This year in review has been quite the adventure, we had our ups and our downs, our favorites and our dislikes. But we read these Batman books regardless because, hey, we’re in love with the character. And beside that fact the Batman flagship book had an alright year, concluding this year (excluding the annuals) with a Tony Daniel's arc is the best thing for us fans who are sick of Grant Morrison’s headiness. Tony Daniel's previous run on the book wasn’t the hottest thing in the world although his art was beyond impressive. Whether it was the rushed feeling it gave off or the laziness of the writing, all of it has been erased in my mind because of this run. He has returned with a reformed and refined repertoire, giving us enough to quell our desires while not rushing into it and ruining the overall experience.
And while his art is obviously some of the best we’ve seen this year, what is his greatest renewed quality, although it remains subtle, is his writing. Daniel has made giant improvements when it comes to his writing and it shows because it is a lot tighter and more broad and cohesive than some of his other writing especially when it comes to how he writes Dick Grayson. He takes everything that makes Dick his own person and displays that while he expands on it. He writes Dick as his own Batman who is vastly different from Bruce and rather than make it seem awkward, it feels right, personable and it feels like Dick has been Batman for longer than he actually has. Dick in my opinion was written absolutely perfectly, with his comedic overtones and snappy wit, and I applaud Tony Daniel for showing his knowledge and breadth as a writer while not overplaying it and acting like he knows everything. He respects the characters and takes the responsibility of our expectations and serves it to the fullest. He has earned a lot of respect from me as a comic fan and reader because of the fact that he understands Dick and where so many writers and artists have done wrong by making Dick resemble Bruce both physically and mentally. Daniel has effectively made Dick his own man, and it seems like I am subconsciously attaching Daniel to Dick which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
He does all of that and tells a story, we learn the reason why Sensei is after Sasha Lo’s baby brother is because he is telepathic and knows where the mask is. We also get a cameo appearance by I-Ching although he doesn’t really do anything besides explain that the mask holds pure evil and destruction and the reason we have not felt it’s wrath is because a man was safe guarding it, but the man was betrayed and the village he lived in was destroyed. When the mask was found by an American doctor, it was taken to Gotham where it seems all bad things go. But after bringing it to Gotham the doctor was driven insane by it, so he tried to destroy it, but couldn’t. So he turned to this group of architects called The Jade Compass Society who hid it somewhere within the construction of the Gotham where it was safe. But Sensei found out that Sasha’s brother held the key to it’s location and after kidnapping the boy is planning on finding the mask to wield it’s power. Meanwhile, Batman, Sasha, and I-Ching are given a clue to Sensei and the boy’s whereabouts through a brief telepathic link between Sasha and her brother. As they arrive on the scene of where Sasha’s brother might be, Batman see’s a drawing, recognizes it and goes out by himself only to find out it is an ambush set by none other than The Riddler and his daughter Enigma.
Daniel's genius is the fact that, like I said before, he gives us enough while not force feeding us or giving us too much. He gives us a reason to pick up the next issue and he finds that fine balance and never lets up on it all while leaving us intrigued, satisfied and hungering for more which I think has been a bit absent this year. And while this story does fall a bit Daniel completely erases these facts from your mind and makes you focus on the story at hand, with all of the twists and turns, all while not explicitly trying to, which only furthers the fact that he knows what he’s doing, where he wants to take his story, and most importantly that he knows the characters. This is by far the most shining example of what happens when someone takes the time, effort and grace to appreciate and respect the characters at hand while supplying the need for content and it’s serene, timeless, beautiful, and effortless delivery. And even though it is a story that spans centuries and even though it has a telepathic aspect to it, Daniels pulls it off effortlessly and rather than make it feels awkward and a bit off, he makes it all fit into the ethos of the Batman which truly renews my faith in him as a respectable writer who holds few equals.
But anyways, the art in this book truly defines the idea of what comic book art can be and should be, it is sleek at times and rugged at times. Although people put up the argument that he is a line heavy artist, in the large scope of things and like his story Daniels makes you forget about such trivial matters and re-affirms his foothold at the top of DC’s art hierarchy. But the only thing I can complain about in this issue (besides the fact that it ended and my insatiable need for more that it gave me) is Sasha/Peacock’s costume, it’s a bit horrendous and could use a redo, to say the least. But other than that I have no real complaints about this issue.
Overall, this issue was one of the best I’ve read this year, single issue wise. It has all the right elements which are placed right and like I said before, Daniel's understanding of the characters, the situation, and his understanding for his own story which he pulls off beautifully is what really shines through and it really feels like a labor of love on Daniel's part who fully delivers on all aspects while making me actually want to fork over my hard earned cash to read more of his story. This issue is a great send off for Batman for 2010 and any good graces that comes to Daniel or Batman are well deserved.
Reviewed by Dane