Monday, May 10, 2010

Library comics Pt. 4: Batman #698

After writing and drawing six consecutive issues of Batman, Tony Daniel needed a break, and stepped away from the drawing board to simply write the next two issues of Batman—a short, time-killing story arc entitled “Riddle Me This” which will be followed by Grant Morrison and Bruce Wayne’s return to the title in Batman #700.

I’m inclined to make fun such a short run as an artist on a title, but I’m not going to complain in this case, since Daniel, whose style and work I’m not fond of, turned art duties over to Guillem March, one of the best and most exciting artists drawing Batman comics these days.

One of several disappointments with Daniel’s first Batman arc that I shared the other day was that it was a Batman story without actually being a Dick Grayson-as-Batman story. It didn’t really matter who was in the Batman costume, as Daniel wrote Grayson-as-Batman identical to the way Bruce Wayne-as-Batman is generally written.

Well, with this issue, Daniel corrects that, as the story opens with a three-page dream sequence in which Dick, as a little boy acrobat, is swung from trapeze to trapeze, on each one a different figure from his past catching him and swinging him to the next one while vocalizing an aspect of his insecurities about being the new Batman.

Once conscious, he catches a pretty weird case, in which money men who used to work with the Falcone family (ah, so Daniel is doing something with their return after all!) are turning up dead in very colorful ways, their corpses arranged so as to suggest that they were killed using the modus operandi of one of Batman’s rogues.

Also on the case is The Riddler, who is operating in his private detective role that Paul Dini established back during his Detective run, and seems to be a few steps ahead of Batman and the police.

The culprit, at least during the first half of the story, seems to be Sebastian Blackspell, a renowned stage magician with a handlebar mustache, big ass top hat and cape ensemble. Neat.

As with the previous storyline, there’s nothing all that special or remarkable about this, but it’s solid and sturdy genre entertainment—there’s nothing wrong with it, which can be the same thing as being a good comic in this context.

March’s artwork, here colored by Tomeu Morey, is a vast improvement over Daniel’s, as March excels at many of the very things Daniel is weakest at, like establishing a sense of space and setting, or the relationship in space between the characters and their environment, of filling in backgrounds with a bunch of eye-catching detail lending them authenticity and, maybe most important for a Batman comic, making things look cool while remaining solidly constructed.

Let’s look at some of the pictures, shall we?

Here’s Batman on his terribly impractical-looking Batpod with monster truck wheels:

And, after he gets shot at with a flamethrower and wipes out on it, here he is doing some Batpod-fu, BRRRUMMMBBBing some bad guys with its wheels and righting himself:

Here’s March’s Riddler, who has that expression on his face through the whole issue, and just exudes a smarmy know-it-all-ism that is palpably irritating:

And here are a couple of homage images. Dig those gargoyles in the first one:
Next to Kelley Jones, I think March may just draw the very best Gotham gargoyles.


Next: James Robinson, Bernard Chang, Javier Pina and company’s Superman #693-698.

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