I have been enjoying Winnick’s second run on Batman so far. While it is not at the level that Dini’s Streets of Gotham and Morrison’s Batman and Robin are at it still has been some solid storytelling. Winnick seems to be more at home in the Batman universe as he has done a good job showing us the post-Battle for the Cowl Gotham City that Dick Grayson has to deal with as the new Batman. Hopefully Winnick can deliver another solid issue with Batman #690.
Writer: Judd Winnick
Artist: Mark Bagley
Inker: Rob Hunter and Jack Purcell
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin were the last issue left off with Batman beginning his fight with Clayface and Lyle Blanco, one of the new Black Mask men. Lyle uses his gun while Clayface throws his clay to try to kill Batman. Batman is able to take cover behind a brick wall and uses some smoke pellets to get more cover.
Batman uses the smoke to get the advantage and knocks the gun out of Lyle’s hand and covers Clayface’s face with some liquid to blind him. But as he gets the advantage Lyle punches Batman in the face and throws him towards Clayface who captures him in his clay body.
Elsewhere Two-Face is interviewing a couple people who have teleportation powers. He asks each one of them if they can teleport to an unknown location if they were given an object from the location. The two guys say they can’t do that but the girl with purple highlights in her hair says she can. Two-Face tells Benny to escort the two guys out and make sure they are paid and given their “bonus.”
Benny escorts both men out the room and as soon as both of them turn around to get their payment Benny kills both of them. Back in Two-Face’s hideout he asks the girl if her powers are magic base. She says it is not the mixing potions stuff but that she can tap into objects source. Two-Face then shows her a batarang and tells her to take him to where it was made.
Back in Batman’s location Batman tells Alfred, through a communicator, to give him a hand by controlling the Batcar from the Bunker. Alfred uses a remote control and fires a missile from the Batcar at Clayface to help Batman break free from Clayface’s body.
Batman then proceeds to fight Lyle one on one. Batman fights on the defensive side to analyze Lyle’s fighting style. After Lyle gets a few shots in Batman finally goes on the offensive and deals a series of blows at Lyle that don’t seem to affect Lyle at all. Batman throws some batarangs and throws some liquid in Lyle’s face to blind him but it has no affect on Lyle. Batman covers Lyle’s face in a leather bag and ties him up on the ground.
As he does that a building a few blocks away blows up. Clayface uses the distraction to escape along with Lyle. Batman then gets in the Batcar and is told by Alfred that there’s been a breach at the hideout. Batman asks if it is in the Bunker but Alfred says it’s the Batcave.
Somewhere underground were Penguin and Black Mask are having a meeting with Penguin saying he is confused with what actually happened. Black Mask tells Penguin that the blowing up of buildings was to get Batman off of Penguin’s trail as when he investigates the building explosion he will find that the buildings were insured, and the insurance companies are just dummy corporations.
Penguin thanks Black Mask and says their business arrangement is now over. Black Mask thinks otherwise and has a bunch of former Arkham inmates to attack all of Penguin’s men. Black Mask tells Penguin that from this point on Penguin works for him.
We cut to Wayne Manner were Batman enters the Batcave and analyzes the room to see if anything is out of the ordinary. As Batman looks through the Batcave he sees that the coin has been uncovered and moved. Batman looks at the tail side of the coin to see that there are three big scratches on it. As he sees this someone shots him the back with five tranquillizer darts.
Batman turns around to see Two-Face in his own version of a Batman costume. Two-Face asks Batman who he is and where the “real” Batman is. End of issue.
The Good: Batman #690 was a solid read. While Winnick doesn’t wow the reader with his story the writing for this issue is still a solid. Winnick has a very good understanding of why Dick Grayson is the right man for taking over the mantle of Batman and his relationship with Alfred.
While I think that Dini’s Streets of Gotham and Morrison’s Batman and Robin are currently the best Batman titles I like that Winnick is providing us a good fun Batman story that isn’t the deep and complex story that most comic book writers try and make every comics out to be now. The story we are getting in Batman is more of an old school Batman story as this title focuses on the adventure side of the character than trying to break new ground with the characters. And I enjoy that this has more of the old school fun to it with good character work and action.
