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Review: Batman #696

Tony Daniel’s current arc on Batman has been solid, to say the least. As the story is beginning to wrap up, we are getting ever closer to finding out the identity of the Black Mask.


Last time we saw Batman, he had fallen into a trap set by the Penguin and the Mad Hatter at an abandoned amusement park. This issue basically picks up the story an unspecified time later. Batman is washed up on the shore in Gotham Harbor, and is found by Damian. Dick is seen to be beaten up pretty badly when he is discovered, and is wearing a broken mask that the Black Mask has been giving to the “false faces.”


Now throughout the book, Batman continuously goes in and out of consciousness. At the same time, the story is going back and forth between the present time, and flashbacks of the previous nine hours that are running through Dick’s mind. Going back nine hours, we see that Batman is under the control of the Penguin, following his orders by way of the altered gas mask. Damian has already figured this out, but just hasn’t figured out whose orders Dick had been following. We see that the Penguin had sent Batman to break into the Mayor’s office where he takes two tubes of the antidote to Black Mask’s mind control toxin. As Batman is beginning to gain consciousness again in the present, he blacks out once more and the story goes to Catwoman and Kitrina Falcone who are going after Black Mask as well. Catwoman saves Kitrina from the third member of their group who was about to kill Kitrina. Batman shows up, still under Penguin’s control and takes them down, but goes with Kitrina to Devil’s Square, which has attracted both the National Guard and the Marines due to the Black Mask and his followers.


While going through all of the flashbacks in his mind, Dick is slowly beginning to remember what happened. We see that he had confronted Black Mask and his inner circle of Fright and Dr. Hugo Strange. They fight and Batman had gained the advantage until Black Mask pulled a gun, and shot Batman in the chest, who proceeded to fall out a window, off a cliff, and into the ocean below. And that is where he reaches the point at the beginning of the book. It ends with a now fully aware Batman telling Babs that he thinks he may know who Black Mask really is.


I enjoyed this book, despite its non-linear timeline. I think Tony Daniel did a good job pulling it off, though I will acknowledge that I am not a huge fan of this style. The reason he was able to keep the story from being too confusing or choppy was the fact that the main focus was in the flashbacks, with no action in the present. That’s the trap that many writers fall into, but Daniel avoided. The actual story started off great, with Damian doing all the talking. That first scene gives the reader a reminder that even though he may think of himself as an adult, Damian is still just a kid. I got a small chuckle out of the first line when he saw Dick lying on the beach and yelled out, “Epic Fail!”


The one issue I had with this book was the absence of Dick’s thought process during the fight scenes. This was obviously because he was being manipulated, but maybe it would have been a little cooler if we saw conflicting views between the Penguin and Dick’s thoughts. Either way, Daniel’s doing a good job, and his art has been excellent as well. It’s nice to get a break from the seemingly never ending Blackest Night with a good Batman story (I’m sure I’ll get some flak from that).


Batman #696:



Reviewed by RiddleMeThis

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  • Suavestar

    Hmm, your making me reconsidering picking this, and the last issue up. Which means that this was a damn fine review!

  • Zfactor

    I’m fine with non-linear storytelling. Often its the best writers who use this format but I just feel Daniel has no idea what he is doing. He has completely flooded this title with characters that are not necessary. And I think that he won’t have the time to rap all of their storylines up. Basically, I just keep waiting it out until Black Mask’s identity is revealed. I also feel like his art keeps getting weaker and weaker. Just really disappointed with this title so far.