Tom King’s run on Batman was quite divisive. Many adore it. Many hate it. And many of us found things to both love and hate within the past 85 issues. I, for one, am personally glad to see a creative change, but a new team doesn’t necessarily mean a fresh start. Like it or not, Batman #86 is still a continuation of what King created. Regardless of your opinion concerning King’s run though, this creative team deserves a fair chance. The real question is whether or not this is a Batman you’ll want to read. Find out below!

The Story

Let’s just start this off with a very general question. What can you expect from James Tynion and Tony Daniel’s Batman? More of a traditional approach. Across the board: the story, the art, the tech, the characters, the threat… They feel more in-tune with the Batman I’ve always known and loved, as opposed to the off-tilt, non-linear, character-deconstruction that King delivered. And whilst “traditional” may sound bad, it’s anything but that.

In the wake of Alfred’s death, Batman reflects on an ideal Gotham. It’s something that’s always been on his mind, but an idea or reality that always felt out of reach… To him anyway. While Bruce dreamed of creating a Gotham that didn’t need Batman, it appears that Alfred was the one who actually believed that dream. Unfortunately, it took losing Alfred for Bruce to actively pursue this specific mission and approach.  What is this approach, exactly? Reshape Gotham by redirecting the youth and new money of the city. It’s a tall order, and even political to a degree, but a worthy attempt to impact the “day” so that it improves the “night.”

At his side assisting him with this approach are Catwoman and Lucius Fox. This is one of the aspects that I’ve missed the most from Batman over the past few years – a team effort. Batman has all of these allies, and for too long we’ve dealt with an isolated, depressed, man-child. With so many heroes providing allegiance to the symbol and idea that Batman represents, we should get to see them support him and work with him, and that’s exactly what Tynion does.

Tynion uses both Selina and Lucius quite well, playing into each of their strengths. While Lucius actively works to assist Batman with some new tech – which is quite cool once it’s revealed – Selina works to assist Bruce Wayne as a socialite and influencer. It’s a battle on both fronts of Gotham that creates an engaging and layered read, complimented by strong character moments. And that’s really one of the key elements here: characterization.

While reading this issue, you get the sense that Bruce, Selina, and Lucius actually like each other. They support one another, and encourage one another. It’s refreshing after 85 issues that essentially did the opposite of that. There’s also some welcomed humor. Lucius cracks a joke about his expectations versus Bruce’s requests, while in a separate scene, Selina laments, “If you leave me alone in a room like this again, I swear I’m going to rob everyone blind.” It’s not all light-hearted laughs though. There’s a heartbreaking moment towards the end of the issue that really forced me to feel the weight of recent events – something I’m sure will resonate with all readers.

Spoiler

If you’re reading this and wondering if there’s any action or adventure, then fear not! There’s a solid dose of it. While I do welcome the spotlight that’s put on Catwoman and Lucius, Batman remains the main focal point as he works to take down a group of assassins. After witnessing a brutal attack at the hands of Chesire, Batman inserts himself to stop the assassins… But Chesire is the least of his worries when it’s discovered that Deathstroke is leading this specific group. The action is fast and intense – albeit a little brief – but should make many fans happy. There’s also an introduction of a new “vehicle” that is completely “comic-booky,” but really freaking cool none-the-less.

We also get another back-up teasing the Joker, and while I’m sure everyone will be quick to point out that this is a complete lift from the opening scene of Nolan’s The Dark Knight, I honestly think Tynion’s approach is more purposeful. More than anything, I think Tynion is simply trying to hint at how he will approach Joker for future stories, and if that’s the case, then I’m pretty damn excited!

If you’re looking to be knocked out of the park with this issue, then I’m sorry to tell you that you will probably be disappointed. Tynion’s interest is in building a narrative here while also respecting the past, and while that may take a way from a punchy debut, it does create a foundation that is chock-full of potential. By the end of the issue, we’re left with an intriguing set-up, solid characterization, and a battle for Gotham on two fronts. What more could we really ask for?

The Art

Tony Daniel is no stranger to Batman, but this is the best his art has looked in some time! This isn’t a knock on him by any means, just a mere comment on how incredible the work can be when artists are given the chance to take their time and really create something special. Factor in Danny Miki’s inks along with Tomeu Morey’s colors – seriously, this guy is quite possibly the best in the business – and you’re left with a final product that completely embraces and accentuates the various tones of the book. Clayton Cowles’ letters shouldn’t be dismissed either as he delivers one hell of an assist in creating the horror vibe that Tynion was shooting for (specifically the gurgling sound of Cheshire’s victim, and the audio communication towards the end of the book)!

The storytelling that Daniel manages to execute here is phenomenal as he flows through a range of genres and tones. From the bright, flashy allure of high-society, to Batman’s bout against the underworld and nefarious assassins, Daniel makes the most of every page. So much is conveyed outside of the dialogue, and that helps round out the narrative and themes that Tynion has created. Even the way Daniel transitions from panel to panel in some cases, it’s as if it’s screen captures of a film and can imagine the score that would accompany each scene. The work is impactful.

Then there’s the action. While there are bursts of action, we never actually witness a full fight from any of the characters, and yet, I never feel short-changed. The impact is still there – and perhaps elevated – because of the way he decided to approach the book, and we’re all the benefactors of that brilliance.

Recommended if:

  • You’ve been waiting for a more traditional Batman story.
  • You want to see Tony Daniel kill it on art duties.
  • You were a fan of James Tynion’s Detective Comics.

 

Overall

James Tynion and Tony Daniel deliver a solid debut that makes the most of what came before it, while also embracing a new, different path. While the approach to storytelling is more traditional in many ways, it’s still a fun, engaging read with quite a bit of promise. Hopefully, as fans, we can let go of what came before and embrace the elements that we enjoy as we move forward.

SCORE: 7.5/10