Overview: Batman crashes the Riddler’s party, trying to stop the theft of a Faberge egg, but things are not quite what they seem.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Batman, with his loyal butter and “man in the van” Alfred in support, via comms, is missing dinner at Wayne Manor and on his way to disrupt one of the Riddler’s seemingly lesser schemes. He quickly arrives at the location, where he finds out a bunch of Riddlers swarming around causing trouble! As Batman locates the REAL Riddler amongst the crowd, he identifies most of the impersonators as stuntmen and doesn’t pull his punches, before smashing through a window and pinning the Riddler down. The Riddler keeps repeating the same basic riddle, “When is the Riddler not the Riddler?”, and appearing to be deadly afraid of something else that is not Batman.
Suddenly a huge series of lights shine and a power blast hits Batman in his gut! He wakes up, just before a rookie cop goes take his mask off. The fake Riddlers have all been loaded into the paddy wagon, and it turns out they all thought it was almost a flash mob movement, a parody or spoof of a crime, rather than the real thing, which was Riddler stealing a Faberge egg.
Cut to the Bat-Signal with Jim Gordon and Batman talking, and Batman is telling Jim that Riddler was scared. “This isn’t his gig. he was being used.” Gordon always tells Batman that the museum owner knew who the original owner was…Jonah Hex!
Batman then takes the Batmobile out on a day trip, to see Jinny Hex, who is the descendant of Jonah Hex. He gives Jinny the third degree and doesn’t get too far, she just says she gave the egg to the museum because nobody would pay her fifteen million dollars for it.
Meanwhile, in Amsterdam, Riddler is in a club, extremely stressed, when Deathstroke turns up, quickly followed by Batman. They clash, and after Deathstroke manages to get a sword hit on Batman, a batarang knocks Riddler out, who then tries to escape as Batman and Deathstroke continue to clash! Suddenly a gas arrow knocks Deathstroke out, and Green Arrow reveals himself!
Analysis: This is fairly sub-standard Batman adventure and frankly if this is indicative of what DC was pumping out at Walmart, color me underwhelmed. The bantering tone between Alfred and Batman is a little too camp and arch for what I like in Batman comics – indeed the tone seemed to fit Nightwing more than Bruce Wayne. The art by Nick Derington is excellent and helps sell the slight story. Dave Stewart on colors is masterful as well.
But can good quality art save a lackluster story? The answer I often find is no as it merely dresses it up quite prettily. It’s still a very average story. Bendis to me at DC has been merely passable, phoning in a story not devoid of banter, but curiously devoid of true drama. I acknowledge my own bias here – it’s been years since a Bendis comic has genuinely moved me. I look back at his years on Ultimate Spider-Man and New Avengers with mild astonishment considering how little his more recent work has impressed me. I often find myself wondering what it is that doesn’t move me anymore about his writing style. I think it’s the banter – it’s toned down in this issue but it’s still there – it still feels like a little piece of his Marvel banter where everybody sounds like Spider-Man having been filtered through to Batman and Gotham. Yes, it’s toned down, but between Alfred and Batman, it’s still there. I feel bad for pointing it out, but if this exchange had been between Nightwing and Alfred, I wouldn’t have had a problem.
Bendis still structures a comic effectively and as much as the story is boring, it does move. For this reason this issue earns an exact average pass mark. It should be much better if DC is serious about converting fresh fans. One thing I will say is it does effectively mention and show characters such as Jonah Hex, Green Arrow and Deathstroke. I guess this really is just an advertisement. If only it had a bit more depth.
Final Thoughts: An underwhelming and lackluster entry in the Batman canon – is this really the best Bendis can do?
Editor’s Note: David Finn hosts the Signal of Doom: A Comic Podcast. Give it a listen for more DC Comics talk.