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All-Star Batman #2 continues to deliver on its promise of presenting stories with Batman out of his element, against his biggest foes. The second instalment of the “My Own Worst Enemy” arc ups the ante by finding Batman struggling to deliver Two-Face to his destination while fighting off the attempts by various foes including Killer Croc, Cheshire, King Shark, and others, to free the bifurcated Harvey Dent. It’s an action-packed issue that delivers on big fights even as it flashes forward and sideways to ratchet the intrigue, arraigning more forces against Batman, and even going so far as to suggest that his much-vaunted secret identity is more of an open secret than ever before.
The issue sees Batman and Two-Face continue their journey away from Gotham, facing more and more obstacles as they continue. It’s an interesting direction, considering writer Scott Snyder spent much of his Batman run intertwining Batman/Burce Wayne with Gotham as inseparable ideas. It’s a sign of how willing Snyder is to push himself, and the character, out of a comfort zone. Though All-Star Batman #2 is an action-heavy issue, it also manages to reveal some interesting developments as it depicts the deterioration of Batman’s relationship with Jim Gordon and the forces aligning themselves against the Dark Knight’s latest mission. I particularly liked how Snyder brings back an old adversary from my childhood, the KGBeast, created the late 1980s by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo, updating the character for a modern age.
The art by John Romita Jr is simply awesome throughout. The issue is tailor made for a good artist, which Romita is. You can argue about his figures or his faces, but that’s simply a question of taste and style. But his ability to tell a story, his skill with layouts and pacing and action is second to none. And with an issue as action-packed as this one, he just kills it.
The back-up story by Snyder with Declan Shalvey on art, continues to nail that most elusive quality of back-ups, namely holding the attention of the reader. Too often they can feel inconsequential, but this story focusing on Bruce Wayne’s training of new protege Duke never feels casual or rote. As someone who didn’t know Duke well at all before this series, I find I’m enjoying the character and his unique relationship to Batman. No small accomplishment.
If there’s a drawback, it’s that this is a fairly standard second issue; one that ups the intrigue and advances the plot a tiny bit, but not one that nails any innovative or singular approach. That’s no weakness though, as there are a lot of books that could learn a thing or two from how well Snyder and Romita construct this issue. All-Star Batman #2 is an exciting and thrilling second chapter to an arc that delivers on the series’ promise of big-time Batman stories, and that’s why I can give it an 8.5/10.