Pros: This is probably one of the better Mad Hatter stories in recent times. The art is great and works well with the content of the story. In addition, the backup story featured some great Duke character development.
Cons: The story is not as good as the last few “Ends of the Earth” stories have been. It shies away from villain character development and instead does another somewhat interesting Batman story.
Overall: Any story headlining the Mad Hatter is guaranteed to be a head trip, and this one is no different. Seeing Batman react to the illusions and deception around him is this issue’s focus. While this is interesting and enjoyable, it does not quite convey the same impact that the last few issues of this series had. If you are looking for an intense and thorough look at the Mad Hatter as a villain, you will not find it here.
Though a decent story on its own, this collection’s real problem is that it comes immediately after two stellar, villain focused issues. Though it contains the same attractive narrative structure that the previous two issues had, it forgoes a focus on the villain in order to focus on Batman himself. Some, including myself, will not find this nearly as interesting as what could have been. However, there will be plenty out there who will be able to appreciate this story for the somewhat interesting trip through Batman’s mind.
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The story comes right out the gate with a strong and intense confrontation between Batman and the false Bat-family. This moment is the book’s best deception and one of the more fun parts of the issue. From here the focus is placed one the story’s actual deception.
The Mad Hatter’s deception of Batman is the real focus of this issues. It goes into Batman’s mind and attempts to convince him that his whole life has been a hallucination, that he is simply a man suffering delusions from the effects of some of Mad Hatter’s tech. Seeing Batman react to this is enjoyable because readers really get to see him struggle here. It is almost like he wants to believe the lies being fed to him, despite knowing the truth. Though the effect on Batman is great, the effect on the audience is not as profound.
There have been stories like this before, ones where someone has tried to convince Bruce Wayne that his Batman persona is simply an odd form of psychosis and that he is imagining the supervillains who constantly surround him. Sometimes those have actually worked stunningly well, because they are able to convince the reader that there is a chance this is the truth, that Batman really is crazy. This story makes an attempt at this but ultimately does not get very far with it. Convincing the audience to accept a new reality may simply be too much for one issue, leaving this deception feeling unsatisfactory.
The last few issues of All-Star Batman have been absolutely fantastic dissections of the elite members of Batman’s rogues gallery. So when Mad Hatter was announced as the next villain to receive this treatment I was understandably excited; not many stories really capture what makes Jervis Tetch tick. However, this story didn’t do much for him at all. Instead the majority of the plot was focused on Batman and his personal psyche. While this is usually fine, it is a little disappointing in this case. Why focus on someone who’s mind already receives a plethora of attention, especially when the villain focus has worked so well for the past few issues? What comes out of this story is interesting enough but fails to live up to the standard that the last two issues have set.
Despite this, this issue’s backup story displays a upswing in both character development and interest. It gets closer to finding out what Duke is after and where he fits in with the rest of the Bat-family. Since fans have been wondering this question for a while, it will be great to see it finally revealed next issue. On top of that, the Riddler story also seems to be coming to an explosive conclusion, also involving Duke. I have a feeling that these two stories will be colliding somehow next issue, which is something I am very excited for.
(spoilers end here)
Giuseppi Camuncoli takes on the art in this issue for results which deliver perfectly. On the whole, the art is crisp, good looking, and well done. However, it is not this which makes the art worthwhile, that honor goes to the twisted way in which the Mad Hatter’s world is portrayed. The trippy, psychotic, and creepy way that everything in the dream world is drawn makes readers truly feel that something here is off. This coupled with the bizarre nature of the story drives all of this insanity home really well. All in all, the visual aspect of this issue will not disappoint.
This is the third issue of the “Ends of the Earth” storyline in the All-Star Batman series. So all readers need to do to understand this issue is read the previous two (reviews for those are here and here).
The backup issue is a continuation of “The Cursed Wheel” story, which started in Issue 1. Make sure to check out our review of Issue 1 in order to see the continuity connections that “The Cursed Wheel” uses.
- Small references are made to the moment Bruce Wayne decides to become Batman. This moment takes place in Batman Vol. 4: Zero Year-Secret City.