And I continue to enjoy how Winnick, just like Dini and Morrison have done in their titles, is reinforcing the fact that Dick is a different Batman than Bruce was. I like that Winnick along with the other Batwriters have not just turned Dick into another copy of Bruce, like he tried to be in Prodigal Son, and that he retains some of the characteristics from his days as Robin and Nightwing. Dick has always been more of an athletic character than Bruce due to his background as a circus performer as he uses more of his speed and agility in his fights. And this is an important thing to show in order to show the reader that it is someone new under the cowl.
Also something that is noticeable in this issue from the past few issues is that Dick did a lot less talking in this issue than he did previously in his early outings as Batman. While he did get some banter in Dick did tone it down a lot more in this issue than the first few issues. This is something that he needed to do as it did feel weird seeing a Batman that was bantering and smiling at his opponents. It also helps to show the transition Dick has been going through as he is learning what he is able to keep that made him a successful hero before donning the mantle while also slowly adopting some of Bruce’s traits as Batman.
This also helped to allow us a little more insight in Dick’s thinking processes as he fought Clayface and Lyle Blanco. Even though the two villains were able to get some shots in on Dick he was able to push through everything that the two of them threw at him and actually gain the upper hand. One of the criticisms Dick has had in the past by fans and characters within the DCU is that he sometimes gives into his injuries or goes down to easily than Bruce.
And I liked that Dick analyzed the moves of Lyle since it was the first time we actually see the character fight since his introduction in the last issue. It is a good way to learn a little bit about the newest addition, though a minor one, to the Batman rogues gallery. Also I liked that Dick did not come out looking like a chump and was actually shown that he can take down this new villain without breaking sweat even though he had to worry about Clayface. It’s a nice way to build some credibility for Dick as the new Batman as he was fighting someone who could not feel pain.
Also I liked how Winnick continues to display a good handling of the father/son relationship Alfred and Dick have. Even though Bruce is technically Dick’s adopted father it was really Alfred who raised Dick when his parents died as Bruce was usually distracted by being Batman. I am not saying Bruce was never around for Dick but outside of being Robin it was Alfred who raised him to be more of a normal young man just like he tried to do with Bruce after Bruce’s parents died. And Winnick understands this as the tone of the conversation between the two does come off as a father/son than just as allies.
I also like how Winnick has written Two-Face in this arc. It sort of feels like a continuation of the Nightwing vs. Two-Face storyline we got at the end of the Nightwing series. Winnick has done a nice job building Two-Face into being Dick’s version of Joker as he takes up the mantle of Batman. It is something that Tomasi brought into his run on Nightwing and I am glad that we are seeing the rivalry between these two characters continue and develop.
These two characters share a deep history with one another going back to Dick’s time as Robin which largely ignored until Tomasi’s run. And even though the ending was a bit predictable as I was expecting to see Two-Face appear in his own variation of the Batman costume that we saw in the Battle for the Cowl poster, since Didio and Daniel said each version of the Batman costume would appear at some time, it was still a good hook ending. I look forward to seeing the fight between these two characters and if Dick can actually push through being tranquillized to defeat Two-Face.
Mark Bagley’s art continues to shine in this arc. Bagley has a very consistent and clean look with his art that adds to the story. And as always Bagley does a stellar job with the action in this issue as he shows off the more acrobatic style of fighting Dick has than Bruce. All the fight scenes were very fluid and fun to see.
The Bad: Even though I enjoyed this issue I can see people having a problem with this series being more of an action heavy series not very appealing. For people looking for deep character study of Dick’s transformation into Batman this is not the issue or series for you. I recommend getting Streets of Gotham or Batman and Robin for people looking for that stuff as this is more of the action heavy series of the Batman titles.
Now the only problem I have this issue is that I still am not digging the Black Mask sub-plot going on in not just this title but also in Streets of Gotham. This new Black Mask has been really boring since his appearance in Battle for the Cowl. There is just nothing that separates this character from the average crime boss and everything that has happened so far with the character in this title and in Streets of Gotham has been predictable and boring. And I am still not entirely convinced that this new Black Mask is not Thomas Elliot as I been having a gut feeling this is who the new Black Mask is.
Overall: Batman #690 was another solid read that will not appeal to all Batman fans. This is a much more action focus series than the other Batman titles. This is just a title that you have to have fun with. I’ve been one of the biggest critics of Winnick’s work but I have to admit that he is just providing a fun read. And with Bagley on art this arc has been a fun story and I look forward to seeing what happens with Batman vs. Two-Face.