Review: All-Star Batman #4

[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 main story begins at a derelict farm. A voice calls up from the basement, indicating that someone has is being held prisoner, and has been for quite a while. Unfortunately, there appears to be no one around to hear these cries for help.

Then we return to Two-Face and Batman. While a number of Court of Owls Talons hold Batman down, Two-Face pours acid into the eye sockets of Batman’s mask. Batman manages to break free, and he and Duke fight the Talons and Harvey.

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Due to the effects of the acid, Batman finds he is fighting blind, but he uses echolocation capabilities of the Bat-suit to see. Harvey then floods the sewer with freezing water and flees.

Batman and Duke finish off the Talons and follow Harvey. Catching him, they decide to steal a biplane to continue the journey. Bruce has a flashback to himself with Harvey back at the asylum as children. He explains that he and Harvey had made a pact: Harvey swore to kill Bruce’s parents’ killer, and Bruce swore to kill Harvey’s father.

However, when Harvey’s father sent his coin to Harvey as a sign that he would change his abusive ways, Harvey backed out of this pact, despite Bruce’s insistence that Harvey’s father would eventually revert.

However, deep down Harvey realized Bruce was right. But Bruce came to realize that we have to hold out hope that no matter how evil people are, that they can change and do better – to not see people as they are, but as they can be.

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However, Bruce’s story is interrupted when the Beast jumps onto their plane from another biplane and knocks Batman out.

Upon regaining consciousness, Batman finds himself at the mercy of the Beast, who informs him that he will take Batman to his personal island and spend a year or two hunting him.

The Penguin, Great White, and Black Mask play a recording for Two-Face, made by his Harvey persona.  Harvey tells Two-Face that he implanted a tracker in himself so that Penguin and the others could track Two-Face if he got away from Batman. Two-Face will have to give them the passwords to unlock all the blackmail information he had gathered, or they will kill him.

Two-Face denies Harvey’s assertion of being the stronger side of their personality and reveals that he is keeping their father captive in Reno.

At that moment, someone attacks, and in the confusion, Batman frees himself, Duke, and Two-Face. Batman asks Two-Face who he summoned, but Two-Face merely widened the Harvey’s tracking signal, so he doesn’t know who will have followed it.

When they get outside, it appears that dozens of minor costumed villains have followed the signal to Two-Face, and that Batman and Duke will need to fight their way through the crowd.

The backup story begins with Duke rushing toward the woman being targeted by Zsasz. He finds her fleeing from her hospital room. Duke confronts her, revealing what he has deduced: that she had set up her partners, by making Zsasz think it was one of them that had escaped him earlier.

At that moment, Zsasz enters through a window behind her and slashes her with a knife. Duke launches himself at Zsasz, which carries them both out the window. Zsasz lands on a window washer’s platform, but Duke ends up hanging from the edge of the platform. Just as Zsasz is about to finish Duke off, Batman arrives and takes him out.

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The story then jumps ahead to Duke watching his parents as they sleep back at Wayne Manor. Bruce and Duke discuss the case, then Duke tells Bruce that he has changed his mind, and that he’s keeping his parents at Wayne Manor.

Duke explains that the Joker is Bruce’s blind spot, so he can’t see that the Joker attacks what he loves. Since the Joker has made Duke’s parents like himself, that means that by attacking Duke, they are showing that they love him.

Bruce accepts this and tells Duke to ask the question that is on his mind, so he does: “What’s next?”

Positives
This seems to be a pretty unique view of the Harvey/Two-Face dichotomy, and it seems to me that there is some rising doubt that the Harvey persona is completely good. Harvey, as shown in this issue, comes off as a bit ruthless, and obsessed with proving himself as the stronger persona. Perhaps there is a bit of the idea of Yin and Yang at play here, with neither being completely good or evil, but a seed of good existing in the evil half and a seed of evil in the good half. This would be an interesting idea that future Two-Face stories could delve into.

Negatives
Duke Thomas is growing on me, but I have yet to see anything that distinguishes him from a Robin other than his costume. Apparently, Batman is taking a different approach with Duke than with the previous sidekicks to bear the mantle “Robin,” but they need to start showing why and what the difference is exactly. Also, it would be nice if they actually got around to giving him a codename.

Verdict
This issue was an exciting continuation of the story of Batman’s attempt to find redemption for his friend Harvey. I can hardly wait until next month’s installment to see where the story goes from here. The backup story is fun too, but not as much as the main story.

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.