Guide To Anarchy,’ ‘Happy Punks 1-2-3,’ ‘Frankie Liked To Sing,’ and others. Find out about all his things at johnseven.me.