Review: Batman #693

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With all the exciting goings on in the Batman universe these days, it would seem like every issue would be a winner. While the Falcone Family and Black Mask’s gang vie for control of Gotham City, other players emerge to cause shenanigans and all manner of trouble.

batman693COVER.jpgBatman #693
Written by Tony Daniel
Art by Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea
Cover by Tony Daniel

Previously in Batman:  Do you really want to know? It’s Batman kicking ass and taking names, all while trying to bring down Black Mask and his gang of False Faces! There’s also some stuff going on with the Falcone Family, Arkham Asylum, and a bunch more, but for that full story, you should probably just read every Batman book being published.

In order to keep a close eye on Tommy Elliot (in his current guise as Bruce Wayne), Dick (the current Batman), Barbara (the original Oracle), and Helena (she’s The Huntress, but let’s not try and look to close at her history, m’kay?) all show up at a gala event to celebrate the building of the new Arkham Asylum.  It’s odd that Barbara and Dick don’t go as a couple to this event. Instead Alfred hooks Helena with Dick, and when they almost get caught sleuthing, the two share an awkward, yet interesting kiss.  Another love interest for the young playboy perhaps?

We won’t find out in this issue, because Oracle promptly interrupts the duo, ordering Huntress to follow a strange girl who has infiltrated the party. The Riddler is also following the girl (he’s at the party too, as this naturally is a big to-do party), and before Helena and Edward can figure out what is going on – BOOM!  The bomb and the subsequent wreckage, gives Helena a moment to change into her gear, and Edward a chance to regain his memories he lost during his last bump on the head.

That’s right, Dear Reader, the Riddler is back to being his bad self, and presumably has the recovered memories of the identity of Batman.  It’s an easy out by the collective writing group to expose Thomas Elliot, but it seems rather rushed in this issue.  We don’t see what happens after that single panel, because readers find themselves at the docks, watching Gordon, Batman, and Bullock at the scene of the latest mob hit.  That scene then flip to Batman trying to track down the mysterious girl from the party, which leads him back to Devil’s Square, and the death of a young man, complete with the requisite screaming of the word “No” while holding the fallen teen.

There’s a lot going on, and that’s the biggest problem with this issue – it’s just so jumpy in its attempt to cram so much story into so few pages.  We’re never let on that Oracle has everyone and everything wired until after the fact.  The Riddler’s return happens mid-issue, and in a single panel that could very easily cause this major plot point to be lost. Even the young lad getting shot in the alley, and Batman’s subsequent reaction seems forced and cliched just to fit in the required number of pages. Things happen so quickly and in a disjointed manner, that readers almost need a diagram to make all the connections.

That being said, there are some positive elements in the story.  The Falcone/Black Mask war is probably one of the better turf war stories we’ve seen out of the Batman titles for some time, and I like that aspect of the issue.  The Helena/Dick interaction was great, and it’s good to see her in action.

The other positive moments in this issue appear on each page and panel, as the art by Daneil really works.  The characters look sharp and well defined, as the artist pays close attention to make sure poses are appropriate for the  character.  Dick broods, and his hunched body posture appears in many panels in the issue.  Helena is the stunner, and her grace and poise work from panel to panel, even when she’s furious at Oracle for breaking up that special moment.  There are a few times when the face work slips, but generally everything on the art side works in this issue.

This entire issue feels like one of those knots that connect so many strings together.  In this case, those strings are all the other Batman books, as the various story points only make sense if you’ve read the other issues. I have a feeling all of these post-Bruce Wayne stories will make much more sense when they are collected and read in trade format, but for now, Batman #693 earns 2 out of 5 Stars.

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