Tuesday, July 11, 2017

'All-Star Batman: My Own Worst Enemy' trade paperback review

Just when I think I might be reading something close to "My Batman" in the DC Universe Rebirth, I get Scott Snyder's.

That's not to say the writer doesn't have a handle on the character; it's just that it ebbs and flows. And more often than not, I'm not terribly fond of the way Snyder writes the Dark Knight.

(What do I mean by "my Batman"? Read this op-ed from May and certainly, my definitive interpretations of the character in comics, film and animation through the years — a 2015 series I wrote about my favorite comic book protagonists. Check my "definitive" tag  and scroll through for the entire series and several additions from TV and film — including the must-see superhero film of 2017, "Wonder Woman."

The Rebirth Batman generally is more humane and relatable than the New 52 version (which Snyder wrote all of). But every once in a while, this (only vaguely) rebooted Batman goes a bit too vicious for my tastes — such as driving a knife into Killer Moth's arm gauntlet, for instance.

On many Facebook Batman group pages, I've read fans praising Snyder. But I just am not sold. His storytelling is never so stellar that I need to rave about it.

For this lifelong Batman fan, Snyder has a solid handle on the Dark Knight, but nothing much beyond that. His stories mostly are forgettable fare — and that's a literary sin. For a truly great story to be just that — great, it must be memorable. And that goes for comic books, novels, movies, TV, animation; you name it.

If a writer is truly superb, his or her stories should stick with you. I'm simply not convinced Snyder's Batman stories will stand the test of time and stand among those penned by truly fantastic Batman writers; Denny O'Neil, Steve Engelhart, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant and Len Wein quickly come to mind.

And before you start thinking this op-ed is just my excuse for an anti-Scott Snyder rant, let me clarify: It isn't; this is a review of the ALL-STAR BATMAN VOL. 1: MY OWN WORST ENEMY trade paperback. Moving on now …

In MY OWN WORST ENEMY, Gotham City is reeling from Two-Face having unleashed acid rain and he has put a price on Batman's head. That means the Caped Crusader faces an assortment of lower-level members of his Rogues Gallery of Villains — ones we haven't seen in many years — from Firefly and Killer Moth to Black Spider, even Killer Shark and KGBeast, now known simply as the Beast.

The story involves an unconvincing spin on the classic Two-Face tension, one that is borderline cliché at this point: Can the good in Harvey Dent overcome the evil of Two-Face? Snyder attempts to add some more heft to this decades-old question by ret-conning Dent and Bruce Wayne meeting and connecting as boys in a summer home.

John Romita Jr. is the artist. In the last ten years or so, JRJR — as we fans affectionately call him — has penciled blocky and stiff characters and that remains the case here. He focuses on drawing the characters and does very little with backgrounds. On the plus side, Rosita's Batman looks sharp and the scarred side of Two-Face's, uh, face, looks appropriately nasty. Like Neal Adams, it seems Romita's best present work would be best suited for cover art or posters instead of sequential art.

It's Dean White's vibrant coloring that make JRJR's art pop off the page — specifically the panels in which rain splatters against the characters' bodies.

The title ALL-STAR BATMAN is a bit misleading. When I see ALL-STAR in the title, I assume DC Comics is giving us the best Batman it can offer. Snyder's Batman isn't quite all-star material. The truth is we're getting the biggest names in the comics industry, while the end result flounders.

Grade: C+ 

As I've said before in other Cary's Comics Craze posts, it's best for the overall quality of the Batman titles if Snyder moved on from the character. It would be great for other writers to have a crack at the Dark Knight. Fresh blood might be more interesting.


  1. sorry it didn't do it for you Cary - but do me a favor and in the future, please avoid tagging me with pieces like this. I look for criticism on my own and would likely find it - but tagging creators with negative articles about them sort of shoves it at them when they're not looking. Either way, best to you and yours

  2. Also, I'm not writing Batman anymore brother :) Tom King is. I did move over to let other creators have a crack. All Star is an extra series. Det and Batman are the existing. Not taking anyone's slot.

  3. Scott, I will respect your wishes. FYI the tagging was/is done for the purpose of my readers to find other op-eds and reviews I've done on the same topic or person.

    Thanks for being a good sport; there's certainly no nastiness behind what I write on here and my intention isn't to be negative — just expressing my honest thoughts. I did enjoy a large majority of the Court of Owls, although I'm not a fan of so much retconning, which can be overdone. Thanks for taking the time to reply. Good luck! Maybe I will see you at a convention. If so, I'll come by and introduce myself.

  4. No worries. We're like different generations of comic readers. I'm not a purist, I believe in adapting the characters to fit the times, I look forward to creators breaking their own ground, I don't mind retcons, etc. To each his own. And no harm no foul on the piece - I don't mind criticism. Especially when the critical opinion isn't the majority one :)

  5. But again, I mean this as advice from one fan to another, I'd caution you against tagging creators with neg pieces - it's just not good etiquette. Most first response will be to block you

  6. And if you'd like to talk further, just follow and DM me. Unlikely to circle back here. Otherwise, best to you and yours and thank for checking out the work