After a solid debut in Batman #86, I was really looking forward to what James Tynion and Tony Daniel had to offer in Batman #87… Well, I feel let down. Not only does Tynion’s script drop in quality, but Daniel is nowhere to be found as Guillem March steps in to cover the art. It’s the second issue and there’s already an art change!? Come on DC. Get your $#!% together.
Last month, James Tynion and Tony Daniel took the reigns of Batman and started us down a new, interesting, path. In many ways, I felt as though Tynion had the odds stacked against him. It’s well noted that I’m not fond of King’s work on Batman, and as much as I would’ve loved to have started fresh, that wasn’t going to happen. But in that, Tynion was able to pick key plots to explore such as Alfred’s death, Bruce’s relationship with Selina, and a new support team for Batman – all of which turned out to be quite intriguing and well-executed.
Together, Tynion and Daniel launched a story that was entertaining, gripping, and even heartbreaking at times. We were set-up with a plot that prepared us to battle Gotham on two fronts: Bruce and Selina during the day, and Batman and Catwoman at night – specifically against assassins hired by someone who has ties to Selina’s past. Tynion established that there’s a difference Bruce can make during the day with his money and influence, while also battling criminals at night. This is supposed to be Bruce’s attempt to make Gotham into the city he always dreamed it could be, and I am 100% here for that story… So, imagine my confusion when this chapter opened with Penguin and the Riddler, and didn’t appear to have any connection to the previous issue or any story that’s come before it.
We literally open this issue with a tweaked out, naked, emaciated Riddler rambling nonsense – and when I say nonsense, I mean nonsense. It eventually becomes clear in his conversation with Penguin that they are discussing something involving their past, and how it’s come back to haunt them, but the process to get there meanders a bit. Even then, the details aren’t clear, and the vagueness doesn’t necessarily create mystery or intrigue, it just simply feels… well…. vague.
We get more of Bruce, Selina, and Lucius working together, but there isn’t anything new here. Each of their scenes together accomplishes what was already accomplished in the debut, so it feels like a waste of pages. This chapter also suffers from less effective dialogue and relationships. Where Tynion appeared to be careful and purposeful with his words and interactions in Batman #86, this issue feels more like a paint-by-numbers approach. It just doesn’t feel that the same care and attention are implemented here, and that results in the relationships feeling off.
Thankfully, the follow-up with the assassins from the debut turned out to be a rather entertaining venture. You had to know that with heavy hitters like Deathstroke and Cheshire, Tynion wasn’t going to squander their potential on a single issue. These scenes are honestly the most interesting and engaging part of this chapter, as Deathstroke reveals that he and his peers are a few steps ahead of Batman and the GCPD. But even these scenes aren’t without their problems.
The reveal that Cheshire isn’t really in the prison is… interesting? The moment Batman said “clay” when touching “Cheshire,” I thought it was going to be Clayface. I had a bit of dread because it feels a bit, “been there, done that,” especially coming from Tynion. But I was even more confused when it turned out that it was just a clay model/ mannequin. What? How is that possible? Did nobody realize that the person they placed in prison wasn’t actually real? I mean, Batman literally changed the look of the clay by merely touching it, so how does this make any sense? The clay Cheshire would’ve had to have been touched or needed to move at some point, so this is a huge stretch and hard to buy into.
I also think Tynion needs to be careful and avoid things that can be perceived as hokey. There are a couple of moments in this issue that take me back to Schumaker’s Batman films (specifically, Cheshire’s “Bat nail polish remover. Very clever. Very, very clever.” bit). The “clay Cheshire” then this, in addition to another new Bat-gadget/ vehicle that isn’t nearly as cool as the Night Climber, makes the book feel as though it’s less about the story, and more geared towards nostalgia and fan-service. And I have no problem with fan service, there needs to be a strong story and character work at the foundation, and this issue doesn’t provide that. I also need to address the fact that Cheshire is hit by a truck going full speed, and it doesn’t kill her. Come on, Tynion. You’re better than this.
Now, I know my tone towards the issue sounds rather negative, so I want to be clear in conveying that I don’t think Batman #87 is bad. It’s just above average. I came into this story expecting growth from the issue, and that’s not what was delivered. If anything, this feels like regression.
Guillem March steps in as the artist for this issue, and I’m not happy about it. To be clear, I really enjoy March’s work, I’m just upset that this is the second issue and there’s already a change in the artist. If I were Tynion, I would’ve pushed back on this hard.
Anyway, I am a fan of March and I’ve actively sought out his work in the past, but the shift in plot, as well as the distinct difference in art style and tone, make this issue feel as though it should be part of a completely separate story. There’s a much darker and horror-based tone to March’s work, and that clashes with what Daniel delivered in the last issue. Now, I know that Tynion wants to accentuate horror elements and themes in this story, and I’m down for that, but DC should’ve picked a single artist and stuck with them. Whether it’s Daniel or March, I don’t mind, but pick a style and aesthetic and run with it.
Even within March’s own work, there are inconsistencies though. There are moments where he really embraces and embellishes the horror aspects of his work. The panel with a nude Riddler shows a rigid, protruding spine and accentuated ribcage and pelvis. Then, with Penguin, he showcases monster-like features and pointed teeth. But when you move to the likes of Cheshire or Catwoman, the art is more traditional and focuses on the beauty of the characters. The differences do less to hint at tones, but more so feel like to completely different choices that clash. For me, it just didn’t work like it could have or should have.
- You’re willing to give Tynion’s run a shot.
- You’re a fan of Cheshire.
- Guillem March
The biggest problem with Batman #87 is that it doesn’t feel like a proper follow-up to Batman #86. Ultimately, this chapter is a jarring transition from a story that was so focused on featuring Batman without Alfred and what Bruce Wayne could do for Gotham, to a story about some ominous, mysterious character we’ve never heard of coming to wreck Gotham. The flow simply isn’t there. Had Tynion led in by continuing Bruce’s role in this chapter, then shifted the focus to the assassins and the Designer, then the story would’ve flowed much better. Also, the shift from Tony Daniel to Guillem March on art creates a rather jarring tonal shift. It literally feels as though this is a chapter from a separate story, and that’s not promising for the second outing of a run.