Comic Book Review: All-Star Batman #5
And with that, “All-Star Batman” reaches the conclusion of its first, explosive arc. “All-Star Batman” is a series that almost completely exists on its own compared to “Batman” and “Detective Comics” and that’s a big part of what’s made it so fun. Writer Scott Snyder has the ability to tackle the villains he couldn’t during he and Capullo’s run on “Batman” and in this first arc, he did this in a big way. “All-Star Batman” #5 is an adrenaline charged finale that closes a chapter in the history between Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne.
“All-Star Batman” #5 begins right where the fourth issue left off with Batman, Two Face, Duke and the rest of the villains barreling down a river towards a waterfall. Batman is still determined to get Two Face to the final destination to save Gotham City but while this wild road trip is still going on, Alfred is dealing with what could possibly be the end of Batman at Wayne Manor. The G.C.P.D. has descended upon the house, demanding to go down the passageway behind the grandfather clock and it could spell doom for Bruce and Batman.
One of the aspects of “All-Star Batman” that I’ve enjoyed a lot is the focus on the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent. In the midst of all the chaos happening, there have been some valuable moments between the two of them and while it isn’t completely new ground, it does still have an emotional impact on the story and especially the reader. In this issue in particular, there is a lot of focus on some of the guilt Batman has about what Harvey has become and whether or not “curing” him is the way to go. Snyder understands Batman in a way that a lot of writers don’t and he’s able to really turn him into a hero and not just a brooding vigilante. Even as things in Gotham look like they’re going to fall apart for him, his concern is the welfare of its people and for doing what’s right for Harvey.
Batman walks away from this not entirely changed but the way he relates to the people around him will be changed. The way things end with Harvey will without a doubt come back much later down the line but this is a good place to leave it. I’m curious as to what things will look like between Bruce and Alfred and Batman and Gordon. Duke took a bigger spotlight here and I still enjoy the way Snyder writes him. He does feel different in terms of how he will work with Batman. He’s not a replacement or simply a sidekick and I think in time, he will be embraced by fans more. Even though Batman stories typically end with Batman winning, the level of danger here is real and there’s a great deal of awesome tension built in each scene where Batman has to escape.
The pace of “All-Star Batman” #5 is fast but that lines up with what this entire arc has been. This has really been a road trip from Hell with enemies coming from all sides and John Romita Jr. excels in making this action happen. Action is, in my opinion, his strong suit. He knows how to craft big, dynamic scenes with lots of movement. Any sequence in which The Beast showed up became beautiful mayhem with bullets flying all over the place as he very methodically walked the wreckage he was causing. The sequences in the river are real highlights of the kind of big set pieces Romita Jr. can create. Through proper angles and panel layouts, there’s a frantic pace to it that really works. Miki’s inkwork adds life to the pencils but it also allows Romita Jr.’s pencils to breathe. Romita Jr. only really struggles in some of the quieter moments when there isn’t action. The characters can look a little slack jawed but this isn’t what he’s here for. He’s here to create big, superheroic moments and he does that very well.
What I really like about this issue’s art are the colors by Dean White. White doesn’t really settle into a dark, depressing palette even though this is a Batman story. Because they’ve left Gotham City, this story features some amazing bright work. Night time scenes don’t rely on heavy shadows or black; instead there’s a great use of layered blues. Two Face’s color scheme is intriguing because of how pop art it feels. It reminds me of the version we saw in Batman Forever in the best way possible. White doesn’t color a sad, miserable Batman and it makes “All-Star Batman” feel really different from the other Bat books going right now.
“All-Star Batman” #5 is a great, energetic finale for this first arc. The writing is top notch and the art team clicks. I’m excited to see what we get in the next Mr. Freeze centric story.