Tom King’s run on the main Batman series has come to an end. For four years King defined who Batman was. His final story, “City of Bane,” had many ups and downs. Now James Tynion IV is taking over with Bruce Wayne in both a great and bad place in his life. On the good side Bruce is now in a stable relationship with Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman. On the bad side, Bruce, for the first time in his life, has to deal without having Alfred Pennyworth after Bane killed his father-figure in Batman #77. With those two big status quo changes the question is now what is next for Bruce as Batman and how does Gotham City look after the villains took over for a period during “City of Bane.” Let’s find that all out with James Tynion’s first issue of his run with Batman #86.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Tony S. Daniel (main story); Gullem March (epilogue story)
Inker: Daniel Miki (main story)
Colorist: Tomeu Morey (main and epilogue story)
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: While swinging through the city as Batman, Bruce Wayne thinks about how Alfred Pennyworth would tell him that he should let the world see his design for a Gotham City that did not need Batman.
Outside the Cauldron the doorman dies after ingesting Chironex Flecker, a venom he was told to consume by Cheshire that ends up melting his face off.
Cheshire then goes inside the Cauldron and meets Merlyn, Gunsmith and Mr. Teeth. The four assassins are then welcomed by the person who hired them. The person says since this is Gotham City what happens next will happen fast.
Elsewhere at a gala event Selina Kyle covers for Bruce not being there with Mayor Dunch. During their conversation Mayor Dunch talks about how he still doesn’t know how he got the State House to override regulations to help grow Gotham City so quickly. Selina says that Bruce has his own way of convincing people.
Bruce, while still out as Batman, calls Selina and she excuses herself to talk with him privately.
After complaining about being left alone at the gala Selina asks Bruce if he has made his move. Bruce says he has not. Selina mentions that Mayor Dunch is not doing well interacting with the billionaires. Bruce says the people at the gala are who are going to help invest in Gotham City’s future. He then says he has to go after Selina says she knows what to do next.
Selina then goes up to Mayor Dunch to talk about his wife’s sapphires and how much she has to have them.
Bruce then contact Lucius, who is at Wayne Enterprises Tricorner Yards Campus, to ask if the device is ready. After talking about his expensive tux for the gala Lucius says that he is about six months of safety testing away from being comfortable with a person using the device but he is confident it should be able to run and track down targets.
Bruce asks if the device can fly. Lucius says it could but it flying at this very moment is something they can only hope for. Bruce then tells Lucius to have the device, which he titles “The Nightclimber” to meet him at a specific address.
After giving the address, Bruce thinks about how the Batcomputer flagged alerts from the dark web hubs five days ago that high-end, costumed assassins would perform a hit in Gotham City. Bruce took three days to figure out who this assassins would be and has come up with a plan to defeat them all. The only thing Bruce is now worried about is Deathstroke, who is responsible for creating the job in Gotham City. Bruce says he is going to have to take Deathstroke down fast first.
After getting visuals of the villains in the Cauldron, Batman contacts Lucius to send in the Nightclimber.
A grappling hook pierces through the front of the Cauldron and immediately wraps around Deathstroke. Deathstroke tries to cut the grappling hook’s line with his sword but it ends up breaking. Deathstroke is then dragged through a brick wall to the outside.
With Deathstroke tied up Batman uses marble-sized projectors launched from the Nightclimber to create shadows that take his shape in order to drive Cheshire, Merlyn, Gunsmith and Mr. Teeth into his traps.
As that happens Deathstroke breaks free. Batman immediately charges at Deathstroke and they start fighting. During their fight Deathstroke tries to get in Batman’s head by talking about how everyone talks about how unhinged Batman has become after Bane made him look like a fool. Deathstroke then reveals that their current fight is just a distraction for the real score.
Batman doesn’t care and tells Deathstroke to fight him.
Over at the Tricorner Yards a guy that was at the gala is caught entering the facility by Catwoman. The guy freaks out that they can’t let the designs inside the facility to replace the Wayne’s. The guy then suddenly dies from Chironex Flecker activating in his body and painfully kills him. As the guy dies he tells Catwoman to remember the first step to the perfect crime with five assassins. Right when he dies the guy ends by saying while Bruce Wayne has a plan for Gotham City so do “they.”
