ALL-STAR BATMAN #12
ALL-STAR BATMAN #12 By Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
Scott Snyder's ALL-STAR BATMAN #12 is a great, different angle on the Dark Knight. The story is harsh and unrelenting yet somehow fun at the same time. If you ever wanted to see Batman meet pirates, this is the issue for you!
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ALL-STAR BATMAN has served as Scott Snyder’s vehicle to tell the stories he never got the chance to tell in his five-year BATMAN run. The issues often revolve around adventures which don’t connect to the greater DC universe or any other ongoing story. They are Scott Snyder’s independent visions of some of Batman’s missions. ALL-STAR BATMAN #12 is no different in this regard, as it tells an isolated story in the vein of a pirate adventure.

ALL-STAR BATMAN #12
ALL-STAR BATMAN #12 page 8. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

As with the rest of Snyder’s run on this series, ALL-STAR BATMAN #12 depicts an edgier, grittier version of the Dark Knight. If this take on Gotham’s vigilante has worked for you in the past it will work in this issue as well. I’m used to a more traditional depiction of Batman as a skilled and clever detective stopping evildoers in Gotham. So this version of the character shows him as a ruthless, worn-down warrior combating crime across the planet. Nonetheless, even I have to appreciate how Snyder has committed to his own ideas on the Dark Knight and I think that ALL-STAR BATMAN #12 is another example of his savvy as a comic book writer.

In this storyline, Bruce travels to Fort Dexter, an old anti-piracy fort, to acquire the Genesis Engine. This device can generate living tissue, and Batman fears that villains will create an army of monsters for themselves if they get their hands on it. Once Bruce finds the Genesis Engine, he encounters a man in a black knight outfit who’s apparently after it too. Bruce is only able to escape with the help of his butler, Alfred.

Rebellious Children

We learn that Alfred may have had a connection to this other “Dark Knight.” ALL-STAR BATMAN #12 shows a young Alfred as an adolescent delinquent in a flashback. At the time, the future butler was angry at his father for abandoning his family to serve the Waynes. So, Alfred rebelled against his father by graffitiing across the city and having run-ins with the police. This is when the mysterious Nemesis Program recruited Alfred. Said program creates “Dark Knights”, or trained rogue agents, who can do the Crown’s duty. Alfred hints that the Knight that Bruce encountered may be someone from this organization.

READ: The family dynamic is key in DETECTIVE COMICS. Here’s our review of the latest issue!

There is a great parallel in this issue between young Alfred and Bruce, who are both rebelling against their father figures. Alfred compares this to the old pirate stories he would read to young Bruce. In these books, children would run off on some adventure on a pirate ship only to return home. Alfred fears that he may have let Bruce play pirate for too long, and that sooner or later he’s going to get hurt. This is why this arc has, in many ways, been Alfred’s story. Alfred is struggling with the guilt of exposing Bruce, his surrogate son, to endless amounts of danger. As a result, he wonders whether this makes him a bad parent. Seeing this all play out is what makes ALL-STAR BATMAN #12 great.

The Art in ALL-STAR BATMAN #12

It’s really cool that for the three DC Rebirth books which focus on Batman (BATMAN, DETECTIVE COMICS, and ALL-STAR BATMAN), each art style is completely unique. ALL-STAR BATMAN’s visuals are most disparate as they’re very rough and harsh. Rafael Albuquerque has been the artist on this current “First Ally” arc. He draws his characters in a more abstract, edgier style. He emphasizes the chins, teeth, and lines on faces of characters to give the comic a grittier, harder look.

ALL-STAR BATMAN #12
ALL-STAR BATMAN #12 page 13. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

When an action beat happens, Albuquerque will blur everything in the panel except the forces committing said action. So this creates a bold, stiff feeling on each page. It’s very different than most depictions of Batman; however, it does share some similarities to Frank Miller’s style in THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. I don’t personally enjoy this art as much as Miller’s but I absolutely think that the Albuquerque’s style works well with the darker, stubborn version of Batman that Snyder envisioned for ALL-STAR BATMAN.

READ: Want to know our thoughts on Miller’s classic? Here’s our article on THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS!

Russian Escapade

As with all of Snyder’s ALL-STAR BATMAN projects, there’s a smaller additional story towards the end. This is the “Killers-In-Law” arc written by artist Rafael Albuquerque and Rafael Scavone. In this narrative, Bruce travels to Russia to disrupt a crime family which plans to move in on Gotham’s territory. The story doesn’t quite connect to anything else Batman-related but it’s a fun side adventure for the Dark Knight. We rarely see Batman go abroad to fight crime so it’s cool to watch him take down Russian gangsters one by one. Besides this, the story is rather shallow but it’s a fun break from Snyder’s storyline.

ALL-STAR BATMAN #12
ALL-STAR BATMAN #12 page 26. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

I also really enjoyed the art by Sebastian Fiumara in this section. I thought it evoked David Mazzucchelli’s artwork from BATMAN: YEAR ONE, another Frank Miller project. Fiumara depicts Batman as a dark form resting in the trees, ready to spring on his enemies from the shadows. It’s a great contrast from the bulkier, brawler version of Batman that Albuquerque draws for Snyder.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, ALL-STAR BATMAN #12 is a fun adventure created by masterful scribe Scott Snyder. It’s not my favorite depiction of Batman but I appreciate how different it is and how it’s truly Snyder’s unique take on the Caped Crusader. So with characters as iconic as Batman, we shouldn’t bind ourselves to only one interpretation of him. I’m very excited to see what Snyder does next in this series.

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