Warning: This post contains spoilers for All-Star Batman #2
As Alfred tells Duke in the pages of All-Star Batman #2, it’s actually not that hard to guess that Bruce Wayne is Batman. The hard part, the part that Bruce has made impossible, is proving it. With Two-Face on the cusp of releasing all the worst secrets of the citizens of Gotham, everyone—even Alfred—seemed to be out to stop Batman from taking Harvey to wherever it is they’re going. Now Commissioner Gordon’s out to stop him too, and he’s doing it by going after Bruce Wayne.
There are plenty of Batman writers who have written the Batman/Gordon relationship in such a way that Gordon has no idea who Batman is, and is deliberately trying to keep it that way. That’s a perfectly acceptable way to do it, but I always prefer the version of their relationship that Scott Snyder has played with during his run with Batman, where it’s pretty clear that Gordon knows exactly who Batman is, but chooses to do nothing because he recognizes how important Batman is to Gotham’s survival. It’s a more nuanced interpretation of their relationship, and it respects Gordon’s intelligence a lot more than doing it any other way.
But there’s also a flip-side to Gordon’s forbearance, an unspoken threat lurking under the surface of Batman and Gordon’s partnership: that if Batman ever stops being important to Gotham’s survival, Gordon knows who Batman is and won’t hesitate to take him down. In All-Star Batman #2, Gordon’s forbearance has finally reached its limit.
In Gordon’s mind, Batman’s road-trip with Two-Face puts him in direct opposition to Gotham’s best interests, which means it’s time to take him down. With Batman out of the city though, how does he do it? By going after the source: Bruce Wayne.
Gordon and the GCPD entering Wayne Manor and going straight for the entrance to the Batcave is by far the most exciting part of All-Star Batman #2. Given Alfred’s comment about how Bruce has made it impossible to actually prove he’s Batman, I can’t wait to see what Gordon found behind that clock. Destroying the entire Batcave seems like a stretch, but at the same time I wouldn’t put it past either Bruce or Snyder to do exactly that.
The rest of All-Star Batman #2 is a pretty straightforward action-oriented affair. Batman punches his way through Killer Croc, King Shark, and Amygdala, then escapes from Cheshire and Copperhead. We also see Penguin, Black Mask, and Great White recruit KG Beast to take on Bats. Including Two-Face, I’m pretty sure this is far and away the most villains we’ve ever seen in a single issue of a Scott Snyder Batman comic, and I love that they’re mostly B and C-list villains.
I am a little bummed that the time jump between the first and second issues means we missed the fight with Gentleman Ghost, but if that means I get some KG Beast action that much sooner, I’m all for it. Don’t ask me why, but I love KG Beast. It’s probably just the name, since that’s really the only thing that’s ever been interesting about the character, but in All-Star Batman #2 Snyder has done a little revamping of the character. Just called “The Beast” now (boo), he’s presented as a total badass. He’s got a #@!$ing dismembered Talon in his fridge for @$#!’s sake. Taking on Batman is his chance to finally make a mess, and he looks to do exactly that.
The backup Duke/Zsasz story had a couple of noteworthy moments this month. Snyder has mentioned in interviews that he’s not really interested in making Duke just another Robin; he wants to do something more substantial with the character. And so in this backup, we see some fractures being to form in Bruce and Duke’s relationship, as Duke says maybe he isn’t the hero that Batman’s training him to be. If I were a betting man, I’d say Snyder’s laying the groundwork for Duke breaking out on his own, and I’m very curious to see what Duke’s ultimate destiny is.
While it did have its share of action, this issue was really a stage-setter for bigger things to come in subsequent issues. As a result, this actually ended up feeling a bit to me. Which is to say that by all the usual standards this is a fantastic comic, just a little under the insanely high bar that Snyder has set for himself. Although, he did give us Bat-ear-knives, so do I really have anything to complain about?