Batman #687Batman #687
Writer: Judd Winick
Penciller: Ed Benes
Inker: Rob Hunter
Colorist: Ian Hannin & JD Smith
Publisher: DC Comics
Battle for the Cowl? What Battle for the Cowl?
While Batman #687 is tagged as an epilogue of the Tony Daniel-penned series, I promise you that if you totally missed out on the series, you're in the clear. And while there are some weird timing issues that I'll come back to later in the review, it's a solid intro to the new status quo.
Judd Winick is one of those writers that has always gotten a lot of flak for his superhero writing, but I find that Batman #687 is actually a nice look at Nightwing, a character he seemed to have a good handle on in Batman: Under the Hood. As I wrote last week, Grant Morrison, with his streamlined and flashy Batman and Robin, kind of skipped over much of the internal struggle Dick has had with his mentor's demise, and thus Winick has the important yet unenviable task of having to lay down some of the emotion and exposition to give this franchise depth.
But does he succeed?
As I was saying before, there are some weird timing issues to this particular issue -- indeed, I think I would have been even more impressed had this come out before Batman and Robin #1, as opposed to a week later. I say this because while Battle for the Cowl ended with a new Batman -- and Batman and Robin had the adventures of a new Batman -- Batman #687 has Nightwing wrestling with the idea of assuming the cape and cowl. Obviously, that messed with my head a little bit, only because Nightwing didn't really have a problem putting on the suit to fight Jason Todd only a month or so ago. To make the dissonance even more jarring is the fact that Winick does a perfectly fine job conveying this hesitance, but recent canon just contradicts him.
For what it is, Winick's writing is fine for this particular epilogue. He starts out with a great intro, really giving us a bright, three-dimensional Robin. "I just aced Batman!" Dick says in a flashback. "You just watch yourself out there, big boy. Before you know it, I might be head monkey in charge... and it'll be me in the cape and cowl!" It's an effective introduction that segues to a really moody look at Alfred, as he pines over the empty cape and cowl. Alfred later has a great line for when the Justice League arrives with Bruce's costume: "Are you all right?" Superman asks. "Am I "all right"?" Alfred replies, with a pause. "No, sir, I am not. My son has died." It's these moments that make the book worthwhile, and I expect Winick will milk these moments for all they're worth.
Yet the action and pensiveness segments of the book really slowed this 30-page story down. Part of this is due to the artwork of Ed Benes, which starts off moody but quickly becomes bland, with shot upon shot of heroes in street clothes, or Dick in the Nightwing uniform rather than the pointy ears. Benes does draw a mean Damian, however, with a really striking pose that evokes the best of the Kuberts or Joe Madureira. But the rest of his action is not very dynamic, with some weird composition that really sucks the energy and weight out of a drive-by crime bust, or Damian's ill-advised one-on-one with the radioactive Doctor Phosphorus. Yet his take on a young Dick Grayson, grinning with glee for successfully ambushing his mentor, is really spot-on.
I think the thing about this particular issue is that it's a perfectly good introduction for the new Dynamic Duo -- it just happens to ignore much of the lead-up we've spent the past three months following. Based on what I've read in the other new Bat-books, this seems to be a trend, and if you can get over the continuity ripples, I think Judd Winick will be taking a deeper look at the man in the cape and cowl, leaving the flashiness to Morrison and company. If you haven't read Batman and Robin already, read this one first -- I'm confident with Mark Bagley on board starting next month, that Batman will take this issue's warm-up and kick things into high gear.