Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Danny Miki
Colours: Dean White
The Cursed Wheel Part 1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Declan Shalvey
Colours: Jordy Bellaire
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: August 10th, 2016
Miles Travelled: 0. These are the first words you will notice in this book. Scott Snyder (from Batman writing fame with his run in New 52) returns to tell us a story featuring Rebirth’s Batman and Duke, his most recent ward after the fallout from the events of ‘Zero Year’ and ‘Endgame’, and possibly the most notorious villain from Batmans rogues gallery Havey Dent or “Two-Face”. The premise that has been pitched prior to release is that this is a story (featuring top-tier artists drawing different issues of this book) about Batman escorting Two-Face across the country to his rescue as per request of Havey Dent due to the warning that Two-Face has evil plans and Harvey needs Batman’s help to rid Two-Face once and for all. This book has promise to be a great story with this homerun first issue. This review will break down the book piece by piece as this book has so much crucial content and is obviously setting up some deeply rooted things for the future. This is a review for those looking to see what this first spectacular issue is all about and what makes the book special.
The issue begins in a calm country highway diner where out of nowhere Batman is blasted through the front windows by villains Firefly and Killer Moth (presented in cool face-shot panels including one for Batman with the caption “Most Wanted Man in the State”) where we get that top-notch Romita Jr. artwork that showcases this shifting from calm scene to kinetic action. As the villains are about to make an attack they banter with Batman questioning the whereabouts of Two-Face but Batman dismantles them both swiftly and replying with genuinely great Batman banter. As he is finishing up with these worn out villains we see the diner guests gathering around Batman seemingly conflicted by the whole situation as they debate whether they should run away or pursue Batman for the bounty on his head, but Batman is quickly pulled out of the window by a mechanical arm in a couple great panels.
The story shifts to 22 minutes prior where we see Batman with Two-Face in the cockpit of the Bat-jet discussing Batman throwing his coin away. My favourite part of this page is that we see Two-Face’s perspective which is in all grey and then back to Batman’s perspective which is in colour, all for a very important reason. Then the story shifts again to 2 hours prior where Batman & Duke are on the rooftop with Commissioner Gordon where we see Gotham city covered in burning acidic rainwater. Again the story shifts to 2 weeks prior where Batman receives a video message from Harvey Dent telling him that the Big Bad Harv keeps coming out longer & longer and is planning something huge. Harvey Dent the requests Batman to help escort him to a house where he wants to burn out Two-Face. Even with the warnings from Alfred, Batman still takes on this mission and then proceeds to toss Two-Face’s coin off of the roof of Gotham tower.
Cut back to 20 minutes ago where Two-Face is telling Batman that he still doesn’t understand how Gotham works and that it is his time now. Two-Face seems to want everyone to look in the mirror and “see the ugly face and accept it”. Batman replies stating that he’s the man who burned hundreds of people with acid rain and that his reign of terror is ending now. Alfred then channels in telling Batman that Two-Face has put an offer out through broadcast television that he is making everyone an offer they can’t refuse for a huge reward (the combined wealth of all the crime bosses combined as a reward) but also because apparently Two-Face has something on EVERYONE and will use that to leverage an attack on Batman to stop this mission. Just after that, something is headed towards the Bat-plane and is about to impact. Cut to current moment again where Batman is being tossed around by the villain Black Spider and his extra mechanical arm. Black Spider has Batman gunned down on the ground but as he approaches, he is surprised to find Batman standing above him on tree stumps with a chainsaw at the ready.
We see Firefly sneaking up but as he jumps out of the tall grass, he witnesses Batman with a chainsaw and Black Spiders mechanical arms. Batman gives Firefly a real menacing look and Firefly runs away the next panel. Batman then goes back to the Bat-plane to find Two-Face missing when the waitress from the diner shows up to say thanks to Batman for saving her, but also sorry as she and the rest of the people from the diner sneak up behind Batman all with guns pointed at him with crowbars & billyclubs at the ready. As Batman warns the people that they shouldn’t take Two-Face’s offer, Two-Face flips his coin shows up. Just then Batman is shot by the hungry diner guy from the first page and as he claims made the kill, Two-Face tells him to find the body but just then Batman grabs Two-Face and disappears into the tall grass with him. Two-Face tries to scare Batman with the prospect of all the people that are after Batman’s bounty but Batman can’t help but say “I see your damn bet… and I raise” which is a very noble and badass reply we have come to expect from the Dark Knight.
