Review: All-Star Batman #2

[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]

Writer: Scott Snyder
Penciller (main story)
: John Romita, Jr.
Inker (main story): Danny Miki
Artist (backup story): Declan Shalvey

Summary

This issue continues Batman’s quest to get Two-Face to an undisclosed location 459 miles from Gotham where there is someone that can hopefully cure Harvey of being Two-Face. The issue starts with a flash-forward set two days into the future. Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Bullock, along with a large squad of GCPD officers, are readying to raid Wayne Manor.

In the present, Batman is fighting atop a train with Killer Croc, the latest in a succession of villains to attempt to collect Two-Face’s bounty for preventing Batman from getting to the journey’s endpoint with Two-Face. Croc has also brought King Shark and Amygdala as backup muscle.

Batman manages to fight them off, to be immediately faced with Jade and Copperhead, who hit him with poison darts. Batman immediately uses the darts to also poison Harvey, so that Harvey is forced to stick with Batman at least until Batman creates an antidote. Batman dives from the train towards a river below, taking Harvey with him.

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Next, we have an interlude where the Penguin, Great White, and Black Mask are in the process of hiring a mysterious assassin to kill Batman. The assassin states that although he has been careful to fulfill his previous contracts discreetly, this time he intends to do this job loudly.

Next, we see Duke Thomas and Alfred back at the Batcave talking about the nature of Harvey’s struggle with his Two-Face persona. Duke deduces that Harvey probably knows Batman is Bruce Wayne, which Alfred confirms, but mentions that while Batman’s secret identity is relatively easy to deduce, Batman has taken steps to ensure it’s impossible to prove.

Duke also takes a look at information Batman was sent about the proposed cure for Two-Face. He notices something that makes him realize that the promise for a cure is a trap. He hops on a motorcycle and sets out to catch up to Batman and warn him.

Meanwhile, Batman and Harvey emerge from the river. Harvey threatens Bruce with the revelation of his secret identity, to which Batman replies, “when that day comes, I stand by what I’ve done. I’m ready.” Just after he says this, the red dot of a laser sight appears on the side of Batman’s head and the crack of a gunshot is heard.

This presumably renders Bruce unconscious as we next see a dream or vision of Harvey Dent, fully cured in mind and body thanking Bruce Wayne for making the cure possible. Then Bruce returns Harvey’s signature coin, and tells Harvey that it always comes back.

Batman regains consciousness in the back of a van with Two-Face and three henchmen. One of the henchmen has Harvey’s coin tosses it, believing that this will determine whether Two-Face will kill or spare Batman. However, he learns that that’s not how the coin works as Harvey kills the henchman when the scarred side of the coin comes up.

Two-Face tells Batman that the information about his secret identity is already on the mayor’s desk and will decrypt automatically after a certain amount of time. Harvey says that it would have been more merciful if he had killed Batman.

However, at this point the van is stopped by the mysterious assassin, who causes it to crash. We now find out that this assassin is the Beast (a.k.a., KGBeast). However, we need to wait until next issue to see the aftermath of the crash.

Finally, the story resumes the flash-forward with Gordon and Bullock invading Wayne Manor and breaking through the back of the clock that conceals the entrance to the Batcave. Gordon and Bullock are shocked by what they see, but we aren’t actually shown what they see.

The backup story continues the story of Duke Thomas’ training to be Batman’s new partner. It opens with Duke working with his mother, trying to get her to remember her old life, but she still shows no sign of recovering from the psychological damage caused by the Joker.

Then Batman and Duke set off to investigate the home of the victim of Zsasz that they had rescued in the previous issue. Duke concludes that the woman had survived an earlier attack by Zsasz, which Batman acknowledges as a good deduction.

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Then Batman states that it would be better to move Duke’s parents from Wayne Manor, as they are too much of a distraction at this point in Duke’s training. Duke questions Bruce’s motives for training him, to which Bruce replies that perhaps he does have an ulterior motive for doing so.

Before Duke can ponder this for very long, Zsasz appears and manages to land a vicious looking cut across Duke’s chest.

Positives

I love the suspense this issue creates over the possibility that Bruce’s secret identity will be revealed. We know this probably won’t happen, especially how poorly this went over with readers when DC tried this with Superman recently, but you never know for sure. However, we are left to wonder if the flash-forwards with Gordon and Bullock are the definite future, or can Batman still avert this from happening. My hunch is that Batman, who is renowned for covering every possibility, has arranged some sort of trick to deal with the specific situation of someone deliberately trying to break into the Batcave through this entrance.

I also find it interesting that how this version of Two-Face knows Bruce’s secret and never acted on this knowledge before this. This fits well with the recent implications that the Joker also knows Batman’s true identity. It seems that this information is usually of little use to the Batman’s rogues, as they don’t want to risk ending the fun of battling against Batman. However, now that the Two-Face persona’s existence is threatened, he is willing to finally act upon this knowledge to save himself.

I also love that we’re getting to see so many Batman rogues and other DC villains in this story. Some of these villains we haven’t seen in action for quite a while. As Bane showed us years ago in the Knightfall storyline, one  of the most effective ways to combat Batman is to push him to his limits by throwing a an endless succession of villains at him with no time to rest between attacks.

Negatives

This isn’t a strong negative, but I feel that they still haven’t found a way to make Duke as interesting as any of Batman’s previous partners. There are some glimmers of interest in the character, but they haven’t really hit an approach that makes me feel that the character really stands out yet. On the other hand, it’s still early in his story, so maybe he will grow on me as the character develops further. It’s still too early to judge.

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Verdict

The main story is action-packed and has me eagerly awaiting the next installment. The backup story is also starting to pick up steam and hopefully will keep pace with the main feature as it continues.

3.5outof5

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Derek McNeil

I have been an avid reader of DC Comics since the early 70s. My earliest exposure was to Batman and Superman comics, Batman (Adam West) reruns, and watching the Super-Friends every Saturday morning.