The Bat-Universe has been pretty busy lately. A few days ago, I reviewed the first issue of Blackest Night: Batman, and that was a good tie-in by itself to get the new Dark Knight and his allies into the whole Black Lantern mess happening in the DCU. Still, we can't be distracted from what's going on in the main batbooks, and Richard "Dick" Grayson has more than his hands full there already. As we continue the saga of Batman: Reborn, a new Dark Knight continues to protect Gotham against familair foes. Even if the world has lost Bruce Wayne, his protege is holding the fort down nicely... even with a few headaches coming to him here and there.
Batman # 688
Written By: Judd Winick
Illustrated By: Mark Bagley
Ever since he took up the mantle, being Batman was a challenge for Dick Grayson. He knew it wasn't going to be easy, but since he was a boy in the circus, he was born performer, and he relishes on delivering the best performance he can, even as a crime fighter. After a successful hit in one of Penguin's clubs, the new Dark Knight is feeling more confident than ever to continue his mentor's legacy and eliminating crime, but his movements are being monitored by Harvey "Two-Face" Dent, who uses the new Dark Knight to loosen Penguin's hold on his side of Gotham. Wanting to eliminate the pest once and for all, Oswald Cobblepot meets with "another mysterious party", who supplies him with "distractions" to keep the new Batman pretty busy.
For three issues straight, Judd Winick continues his game of presenting "the new and happier" Dark Knight to the comic fanbase. Like the last issue before this, it's already obvious that Dick Grayson isn't trying to imitate Bruce Wayne at all, and doing his own twist on the Batman legend is working well for the most part... almost too well. We now know that Two-Face is onto "Dick's facade" and is utilizing this discovery to rain in on Penguin's parade, leaking information to the new Batman intentionally so he can cripple Cobblepot's territories. At the same time, Dick's not stupid enough to realize he's being used, and he's just playing along until he can discover who the real mastermind is and end the game once and for all. Personally, I'm really enjoying this book. It's refreshing to see how Winick displays the new Batman working in the field, with Mr. Grayson contrasting his own actions to that of Bruce Wayne. While he doesn't use his mentor's methods to disable his prey, the former Robin and Nightwing makes up for this by "lighting up the stage with dazzling fireworks", beating up goons and getting the job done in timely fashion.
For those needy in emotion and dialogue, there'll be a lot more discussions between Dick and Alfred here. Like the last issue, similarities and contrasts can be seen on how Bruce and Dick relate with what many would call "Batman's Batman". Coping with the loss of Bruce must be painfully hard for the faithful butler, but Dick's presence and will to continue his mentor's work gives the surrogate father of the bat family the strength and will to carry on as well. I loved how Alfred summed his role up - "To stand in the Shadow of The Greater Shadow", and while he has gotten good at this with Bruce over the years, Dick Grayson's tenure as the Dark Knight has made things easier for him this time. It's a great moment of this book, and one that I look forward to in many more issues while Nightwing holds onto the mantle.
The big game coming is the war between the new Bats, Two-Face, Penguin, and a mysterious third party individual who hasn't revealed himself publicly (but for those who read Battle For The Cowl, it's pretty obvious who it is already). Harvey evidently is enjoying the new Batman, and while we don't know what kind of move he'll make later on in the next few issues, previews have already revealed what he intends to do. Penguin also stands out as an unintimidated force, and just looks more annoyed than angry at the whole mess Batman has created for him. His meeting with the shadowy guy foreshadows a greater threat in the works, and while they don't see to the pest problem personally, they have some hired guns to do the job for them, including the return of another familiar bat-rogue who uses his powers effectively to get the Dark Knight's attention.
Art again by Mark Bagley is superb. While I can't fault him for his work here reminding me of his stints back when he was doing Spider-Man, the effect is pretty much the same. Everybody looks so youthful and so vibrant with Bagley's sketches that it's hard to believe Gotham is a dark place sometimes, and while I have no problems with that, some people may not be too comfortable with the illuminated atmosphere given in this book. In fact, sometimes I can't hesitate to see Dick Grayson as a black haired Peter Parker wearing a Batsuit instead of the Spidey costume, a pretty amusing comparison that's only justified by the fact that Dick likes to talk and kick ass as Batman... a lot. Also, I'm starting to have a love/ hate relationship with the design of the new Batmobile. While it seems effective, it's not as sleek-looking as its predecessors and I kinda miss that part of having a ride like that. Hopefully since it's going the Batman Beyond route, it'll evolve to that, but until then, I guess I'll have to live with this for now.
Overall, it's another solid issue for Winick and Bagley, but I feel we can get more out of the new Batman creative team in the next issue. I'm not disappointed with this month's results, but I wouldn't call it a home run either. Still, great action flows in this book to make fans give it attention, so pick it up only if you want to see Dick Grayson come into his own.
Score - 8/10