BATMAN #86 & #87

There once was an assassin called Slade, who never owned a bucket and spade. So what did he do? He didn’t have a clue. Until he went to the beach with a blade! Want to know more? Then please ignore the following adventure created by James Tynion IV, Tony Daniel, Guillem March, and published by DC Comics in February, 2020.

TO QUOTE Charles Eames: ‘Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design’.

When you take a long, hard look, at Gotham City, what do you actually see? Do you see a dark domain that’s currently being redeveloped by Bruce Wayne? Or do you see a malevolent metropolis where vile villains hang out for their next mission? Assassinate Wayne.

Well, whatever you might think, please remember that there’s always a hero at hand to combat crime and search for strife. A hero like Catwoman, for instance, who’s alighting at a gala function in order to catch a thief. Along with her partner, Batman, who’s primed and ready to fight the likes of Deathstroke, Cheshire, Merlyn, Gunsmith, and Mr. Teeth, with a new range of gadgets at his disposal.  

Having said that, though, there’s still something lingering in the air that hasn’t yet been revealed! Something sinister, perhaps? Something mean! And something that needs further investigation when you pick up issues 86 and 87 of Batman today. In the meantime, though, here, check this out...

Overall, I rather enjoyed reading these two episodes of Batman because the artwork was bold, expressive, and occasionally baroque, while the story in itself was one part intriguing and one part new. In fact, it was so new – tonally, at least – that I would now like to review both installments, question and answer style...

1) So what’s this story all about? Well, from what I can gather so far, it’s about an unknown-enemy who wants to stop Bruce Wayne from redesigning Gotham City. You see, many years ago, Bruce told Alfred that he wanted to redevelop his hometown so he can leave behind a long-lasting legacy. But due to feelings of inadequacy, fear, and other work commitments, he couldn’t bring himself to do this until Alfred passed away. So now, after all this time, Bruce has decided to take steps to redesign and redevelop Gotham’s skyline, despite some resistance being felt from a mysterious mastermind who wants to replace Bruce’s designs with their own.

2) Who do you think this might be?  According to a tête-à-tête between The Penguin and The Riddler (yes, they’re still around), it’s someone called The Designer, and by all accounts, he’s a master manipulator who's infinitely wealthy, great at formulating plans, and is generally feared by his contemporaries. Apart from that, though, we don’t know too much about him. Not even how these two villains were able to hear about him in the first place.

3) Talking about villains, were any of them any good? No, not really, because MerlynGunsmith, and Mr. Teeth, hardly had any time in the spotlight, while Deathstroke and Cheshire did have a bit more to do, but not enough to make much of an impact. Well, in Slade’s case, he was featured in a couple of dialogue scenes in issue 87 and an off-screen battle with Batman in issue 86. Whereas Jade, on the other hand, was involved with a pretty good chase scene at the end of issue 87. But aside from that? There's nothing major to mention. Except for Guillem March’s rendition of The Penguin and The Riddler, which made them both look like grotesque, savage, monsters, instead of cunning criminals with perverse personalities. So hopefully, next month, the villains will get some more page-time and Guillem will tone down his style (just so it synchronizes with Tony’s style slightly more).

4) How’s Batman’s new supporting cast shaping up? Well, let’s just say that so far, so good, but only because Catwoman seems like a seductive version of Nightwing, Lucius Fox seems like a Nubian version of Alfred Pennyworth, and Commissioner Bullock seems like a grumpier version of James Gordon. So, more or less, not a bad start really. Not when you take into account that all of these characters share a long history with Batman and can easily conform to his new status quo. Having said that, though, I would like to see their roles differentiate a bit more than the people they’re trying to replace. Otherwise, why bother? Why bother having a replacement when you can have the real deal?

5) Are the 'Nightclimber' and the 'Bat-shot' good additions to Batman’s arsenal? Yeah. They’re not that bad. As ‘The Climber’ can climb up walls, fly through the air, and is equipped with radar, projectiles, and a variety of other gadgets, whereas ‘The Shot’, reminds me of a game of human pinball, ha! Seriously, though, they're both OK, but I’m not entirely sure if either of them will last for very long, because just like the Bat-Train, the Bat-Copter, and the Bat-Submarine, these new contraptions normally stay around roughly the same time as the creative team who’ve designed them.

6) Speaking about this new creative team, how do you think they’re doing? Well, in all honesty, I wouldn’t necessarily call them ‘very new’, as Tony and Guillem have drawn this series many times before, while James has written a couple of episodes as well (along with stints on ‘Detective Comics’). Nonetheless, it’s still nice to see them again. Not only because they’re talented individuals who are good at their job, but in addition to this, none of them are Tom King, ha! In all seriousness, though, Tony, Guillem, and James, all appear to be fairly focused storytellers who want to create a solid adventure, rather than a long-winded melodrama. So with a little luck, they will be able to rectify the mistakes of the past and amplify the hopes of the future, hint-hint! Bring back Alfred and the Robins.

For this month’s musical match-up, I’m going to align these two episodes with the David Bowie song, ‘Changes’, because they’re both about rebirth and redevelopment.

I’m going to compare these two episodes to Elmyr de Hory (a well-known art forger), because they’re both about stealing someone else’s designs.

Near the end of issue 87, we see Batman taking down Cheshire with the use of… what? What do you think he uses to subdue this vile vixen? I mean, could it be something like…

  • Bat-Perfume. 
  • Bat-Handbag.
  • Bat-Nail-Polish-Remover. 
  • Bat-Lipstick.
  • Bat-Gun.
  • Bat-Hairbrush.
  • Bat-Shoes.
  • Bat-Potato.

Nuff said.

BATMAN #86 & #87 BATMAN #86 & #87 Reviewed by David Andrews on February 13, 2020 Rating: 5

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