Best Shots Review: BATMAN #86

"Batman #86" preview 2020
Credit: DC
Credit: DC

Batman #86
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Tony S. Daniel, Danny Miki and Tomeu Morey
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

“You have a design for Gotham City, Master Bruce. Isn’t it time the world saw it?”

Credit: DC

It’s hard not to feel like James Tynion IV is talking about himself in the opening salvo of his run. He’s the new writer of Batman, and after 80+ issues of Tom King, we’re getting a new design on the Dark Knight Detective. Unfortunately for Tynion, there’s a bit of housekeeping to do, and the writer has to acknowledge his predecessor while introducing some new ideas before he can more things forward. Tynion stays safe in the pocket here. This is a Batman story first and foremost, and he doesn’t really tip his hand about what he might be planning - this is good guys versus bad guys, first and foremost. Tony S. Daniel joins him for this new era, and similarly sticks to what he knows - delivering on the DC house style that he’s made his name on.

King’s run “ended” with a few balls still up in the air and no clear place to put them. (Scare quotes only because King’s run will continue in a slightly-different titled book, Batman/Catwoman.) But as much as Tynion works to give recent continuity some context, he slowly introduces some of the ideas that figure to play into his opening arc. In a lot of ways, it’s like Tynion is checking off a lot of “Batman is...” statements and then dealing with what that means for the story. Batman is a guy with cool gadgets, so Tynion introduces a new vehicle. Batman is a guy that villains frequently team up to fight, so some villains team up and Tynion gets to introduce a couple of new ones. Batman is defined by his relationships, so Tynion checks in with Selina Kyle and Lucius Fox in the place of Alfred. Tynion is essentially giving readers what they want, but planting the seeds for his future stories in workmanlike fashion. It’s good work, even if it’s not the most exciting.

Credit: DC
Credit: DC

Tony S. Daniel is another creator with an effectively efficient approach to storytelling. He’s not an artist who takes many chances, but if you are looking for someone to draw characters on model in a style that is recognizable to fans and easy to read, he’s your guy. And that works for this story. Batman looks like Batman and feels like Batman. I think Daniel could benefit from an inker that doesn’t make his lines seem so frail elsewhere, but Danny Miki doesn’t make that mistake when it comes to rendering the Dark Knight. Tomeu Morey’s coloring plays well with the linework, but I again a heavier hand on the inks could have brought some stronger contrast. Overall, the art team stays in their lane and does their job, much like the writing.

But I can hear you saying, “well if it’s such an effective Batman issue, why did you only give it a seven? Seven is a low score!” First of all, it’s not a low score - it’s sufficiently average. And secondly, does anything I described sound like something you haven’t read before? From a technical standpoint, this is a well-told piece of comics. But it’s hardly doing anything new. It’s hardly doing anything exciting. Tynion delivers on a couple of solid emotional beats. Daniel gives us a couple of nice splashes. But this high floor, low ceiling storytelling - it’s too safe to really be revelatory. Tynion is a smart writer and I have no doubt that he knew exactly what he was doing starting here. We’ll see what designs he’s got in store moving forward.

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