All-Star Batman, Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy (2017) by Scott Snyder & John Romita Jr.

“If you think I’m dying in a group hug, you can pick your favorite opening and shove that right–“

Scott Snyder returns to writing Batman in this first collection of the DC Rebirth title ‘All-Star Batman’. For the opening storyline, Snyder has chosen to focus on Two-Face, pitting Batman against the schizophrenic Harvey Dent for five action-packed issues. Accompanied by John Romita Jr.’s meaty artwork and Dean White’s soft pastel colors, Snyder lets rip with an exciting and violent Two-Face tale.

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Batman is on a mission to cure Harvey Dent of his homicidal tendencies, dragging him on a road trip out of Gotham and deep into the country. All he has to do is get Dent to the secret location of this “cure”, a location known only by the two of them. The problem is Two-Face has put a huge bounty on Batman’s head inviting anyone and everyone to take him down. This brings a large group of villains out of the woodwork including Killer Croc and the deadly KGBeast (remember him?).

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This is intense stuff, one action set piece quickly following another. In fact, it’s almost one extended fight scene stretched over five issues. Snyder uses the length of the story to showcase a number of minor villains as they each attempt to stop Batman and free Two-Face. Violence is the keyword here, as the Dark Knight goes head to head with the bad guys again and again.

At times, this book feels like a “mature” Batman title; one which doesn’t shy away from its use of weapons. Batman uses “Bat-knuckles” now, and at one point in the narrative he is seen brandishing a chainsaw. It’s a cool scene, but feels kind of un-Batman-like. Later on in the story there is an eye-watering moment involving Two-Face, Batman and some acid. It’s a scene that wouldn’t be out of place in a mature-rated title.

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Snyder reveals a childhood connection between Bruce and Harvey which makes for an interesting backstory. He also pens a plot thread involving the Gotham police, led by Jim Gordon, searching Wayne manor for the Batcave. The payoff is one of several funny moments in the story, which gives some welcome light relief from the action. The scenes in the car with Batman and Duke are very funny, too. Snyder knows how to write good banter between the two heroes.

I could waffle on and on about this book because there’s a lot of content including a fine second story arc showing Batman training Duke. I’ve been out of the Batman comics’ scene for a while so I don’t know who Duke is, aside from him being the Dark Knight’s latest sidekick. We are given a very brief glimpse into Duke’s past in a scene involving his parents. He looks like being an interesting character, one that I’d like to know more about.

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Overall, ‘All-Star Batman, Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy’ is a solid opening story-line to this new monthly Batman title. If you are a fan of Two-Face, it is essential reading. If you love John Romita Jr.’s artwork, then this is a perfect book for you. It doesn’t reach the heights of Snyder’s excellent “Death of the Family” story arc from the New 52 Batman, but it is entertaining and fun.

[Thanks to DC Entertainment & NetGalley for providing a digital ARC. All opinions are my own.]

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