All-Star Batman can get ridiculous, often to its benefit, occasionally to its detriment.  There’s a real sense of zaniness to the book that makes it really enjoyable to read, and you get the feeling that Scott Snyder’s having a blast working without a net.  Usually, that translates to the page, and that’s generally the case here.  This is big, bombastic, summer-blockbuster entertainment.  Since it isn’t the main Batman title, Snyder can go a bit crazy with his storytelling and action beats.  Sometimes… too crazy.

Not the beginning, though, which is absolutely bananas and incredibly thrilling.  After Tiger Shark’s submarine casino was left to sink to the briny depths in the previous issue, Batman has very little time to save himself and everyone else on board.  So what does he do?  He commandeers the ship.

And becomes the captain.

“Captain Batman” is my favorite thing I’ve read this week, not even kidding.  This whole sequence is ludicrous, but it plays by its own rules and is all the better for it.  The sub is too far below the surface to use any tow cables, and it’s sinking deeper by the minute, so he does the only logical plausible comic booky thing he can: attaches anchors to torpedoes and shoots them toward the surface.

I’m sure if I cared I could find out that this defies all sorts of laws of physics and Morbo would yell “torpedoes do not work that way!” at me, but I don’t care.  It’s fast-paced and fun, precisely what Snyder is aiming for.

When the plot actually picks up, this is a solid entry in “The First Ally” arc.  I’m really enjoying getting a peek into Alfred’s past, and we get a nice extended flashback between him and Briar.  There are a few hints that Bruce’s mission is more fate than accidental tragedy, something I’m not a huge fan of, though it may be a sort of misdirect or red herring leading into Metal.  When the focus is on Alfred is when the script strikes gold, particularly in his feelings towards his father’s chosen work.  If nothing else, this arc has gotten me wanting an Alfred miniseries  more and more.  If this is all we get it’s good enough, but man that book would almost write itself.

I particularly love the finer details Albuquerque and Bellaire put into the look of the book.  The changes in expression on Bruce’s face in those two panels tell an entire story unto themselves, turning written dialogue into an actual conversation.  There are a few continuity goofs here and there (the prongs on one of the anchors Bruce uses on the torpedoes change directions between panels), but it’s still a very lovely book.  I particularly love Jordie’s color palette, as she manages to use a bunch of neons without making the book look gaudy.  She has the uncanny gift of using a spare palette and getting the most out of just a few different shades.  She really knows how and when to use color, and it’s no wonder she’s one of the best in the business.

I said earlier that this book can get a little too crazy for it’s own good earlier, and there’s a scene here that kind of took me out of the story.

Batman blocks turret fire from a helicopter… with his cape and gauntlets.

That’s… I don’t know.  A shot from a handgun or even an assault rifle?  Sure, why not?  It’s probably impossible, but this is comics.

Heavy fire from some mounted turrets?  That’s extreme.  The guns on that chopper have got to be pretty heavy duty with some armor piercing capabilities at least, so unless that’s actually Black Mask and Great White Shark hanging out of the sides firing at Bats with pistols, I think that’s too unrealistic.

Yes, I realize I loved the opener where Bruce had Alfred scream from high above the surface of the water so the torpedoes could get a lock on him.  That’s just as implausible, but it works because it follows an internally established logic.  This seems to effectively be “because I’m Batman,” which can only go so far.

Unless… unless Batman has access to Blankman’s technology.  That I’d buy.

In the moment, this issue is enjoyable, but it doesn’t feel like much happens to progress the story.  There are tidbits here and there that shed some light on Alfred’s past and his connection to the mysterious masked nemesis, and from a character standpoint I enjoyed a lot of the interactions.  As a standalone issue, though, it left me wanting more, as it feels like the ending of the second act, just before the rising action and climax of the story.  Still, I genuinely want to read more of this story because I enjoy it so much, so I’d chalk that up as a win.

I like it when Batman makes mistakes. It’s much more interesting to me to read a Bruce who deducts his way out of a situation, using smarts to figure his way out of traps and adapting to conflicts at hand.  Besides Batman ’66, where Batman’s preparation and forethought are hilarious in their insanity, I’d much rather see Batman occasionally fail and learn rather than know the solution before a problem arises.

That said, “Killers-In-Law” makes Batman look almost amateurish.

That’s not to say it isn’t an enjoyable read.  I like the cat-and-mouse game that Bruce is playing with his Russian mob targets.  It’s just that he’s made a few too many goofs that are pretty out of character for a seasoned hero like himself.

BLLFNGR. Very nice.

Of course, it could all be a feint.  He may want to get noticed so he can draw Myasnik out in the open.  Batman’s internal monologue indicates the contrary, but who knows?  Crazier things have happened.

Like lassoing torpedoes to drag a sinking sub to the surface.

Where these backups really excel is in establishing mood.  I’m loving Sebastián Fiumára’s jagged pencils, and Trish Mulvihill and Lee Loughridge’s colors help capture the seedy, dirty underbelly of the Russian smuggling syndicate Bruce is infiltrating.

Though not perfect, this backup story has been pretty gripping from the beginning.  There are a few narrative hiccups, and it’s unclear what connection, if any, it has with the main story.  Still, it’s a nice, moody counterpoint to Snyder’s swashbuckler, and more stories are never a bad thing.

Recommended if:

  • You love ridiculous set-pieces.
  • You like seeing Alfred in the spotlight.

Overall: Thos is a solid if unremarkable entry in the overall excellent “The First Ally” arc.  The main story is crazy swashbuckling entertainment of the best sort, with conflicts and situations that are as insane as they are enjoyable.  Some of the narrative choices need further context and explanation to truly gel with the story, but overall I’m loving this arc so far.  Even the backup is engaging, gritty entertainment, warts and all.  As far as we’ve come and with two issues to go, “The First Ally” is shaping up to be the best arc of All-Star Batman and a fitting sendoff to the series proper.

SCORE: 7/10