Review: All-Star Batman #3

[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
The issue begins with a flashback of two young boys together, one wearing a shirt marked with “2A,” the other with “2B.”  2A tells the other of an invention coming in the near future: a computer that fits on your eye like a contact lens, that allows you to see the world as you want it to be, rather than how it actually is. He asks further what 2B would choose to see.

In the present, Batman and Two-Face lie on the ground, apparently unconscious. KGBeast, now renamed to simply “the Beast,” attacks, but Batman revives just in time to avoid the blow. Unfortunately, Batman isn’t fast enough to prevent the Beast from killing Two-Face’s two minions.

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Batman and the Beast begin to fight, but are interrupted when Harvey shoots the Beast. The Beast quickly puts Harvey out of action and is about to resume his attack when Duke Thomas arrives on the scene, crashing a car into the Beast. He loads Batman and Two-Face into the car and they flee toward a safe house.

Meanwhile, the Penguin, Black Mask, and Great White wait at a nearby gas station for the Beast to kill Batman. Great White is worried, as it turns out that the trio are unable to pay the amount they promised the Beast.

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The safe house Batman and Duke take Harvey to happens to be the home of Harold Allnut, the Batcave’s former resident engineer. Harold patches Two-Face up and promises to help arrange transport upriver for Batman and Harvey.

Duke then tells Batman two things: first, that Commissioner Gordon has a file at the GCPD containing information that links Bruce Wayne and Batman, which will soon self-decrypt. Secondly, that analysis of the supposed cure for Harvey shows that it is very likely to only work temporarily. Bruce states that he has to believe that the cure will work and refuses to give up his quest to get Harvey to it.

Duke presses for more information, so Bruce explains the importance of their destination. Following his parents’ murder, Bruce was consumed with the desire to kill the man who murdered them. Out of desperation, Alfred put Bruce in a home for “struggling children” run by the Arkham family. At this home, Bruce was given the anonymous designation “2B” and met a boy he only knew as “2A.”

“2A” had apparently killed his abusive alcoholic father, but Bruce and he became close friends over that summer. Years later, they met again, but didn’t recognize each other at first. 2A was Harvey Dent. Harvey and Bruce planned on reopening the now-closed facility and making it a better alternative to Arkham Asylum, but that plan fell apart when Harvey became Two-Face.

Batman gives Duke the choice to continue with him and Harvey or return to Gotham and Duke chooses to remain with his mentor. In a rare moment of emotion, Bruce shows a bit of gratitude to Duke for this.

On their way again, the trio are ambushed by more villains who free Two-Face and subdue Batman and Duke. Two-Face reveals that Bruce left something important out of the story he told Duke, and raises the possibility that the cure might not make Two-Face into Harvey, but rather eliminate the Harvey Dent persona altogether. Harvey then pours acid into Batman’s eyes, asking what he sees now when he looks out at the world.

The backup story also begins with a flashback. As a child, Duke is trying to get the family TV working, when his mother arrives home from work. Duke asks her if the boy she was helping was innocent or not. At first, she avoids answering, but then tells him that the boy was innocent.

In the present, Duke is recuperating from his run in with Zsasz last issue. Bruce tells Duke that the woman that had survived an attack from Zsasz had done so due to Zsasz killing another woman instead, believing it to be her.

Duke gives Bruce the okay to move his parents out of Wayne Manor, and Bruce instructs Duke to get some rest. Duke attempts to do so, but changes his mind and sets to check up on the survivor.

Duke realizes that there is more than merely an accidental case of mistaken identity and makes a realization just as the survivor notices Duke watching outside her hospital room’ s window. She flees, while Duke smashes through the window to pursue.

Another flashback shows Duke’s mother waking the boy up to confess to him that she lied about the young gang member’s innocence, and that he actually was guilty after all.

Positives
I had a good chuckle when I read the name of Duke’s favourite band is “Batman’s @^$&@.” Even better is when Duke asks if Bruce will sue them and only gets “Hrm” as a reply. Also amusing was how effortlessly the Beast took out the Royal Flush Gang.

It’s also good that we are starting to get some answers about the destination that Batman and Harvey are headed toward. It is clear that Batman is still holding back some of the story, however.

It was also nice to see Harold again after a number of years absent from the Bat-books – but wasn’t he supposedly killed off by Hush? Was his death retconned away in the DC New 52 reboot? Was his death faked? Or did he somehow get resurrected?

Negatives
In last issue’s review, I stated that I don’t really find Duke a terribly interesting character. I find that he’s gaining some depth as we learn more about his past. I think he still has a way to go yet to win me over, but they have made a decent start towards doing so.

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Verdict
The main story is another exciting and action-packed chapter in Bruce’s quest to get Harvey cured, and has me eagerly waiting for next month’s installment. The backup story is getting interesting too, but still isn’t as engaging as the main feature.

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.