Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Guillem March and Tomeu Morey
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by DC
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Round two of James Tynion’s Batman run goes about as well as the first. Tynion’s approach is simple and straightforward but lightens up just enough to keep from being too self-serious. The writer balances out the forays into body horror in Guillem March’s art with a couple of solid gags that definitely release some tension and will hopefully grant readers a bit of a reprieve from the intense emotionality that marked much of Tom King’s work. I don’t mean to pit the two scribes against each other, but in a lot of ways this feels like a direct response to some of the criticism that King received.
(Some light spoilers ahead.)
I mentioned it in my previous review, but this run feels like high floor, low ceiling storytelling. This is meat-and-potatoes kind of stuff. Tynion sets up elements early on and delivers on many of them before getting to the back cover, and some of them you can see from a mile away. Early on, Bullock mentions that Gotham PD is getting a new HQ complete with a new holding cell from Wayne Enterprises that Batman claims can hold his deadliest foes better than Arkham can. Well, as soon as we see Deathstroke and a quartet of other assassins essentially give themselves up, the story almost dictates that they will find a way out. This isn’t the most inventive approach to storytelling, but it doesn’t have to be. For fans that were tired of King’s seemingly endless literary references and “Bat”/“Cat” non-speech, a return to regular old superhero comics will seem like a breath of fresh air.
Guillem March is an interesting artist to follow Tony S. Daniel. In a lot of ways they are similar - they draw characters with very idealized proportions and can be counted on to deliver on an action beat when the book called for it. March hits us with a lot of dutch angles across the book which makes the whole thing feel extremely off-kilter. But it also lends a lot of speed to the climactic action sequence that features the Bat Luge (not a joke) by creating long lines that cut across the pages. He definitely gets into cheesecake-y territory with his depiction of Catwoman, but her suit ensures that its not as egregious as his run with the character in the New 52 era.
If DC was concerned that they had moved Batman too far away from his roots during Tom King’s run, then a run like this one is necessary to ground the character in something familiar for fans who may have fallen off. I think that Tynion is too smart of a writer for this to be the story that he wants to tell with Batman, but it is definitely the one that will make his bosses and fans happy. The illusion of change is talked about a lot with regards to comics, but sometimes we should be considering the illusion of safety. I don’t just mean the safety of the characters, but the safety of the hobby for readers looking for an escape rather than a challenge. For folks that see those ideas as opposites — they aren’t, but that’s another discussion — Tynion and March put together something that functions like a trip down memory lane, but in doing so, fails to really stand out in a crowded comics market.