If you stuck it out after Detective Comics Annual 12 and grabbed Batman Annual 28, I think you’ll find your patience rewarded. David Hine has stepped up his game and delivers a satisfying end to “All the Rage”.
The pieces all come together as Renee Montoya (aka the Question) infiltrates the Golden Portal and draws its leader, the exotically beautiful and dangerous Korrigan, out of hiding. Dick, Bruce, and Bilal manage to save Leni Urbana from being assassinated and close in on Korrigan, leading to a massive brawl in the catacombs beneath Paris. I was a little wary of Batman using the Question to infiltrate a cult, but in the end it makes a lot of sense. It’s also very satisfying to see the final fight between Korrigan and Renee, especially if you’re familiar with Renee’s past.
There’s also some signs of Hine getting over his problem of not properly defining Dick and Bruce in their respective Batman personas. While their interactions when in costume show stronger characterization, his most obvious answer to the problem is having the Question point out their differences when she encounters them together for the first time. This is a pretty weak solution though, and a major violation of “show don’t tell.” The problem is really resolved when Hine leaves the Batmen out of the picture and lets the Question, Nightrunner, and Korrigan run the show.
This gets to the core of what I think is the problem with Hine’s recent stories, he does better when Batman is a side character instead of the main focus. He just doesn’t seem to get the nuances of the character, which is a major liability when the audience has to distinguish two active Batmen at any given moment. If I had my way, Hine would keep doing what he does best: creating new characters for the Batman mythos. Korrigan, Alyce Sinner, and the Black Garden are all fascinating, and I really think they deserve room to grow. I think I’m going to go back and read the Azrael stories Hine’s been writing recently, I’m curious to see if my theory pans out in that series.
Somehow when I was reading this for the first time I did not notice when the art shifted from Agustin Padilla to Andres Guinaldo, which speaks to either their ability to maintain a similar style or my lack of focus. Just like it was in the first part of this story the art is serviceable, but not spectacular.
Once again this issue has two back up features to round things out, but this time only the Nightrunner back up actually ties into the main story. The first one focuses on the Veil, who is a very odd addition to the Bat Family. She debuted in the wake of Batman RIP in a two-part story by Denny O’Neil and has so far served more as narrator than character in the stories where she appears. Her back up feature in this issue runs into the same problem, though it starts to show signs of her stepping up her game. I really wish a writer would figure out what to do with the Veil besides play Greek Chorus for the audience. She has the power to know what is happening anywhere in Gotham City, which is awesome no matter how you look at it. It also leads to a very funny moment in the story where she calls Batman directly on her cell phone. His reaction alone almost justifies this story’s existence.
This issue also continues the Nightrunner feature and is still a welcome addition. It does a nice job of filling in what’s happened to Bilal after the capture of Korrigan. In addition to his formal recruitment by Bruce Wayne, we get to watch as he is trained by Dick Grayson to better handle the rigors of masked crime fighting. We also get to see the debut of his new uniform. I kinda wish Bilal had been allowed to choose his own symbol instead of being given a bat logo, but I can’t really imagine what else he would go with (a giant “N”? Can the alphabet be scary?). It’s also interesting to see the difficulties he goes through in this new endeavor, seeing that even with his best intention that people don’t really understand what he’s about. If Kyle Higgins were writing an ongoing Nightrunner series I would totally go for it. But failing that I’ll just have to wait and see where Bilal appears next.
This isn’t one of my favorite issues of Batman, but it is an improvement over the first installment of this story.
Batman Annual #28:
Reviewed by Erik