Buy Or Skip: James Tynion & Guillem March’s Batman

Batman #86 Review

We are just a little over a month into James Tynion’s run on Batman that has included artists Guillem March and Tony Daniel. Thanks to Batman being one of the comic books that double ships each month Tynion’s Batman run has already hit its third issue. Now that it has reached that mark there is enough there to make a judgement whether Batman has another run that should be on everyone’s pull list or be avoided. 

WHAT WORKED

Bruce Wayne Remembers Alfred Pennyworth

Alfred Pennyworth legacy lives on in Batman #86. Click for full-page view

Right away the thing that stands out about the early stages of James Tynion’s run on Batman is how he is respecting what Tom King did. Right out of the gate Tynion shows the reader that Bruce Wayne’s relationship with Selina Kyle is still going strong. In addition to that, Tynion has made the death of Alfred Pennyworth a key part of his run with Bruce still clearly shaken by Alfred’s passing. It’s this respect for what King established, no matter what your feelings for that run are, that creates immediate appreciation for what Tynion is doing

Alfred’s death in particular impact on Bruce has stood out most thus far. From the beginning we see Bruce taking steps for his legacy in Gotham City being more than just Batman. Taking what Alfred continuously taught him, Bruce is now looking how he can help build a better Gotham City from an infrastructure level. This is a logical step for Bruce to take that adds a new layer to how he is also trying to make Gotham City a safer place by stopping crime as Batman. Establishing the Bruce Wayne side of this series Tynion opens up the potential to tell stories that don’t need to have the Batman cape and cowl involved. It all respects Alfred’s wish to see Bruce be happy, whether it is as Batman or Bruce Wayne.

On that note, the way Tynion has brought in Lucius Fox to step into the role of Batman’s assistant has been handled well thus far. Tynion isn’t pushing this particular sub-plot hard. Instead he is slowly building the different chemistry Bruce shares with Alfred. We see how Lucius’ background as a business and tech expert after working for Wayne Enterprise for a long time is a major is going to be a major asset for Batman. The back-and-forth banter in each issue of Batman between Bruce and Lucius also has helped build the new dynamic they share.

To compliment all the work into Batman and Bruce Wayne, Tynion has made sure to also develop the villain side of his story. While the mysterious Designer motives are questionable there is no doubt that Tynion knows how to write Batman’s villains. What has been particularly interesting about the focus on Batman’s villains is how Catwoman’s past as part of the Rogues Gallery is coming back into play. 

Lucius Fox Tech

Lucius Fox brings the technology and banter in Batman #87. Click for full-page view.

Whereas King focused on what Bruce and Selina meant to each other Tynion is now exploring how her villainous past is now coming back to haunt her. This is an excellent way to explore Selina’s character as she and Bruce continue to build on the foundation of their relationship. Learning that at one point Catwoman teamed up with Joker, Riddler and Penguin for a brief period will be a good test for her relationship with Batman to take.

The writing for Riddler and Penguin has also been spot on. Since they weren’t a big focus during King’s run bringing these two Batman villains back into a prominent position has been refreshing to see. Both Riddler and Penguin bring something different to the table. With Penguin we see how his ego continues to get the best of him. We see that with how he goes from confidently talking about himself to when he leaves himself open to Deathstroke taking him hostage in front of Batman. 

Riddler on the hand had a tough re-introduction in Batman #87. Tynion quickly recovered when it came to Riddler with Batman #88 during the conversation he has with Catwoman. That conversation is Riddler at his best as he is able to mentally manipulate Catwoman with his riddles and the knowledge he has of her villainous past. Adding in that he knows Catwoman has a relationship with Batman adds another layer of intrigue as that implies he knows Bruce is behind the cowl.

That knowledge that Riddler has plays into the sub-plot involving Joker revealing Batman’s identity to the world that was set up in Batman #85’s epilogue. Tynion knows how to build long-term storylines by using sub-plots over time. It is something he showed during his run on Detective Comics and Justice League Dark. Keeping us guessing when it comes to the Joker is a good way to slowly build the character back up without forcing him to be the main focus at the moment.

Catwoman's Past

Catwoman’s past comes back to haunt her in Batman #88. Click for full-page view

Along with all this good writing the other strength to this new Batman run has been the artwork from Tony Daniel and Guillem March. Guillem March kicked things off by working on the epilogue in Batman #85. March nailed how crazy Joker is with the way he had the villain kill one of his minions and then switch to thinking revealing Batman’s identity was a good idea. 

He took that manic energy from the epilogue to deliver on some great artwork in both Batman #87 and #88. March had a good flow with the action and talking head scenes to keep the momentum moving forward in Tynion’s story. The way he drew Batman and Deathstroke during their interaction in Batman #87 in particular stood out. The scene was filled with tension as the two alpha males clashed.

