Scott Snyder reunites with his “Wytches” and “Detective Comics” collaborator Jock to launch the second arc of the series in “All Star Batman” #6. The first of the four-part “Ends of the Earth” continues to take Batman well outside of his comfort zone, and also features another villain Snyder never got the opportunity to use in his five-year run on “Batman.” The opening panel puts The Dark Knight in a very bright but relatively unfamiliar and decidedly non-urban locale whose location should give readers a definitive clue as to who Batman is about to face – for those who didn’t know already, that is. Like he did in the previous “My Own Worst Enemy” storyline, Snyder pushes Batman’s boundaries on multiple levels, and likewise succeeds, perhaps even more so thanks the creative team’s usage of alternative storytelling techniques.
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Snyder and Jock combine for some experimental narrative flow, and even make sure they involve colorist Matt Hollingsworth and letterer Steve Wands. Snyder’s narration recalls some of the techniques used by boundary-stretching writers like Steve Gerber, Don MacGregor and even Denny O’Neil on Batman himself some forty years ago. The use of prose-style dialogue not only elevates the tension of Snyder’s story, but provides Jock a liberal amount of freedom to lay out his pages in a much looser manner, less bound by traditional sequential storytelling methods. The deliberate disconnect between words and pictures add a kind of mystery to Snyder’s story, as the exchange between Batman and his longtime foe is clearly conveyed without directly connecting them to either character’s specific actions. Wands’ Courier-like font evokes that of a classic novel, further adding to the offbeat nature of the story, while Hollingsworth’s colors clearly let readers know who’s doing the talking, although Snyder’s careful scripting doesn’t lend itself to any confusion.
Snyder’s previous “Batman and Two-Face Do America” vibe was a Batman story with a deliberately intentional new flavor, and Snyder experiments with a totally different kind of flavor here – rather than localized threats within the confines of Gotham, or even rural America, the imminent danger this issue is a potentially global and apocalyptic one. Snyder has demonstrated his penchant for science before and does so again here, providing a convincing-enough explanation of the nature of the threat and its effects. His light scientific touch educates without overwhelming the reader or dragging down the story, and despite the unique nature of the storyline, the touch makes it readily recognizable as a Snyder story.
The boundaries of Batman’s footprint aren’t the only ones that are challenged – Snyder also tests those of Batman’s physical capabilities, in the form of a dangerous and potentially sacrificial game-changing ploy that again proves him the hero, but in a manner rarely if ever done previously. The familiar foe that Batman faces is one that Snyder also grows into a far bigger threat, convincingly changing his traditional dedicated but single-minded nature into one that reaches much further outward. Jock’s unconventional style is well-suited to capturing the alterations of both hero and villain, and that same style is perfectly matched to the story’s desolate setting.
Francesco Francavilla, another creative partner from Snyder’s “Detective Comics” days, rejoins the writer for the latest chapter of “The Cursed Wheel,” the title’s backup feature that’s been grooming Duke Thomas for his eventual role in the extended Bat-family. Like Jock’s talents on the issue’s main feature, Francavilla’s are perfectly suited to the nature of Snyder’s backup, making for arguably the feature’s most entertaining installment.
“All Star Batman” #6 proves that the off-center nature of the series’ first storyline wasn’t a fluke, and that there’s plenty of room for experimentation in Batman’s world. Snyder and the rest of the creative team again show that the Dark Knight doesn’t need to be confined to a city, perched atop stone gargoyles under a full moon.
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