Back outside the Cauldron, Batman, heavily injured, has defeated Deathstroke after a long battle. Batman contacts Alfred to call the GCPD. After a silent moment Lucius reminds Batman that Alfred is not there. Batman apologize and makes an excuse that it has been a long night.
Lucius then states his concern for the Nightclimber flying untested. Batman says that the Nightclimber has to fly and Lucius activates its flight mode.
As Batman puts on the Nightclimber and it transforms around him Bruce thinks how it always made him uncomfortable to think of a Gotham City not needing a Batman. At the same time he knew that he was fighting a war that could never be won. When Bruce told this to Alfred he would be told that the possibility of winning was only limited by what Bruce believed.
After the Nightclimber transforms into a new Batplane, Bruce now believes as Batman that he can and will make Gotham City a better place.
In an epilogue three of Joker’s henchmen are shown setting explosives somewhere with all of the Joker’s other henchmen tied up. The Joker’s men detect that the Batplane is now out of range so it is time to execute their plan. The explosive goes off and kills the tied up henchmen.
The three henchmen then kill the others that were in Joker’s employ. They then contact Joker to let him know that all of the henchmen who knew about his plan have been taken care of.
As the three living henchmen drive away a huge explosion goes off that destroys the circus they were in. End of issue.
The Good: It is never easy picking up right after a creative team had a character defining run on a series that lasted several years. To James Tynion’s credit he is able to take what Tom King did during his four year run and take it to the next stage. Tynion does this by respecting everything King did and using what was established with Batman’s world to create a new story that is his own.
One thing that is clear from the moment Batman #86 begins is how familiar Tynion is with writing Bruce Wayne’s character. While his Detective Comics run was balance between other Batman Family members Tynion had plenty of time to write Bruce’s character. So even with Tom King leaving Bruce in a different spot than when Tynion ended his run on Detective Comics a few years ago that familiarity is not lost. Tynion showed extreme comfort in writing Bruce Wayne, Selina Kyle and the rest of the world that exists in Gotham City.
Respecting how King left things not only with Alfred Pennyworth’s death and the relationship with Selina Kyle shows that Tynion understands what the next step for Batman must be. Focusing on Bruce now thinking about creating a Gotham City that can live without Batman and the Wayne’s is very interesting. Grounding this idea on how Alfred continuously encouraged him to see beyond his never ending war on crime is a great move.
Through this evolved outlook on what he is supposed to do Bruce is able honor Alfred’s memory and while not drowning in his sorrow over the death of his father-figure. There is a nice balance run by Tynion throughout this new story that we see how Bruce is using Batman and his new designs for Gotham City as a distraction. There are a lot of hints at how Bruce talks with Lucius Fox and Selina that show he has not allowed himself to fully deal with Alfred’s death. There is a deep hurt that Bruce is not fully talking about. Providing these hints establishes a bigger character arc that can be developed as a strong sub-plot for Bruce’s character.
Quickly establishing the fact that Selina Kyle is now a permanent part of Bruce’s life is a big sigh of relief. It would have been incredibly easy to explain Selina’s absence in Batman by mentioning she is busy with an adventure as Catwoman in Villa Hermosa. Tynion not going down that route is a good example of how he is not going to be running away from established continuity. It further shows the confidence Tynion has in writing where all these characters are when he is beginning his run and is ready to take them to the next logical step.
And Tynion does not miss a beat when it comes to writing the chemistry that Bruce and Selina share. The dialogue between them continues to be as well written as King wrote them. They are very much being themselves when they are talking over their communication line. The fundraising gala that Bruce abandons Selina in also serves an important purpose that they aren’t hiding their relationship from the public. Bruce and Selina are fully invested in being together, that includes the rest of the world knowing they are a couple. That wasn’t something we saw a lot of during King’s run so Tynion has a lot of untapped potential in this direction for Bruce and Selina’s relationship to work with.
Tynion also wastes no time in establishing how Lucius will be a different kind of support for Bruce’s adventures as Batman. Unlike Alfred, who has a combat and medical background, Lucius has been involved on the business side of Bruce’s life. That means Lucius expertise is more on the tech side. We see that with how Lucius way of helping Batman is by creating a new device, called the Nightclimber. In creating this device we see how Lucius role will be lean more towards the tech side than healing Bruce’s injuries.
