Review: BATMAN #86
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: James Tynion IV
Colours: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Batman #86: It’s a new day in Gotham City, but not the same old Batman. With Bane vanquished and one of his longtime allies gone, Batman has to start picking up the pieces and stepping up his game. Batman has a new plan for Gotham City, but he’s not the only one. Deathstroke has returned as well, under a mysterious new contract that could change everything. Beginning a whole new chapter in the life of the Dark Knight, the epic art team of Tony S. Daniel and Danny Miki are joined by new series writer James Tynion IV!
Batman #86 brings us a change in creative team, with James Tynion IV taking over the writing chores from Tom King. King’s run is an intimidating act to follow, considering he wrote the title for 85 issues and made some notable changes to the Batman mythos. But Tynion is not new to writing the Dark Knight. He had his started 47 issue run on Detective Comics opposite King on BatmanI, as both titles redefined Batman for the Rebirth era.
So, as Tynion takes over Batman’s eponymous title, readers have been wondering how Tynion will differentiate his run from King’s and from his own previous work on Detective Comics? And how much will he build on what has come before?
Tynion has stated in interviews, that he intends to shift the focus away from Batman’s relationship with the Bat-Family and more on the Dark Knight on his own, using Batman’s villains as the main supporting cast. This is evident in this first issue, as the only members of his usual support team we see are Lucius Fox, and Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman. This is something of a change, as Lucius has often been a lesser-used member of Bruce’s supporting cast, and Selina seems to have one foot in the Bat-Family and one in Batman’s rogues gallery.
Tynion is building on King’s run by incorporating Lucius. With Alfred gone, Lucius has stepped in to support Batman by manning the Batcave. While I’m saddened to see Alfred go, it is good to see Lucius becoming more of a presence, as he has been an underutilized character before now. Often, he has been used as a plot device rather than as a fully realized character.
I have also been curious as to how Tynion would use Catwoman in the book, if at all. King’s run ended with Bruce and Selina a couple, but not legally married. Selina’s own title and her appearances in Year of the Villain seem to be out of sync with King’s story. And King still has his own Batman/Catwoman maxiseries to come. So, there is a lot of uncertainty around the character and what the exact status of their romance will be going forward.
We get some hints in this opening issue, but no solid answers quite yet. Selina is assisting Bruce, both as Selina and as Catwoman. She is at a Wayne Enterprises event, and is being asked to account for Bruce’s absence. This does seem to imply that Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle have some sort of public romantic relationship. It will be interesting to see if Tynion delves more into the public side of their relationship.
One fascinating new direction that Tynion is introducing is the redefined Gotham City. Bruce’s narration tells us that Bruce had been unconsciously designing a “city that didn’t need a Batman”. Alfred had suggested, “You have a design for a Gotham City, Master Bruce. Isn’t it time the world saw it?”. So, in memory of his mentor, Bruce has finally decided to make his city a reality. I am intrigued and look forward to seeing Bruce’s vision for Gotham.
Also, this reminds me of Tim Drake’s plans for the team Tynion featured in his Detective Comics run. Tim had made his plans so that he could relieve himself of the burden of being Red Robin and the potential burden of having to succeed Bruce as Batman. I imagine that Tim would approve of Bruce’s project. I would really like to see Tim’s reaction in person.
We don’t see much of Batman’s regular enemies in this issue. The main bad villain is Deathstroke, who was originally a Teen Titans villain before becoming a main DC anti-hero. Deathstroke is assisted by a group of lesser assassins, Cheshire, Merlyn, Mr. Teeth, and Gunsmith – none of whom are Batman villains.
We also see more of Batman’s use of technology to bolster his fighting prowess. He uses careful planning and gadgetry to subdue the lesser threats, while he attends to Deathstroke personally.
I also quite liked how the that fight was depicted. We all knew that would be a grueling and epic battle, but that Batman would win out in the long run. So, instead of wasting time, the fight cuts away to Catwoman and returns to show us a battered, but triumphant Batman resting next to an unconscious Deathstroke.
Also, at this point in the story, Bruce makes a telling slip. He calls for Alfred to contact the GCPD, to which Lucius has to delicately remind him, “I’m… I’m sorry Bruce… Alfred… Alfred isn’t here”. Bruce brushes this off, saying that it’s been a long night. However, it’s clear that Bruce is still trying to cope with the death of his father figure.
I find the hint that Catwoman is or at least was involved with a mysterious plan to sabotage the plans for rebuilding Gotham City intriguing. What was her role in this? And who is the mysterious villain that reveals this?
Batman #86 gives us another epilogue hinting that a major confrontation is brewing between the Joker and Batman. It appears that he isn’t quite ready to let the Batman see what he’s up to, as he waits until Batman’s new Nightclimber is out of range before he has his henchmen act. And then he eliminates his goons so that there are no witnesses.
The art is also a striking change from the previous creative team. This is fitting, as it the new style seems better fitted to Tynion’s style of writing, as the previous style worked well with King’s. It certainly delivers some striking images. I look forward to seeing how Daniel and Miki depict Gotham City’s new look.
Not really a complaint, but more of an unanswered question. When exactly did Lucius become aware of Bruce’s secret career as Batman? As far as I’m aware of, apart from recent issues of Detective Comics, Lucius has never been in on Bruce’s secret life. It seems to me that there is an untold, but important story that needs to be revealed.
While I am disappointed to see King’s stewardship of Batman come to an end, Batman #86 clearly shows that he’s leaving the title in good hands. Tynion is a great writer that has written the character before, which is evident in this initial issue. I have no doubts that Batman will remain one of DC’s top books with Tynion writing it.