The story comes to a close with these last few pages of the main story and we see Batman telling Alfred that he will have to cut his communications with Alfred as his Bat-plane was tracked down somehow and can’t trust anyone. Batman signs off from the radio line when Alfred reveals that he is sorry for something that no reader would have expected… Alfred tells Batman that he’s sorry that he was the one responsible for tracking down the Bat-plane for the public! I never saw Batman’s closest and oldest ally pulling such a move, the one person that Batman trusts most betraying him for Two-Face’s offer, effectively showing Alfred’s two-faced side. Batman then tosses out Two-Face’s new coin as the panels pan around the transport truck that they are inside of revealing another villain hiding on the back of the truck. Miles Travelled: 1; Miles To Go: 497.
John Romita Jr. knocks it out of the park with his art in this book. I love his rendition of the latest Batsuit since Rebirth, as well as his designs for the villains and especially Two-Face. Romita Jr. brings the action to life with his vibrant art style & panel work. When it comes to panels they seem to effectively simulate an overall movement in the book and this is noticed from the first page and throughout. I can’t praise Romita Jr. art in this book enough and his main cover as well as variant cover for All-Star Batman #1 are so great I had to buy them both. Scott Snyder proves that he has a great Batman & Two-Face story to tell and this first issue proves that Scott Snyder is still killing it when it comes to writing Batman stories. I am excited to see how each artist down the line will work with Snyder and if they will have as good dynamic together as Snyder and Romita Jr. have really done something special with this issue.
This book has a backstory in it called “The Cursed Wheel Part 1” featuring Batman & Duke busting into a colourful textiles warehouse where they discover multiple dead people kneeling, all with cuts and slices that are surgically precise to bleed these people out at the slightest movement. Batman tells Duke it is a torture method known as “stilling” and explains that anyones best hope to live through this torture is to stay still until someone comes for help. The only question left to ask after discovering that these people are importers of high end fabrics with no records is, why do this to attract Batman’s attention? The story cuts to 2 days prior where in the Batcave, Bruce is showing Duke a bunch of colourful shapes on his Bat-computer. What he is showing is something Bruce has no name for but something Alfred calls the “Cursed Wheel“. It is apparently a condensed version of the entirety of years of Bruce’s training where “every part of the wheel is designed to test a different part of your psychology”.
Bruce mentions it is a test that makes you who you are in the end, a hero or even a villain. Duke questions if he is referring to Jason Todd when he says villain but Bruce tells him he is referring to someone else. He tells Duke to look closer and describes how the colours can be seen in his allies with Dick Grayson leaning Blue, Damian Wayne leaning Green and Barbara Gordon leaning Purple. The first part of the “Cursed Wheel” test is looking and staring into the black which represents evil, and asking one question…. the story then cuts back to the textile factory where Duke questions, “Why you?” and then one of the cut victims bleeds out and screams “KILL MEEEE!”
This backstory is written by Scott Snyder, which is a successful attempt at expanding this books universe as well as providing expanded connection between Batman and his latest ward Duke. I am excited and curious to see who Bruce was referring to with the Cursed Wheel when he was asked who was proven to be a villain with the test. I have a theory that he was referring to Two-Face as he is a villain who with his left side of his face his eye only sees black and white, and in the New 52 we have seen Two-Face become Batman’s sidekick for a stint in the ‘Batman and Robin’ book. I am excited to see where the Cursed Wheel story goes. Declan Shalvey does great art in this backstory and I particularly liked the detail in the textile warehouse as well as the Batcave. The colours really stand out in this backstory and in the primary story of this book, the bright colours set a welcomed tone for a Dark Knight book creating a more fun and less dark book without sacrificing the darkness and depth of the story content. All-Star Batman #1 is a 10/10.
~ T.J Head