At the same time, there are hints that Tynion will be delving into the bond Bruce and Lucius share during his run. Throughout Lucius back-and-forth with Bruce we see how the former has an understanding of where the latter is right now. That is confirmed when Lucius reminds Bruce that Alfred is dead after accidentally being called “Alfred.” The way Lucius did it showed that he understands that Bruce is still dealing with the impact of Alfred’s death. Seeing how these two grow closer as this new partnership develops will be interesting to see progress.
With “City of Bane” being an event where Bane and his group of villains took over Gotham City it was good that this was not forgotten. Coming off such an event there needs to be some ramifications to Gotham City. Learning that more people are staying away and even less are willing to invest creates an intriguing storyline for Bruce Wayne, not Batman, to deal with. This storyline should help Bruce outside the cape and cowl take a much more active role in what is going in Gotham City.
It was also good that “City of Bane” is something that other villains are aware of. Deathstroke playing mind games with Batman by mentioning how embarrassing that had to be for the Dark Knight was a great move. That mental warfare felt like it hit harder for Batman because everything Deathstroke said was true. That was punctuated by how Batman cursed at Deathstroke to shut up and continue their fight. Hearing the main continuity Batman loose his cool and curse was surprising. Cursing isn’t a normal thing for the main continuity Batman to do and was a nice touch for Tynion to do to further show the impact “City of Bane” had on the character.
Batman showing Deathstroke the most respect out of all the assassins was great to see. It is rare for Batman and Deathstroke to clash. But even with how few times they have crossed paths both characters have a deep respect for one another. Batman showing this by placing priority of defeating Deathstroke one-on-one first showed this. Even with Batman defeating Deathstroke the fact that Batman had to make a bunch of preparations and still left the fight heavily injured speaks to the villain’s ability.
Now it’ll be interesting to see where this assassin contract goes and how it ties into what Joker is planning in revealing Batman’s identity. These two storylines seem to be linked as Deathstroke teased a bigger plan for Gotham City is going on that Batman is not aware of. Seeing Joker have the majority of his henchmen killed at the end of Batman #86 hints these two storylines are connected. It puts into question how long-term this big storyline will be since things are moving so quickly.
As he has shown in the past Tony Daniel was once again on his A-game for the start of this new run on Batman. Daniel has established himself as one of the best Batman artist of the modern era and it continued to be shown with his work on Batman #86. Daniel’s does a great job balancing how dark and dreary things are in Gotham City as Batman runs around the city with the bright lights at the fundraising gala Selina Kyle is at. Having the gala scenes makes how the rest of Gotham City look stand out as we understand the city is still recovering from the events in “City of Bane.”
Gullem March does an equally great job making sure his art style matches Daniel’s artwork. This goes a long way to keep the consistency of the two stories in Batman #86. At the same time, March is able to add touches to the artwork, like the way he inks his drawings, to stand out in the epilogue story.
The Bad: For as good of a start as Batman #86 is it is not without its weaknesses. The big thing that stood out in Batman #86 is how much dialogue and inner monologue their is in this issue. At this point we know that Batman is the most prepared person in the world. Tynion did not have to go over this again with how Batman prepared for all the assassins.
All that needed to be said was that he created distractions for Cheshire and the others that would give him a chance to fight Deathstroke one-on-one. Constantly being bombarded by Batman’s dialogue almost makes you wish he was focused on surviving the fight he was about to get in. Especially when Batman implements the Nightclimber that was a scene that should’ve been all show, no tell. Let the art get over what the device can do rather than Batman giving a walkthrough of what was going on.
It was also disappointing to see how there was no respect given to Cheshire, Merlyn, Gunsmith and Mr. Teeth. Tynion tries to get us to believe these four assassins are as big of a threat as Deathstroke. But the truth is they are all just nothing more than grunts that could be easily distracted by shadows Batman. They were basically just kids who got distracted by a toy while the adults in Batman and Deathstroke had their showdown. That does not give any confidence in these four assassins being threats if they end up showing up in the future.
Overall: Batman #86 was a solid beginning to James Tynion’s run on this series. There is a nice balance between how Tom King ended his run and what Tynion plans to do with where Bruce Wayne, Selina Kyle and others are right now. With the groundwork for his run established I have high hopes Tynion can deliver on the potential that was laid out for Batman moving forward.
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