When the tagline reads “Left for dead, but ready for war,” you should have a good idea what you’re in for. Taking direct inspiration from the 80’s comic anthology of the same name, All-Out War returns with a vampire spin. The plot takes place one year after DC vs. Vampires #6, as Deathstroke’s surviving forces execute one last hail Mary plan to turn the war in their favor. Unfortunately, it is an absolute suicide mission.
Back in the 80s, books like All-Out War were a reinvention of the war-themed epics popular at the time like Our Army At War or The Brave and The Bold. Matthew Rosenberg writes Deathstroke as a different kind of soldier for today’s world. Slade is written with nihilism about the horrors of war, but still shows dedication to the bigger cause. Rosenberg easily contrasts the skeptical Deathstroke with the zealot Azrael who replaces his belief in a higher power with vampiric devotion. Without a Batman, those two remain the only true soldiers left.
The conflict is pretty simple in All-Out War #1. Deathstroke is positioned as the sole believer that Batman is still necessary in a post-Batman world. Judging by the events of the other books in this series, Rosenberg believes this too. Deathstroke definitely evokes vibes of The Matrix‘s Morpheus in Zion. Batman doesn’t have any special advantages against vampires to support being the “one they need,” but I suppose Batman makes sense against “Bat-People” on a superficial level. Although there are many other solutions and obstacles presented in this first issue, the resurrection of Batman is still the initial goal.
For want of a Batman, could you settle for an Azrael? Azrael may have been “Batman” before, but he has always been a soldier first. If not for being a vampire, Azrael’s flaming sword would have also made him a great vampire hunter. The other survivors have made various efforts to utilize their talents for the war effort. The line up of teammates and “Breadbasket” council members would be extremely intimidating under normal circumstances. Yet, somehow an entire year later, the survivors remain disadvantaged in vampire killing and detection. It may push the story forward to kill off or turn characters, but it makes them seem incompetent. That should be their main concern Batman or not.
Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries would make an appropriate atmosphere for All-Out War’s mostly monochromatic story. The stylistic choice of color is reminiscent of other stories like 300 or Sin City. The color also dictates the tone of the artwork, even making the humor read as morbid comic relief. The use of red often draws all the focus on the pages through its outlines, blood, effects, or stand out characters like Deathstroke. Outside of color, Pasquale Qualano has a very clear art style. I can always tell where and what is going on in the story at any point. Qualano’s underwhelming action and designs are sometimes the art’s biggest flaws. The battles could’ve used more expressive momentum and depth to offset the stiff gestures.
The back-up story follows Batgirl getting into a nine-page ambush with several police officers. The story and French animation style art is by Guillaume Singelin. Batgirl is drawn with bulbus, Metroid-like shoulders, while Gordon’s design resembles Lupin III‘s Koichi Zenigata. The layout of the story is creative during it’s fight scenes, but slightly claustrophobic. The writing doesn’t make sense, but it does have an easily understood theme. Singelin clearly wants readers to pick up on the promise motivating Batgirl to confront her enemies. Regardless, the story doesn’t seem to fit this single issue or the series at large.
- You enjoy a good vampire noir.
- Deathstroke fanboy-ing Batman sounds amusing to you.
Reading this tie-in series requires investment in DC vs. Vampires up to this point. Despite the title, this book isn’t exactly an “all-out” war. All-Out War would rather focus on the lives of those left to fight and survive in the aftermath of war. The theme or artwork may not be enough to win over anyone not buying the narrative. Some may find Deathstroke randomly becoming a disciple of Batman interesting, but it is out of character. Overall, some of these tie-ins are working, and some are struggling to justify their existence. I’m giving All-Out War a chance, and hoping I won’t regret it.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.