Tony Daniel also delivered strong artwork in Batman #86 that blended in well with March’s style. Both artists made adjustments to their artwork to ensure there was not a big shift once March took over. Daniel for his part once again showed why he is one of the best Batman artists DC Comics has during the battle between Batman and Deathstroke. That action scene alone made Batman #86 worth a read as both fighters went back and forth, as one would expect. It made me wish the entire issue was just Batman and Deathstroke fighting. 

WHAT DIDN’T WORK

Penguin Bloody Truth

Penguin reveals the truth in Batman #88. Click for full-page view

For as much as Tynion deserves praise for his writing of various Batman characters his run thus far has not been perfect. Batman #88 is a good example of how the problems with the current story arc around the mysterious Designer. As I mentioned in my review, the Designer storyline is failing to connect due to the fact he has been hiding in the shadows. Thus far all we have to go by is the fact that Riddler and Penguin are both scared of him. While using Batman villains in this way to build up a new character is fine it only works if we had a better idea of how he looks. 

This just gives the idea that Joker is the Designer since he is one villain we haven’t seen since the Batman #85 epilogue. Having this type of set up for the Designer is not good for the main villain of the story. If it is the Joker then it’ll just be another instance of Batman’s iconic villain being shoved down our throats. But if it is a new character that Designer has not built enough credibility to be able to convincingly strike fear in guys like Riddler and Penguin. Because of that, at least for the first three issues, the Designer just comes across as a filler villain until the Joker storyline kicks off.

The new disheveled design for Riddler also has come out of nowhere. Even with how many Batman related titles I read monthly this new design for Riddler is a head scratcher. Adding in how Riddler seems to have suffered a mental breakdown was not explained well either. The way he acts in Batman #87 and Batman #88 also came across as two different versions of the character. Almost as if the Riddler from Batman #87 was replaced with the old version before his redesign.

Tynion also has failed to make Cheshire, Merlyn, Gunsmith and Mr. Teeth assassins that the reader should fear when Batman fights them. Unlike Deathstroke, these four assassins have been nothing more than grunts that Batman has been able to quickly take out with a few kicks and punches. That is extremely disappointing, especially when it comes to Cheshire and Merlyn. Those two are supposed to be some of the best fighters in the DC Universe. But thus far Tynion has just reminded readers why Cheshire and Merlyn are villains that will never be lead antagonists in a storyline.

Batman Meets Harvey Bullock

Batman learns Harvey Bullock is interim Commissioner in Batman #86. Click for full-page view.

Now while I appreciate how much continuity Tynion has worked into his run on Batman thus far it does make it harder to recommend this series to a new reader. Continuing the relationship with Catwoman and Alfred are one thing but Tynion has added in all the stuff going on with Batman Who Laughs and a few other continuity things to create a lot of unnecessary questions. Especially for new readers trying to jump onto Batman because a new run is starting having all these continuity points can easily be a turn off.

This could’ve been avoided by just simply saying that Commissioner Gordon is not around at the moment. Considering that Harvey Bullock being the interim Commissioner of the GCPD has not played a big role in the current storyline Gordon’s absence could’ve been easily avoided. But since Tynion made it a point to address Gordon’s absence there is a sense that you need to be reading more comic books from DC Comics to understand what is going on. 

This tie-in to continuity has been a big problem for DC. Trying to make a connected universe even though fantastical things like Hell Arisen don’t line-up with more grounded storylines going on in Gotham City just does not work. I wish it did but there is just too big of a disconnect with the style of storytelling to make it work even for Batman, who is involved in all these storylines.

FINAL VERDICT

Batman fights Deathstroke

Batman vs. Deathstroke takes place in Batman #86. Click for full-page view.

Three issues into James Tynion, Guillem March and Tony Daniels run on Batman and there are clear signs of potential in the comic book. Tynion’s respect for what Tom King did in his run that preceded his work on Batman is much appreciated. By taking what came before Tynion has been able to develop dynamics between Batman, Catwoman, and Lucius Fox that are highly engaging.

The work Tynion has done with Batman’s villains has been a mix bag. The portrayal for Riddler, Penguin and Deathstroke has all worked well to enhance why they are such intriguing villains. The same can’t, unfortunately, be said for Cheshire, Merlyn and the other assassins Tynion has used in his first three issues. The mixed bag when it comes to the villains portrayal is not at all helped by the fact that a new villain is being developed off-screen even though he hasn’t shown to be as dangerous as Riddler and Penguin built him up to be.

All that said, when it comes to Tynion, March and Daniels’ Batman run thus far I can only recommend it to Batman fans who are up on the current continuity. If you have an understanding of what’s happened to Batman and in the DCU in general over the last year then you should give this new run a try. If you are a casual Batman fan then I recommend waiting on reading Tynion’s run until it is collected in trade paperback form. That will likely be a better reading experience.

Check out my full in depth reviews, including spoilers, on each issue of this run at the following links:

Batman #86 Review

Batman #87 Review

Batman #88 Review


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