ďRiddle Me ThisĒ (part 1: Black Magic Tricks)
Plot: A new arc begins and Batman is on the hunt for a mysterious killer.
Comments: Batman #698 starts a brand new storyline by ongoing scribe Tony Daniel. When some peculiar murders start happening in Gotham City it lies in the hands of the caped crusader to get to the bottom of the situation. As it turns out the victims all have a few things in common: they were all recently released from Blackgate prison, are all number men, and are all killed in a fashion that would cast suspicion in the direction of some of Batmanís most deadliest rogues. As we learn over the course of the issue it becomes apparent that this is the work of Sebastian Blackspell, deranged magician. The bigger question of motive remains though.
Tony Daniel makes fine use of Dick Grayson as Batman by weaving a little inner turmoil into the overall mystery of the story itself. It was a nice change of pace to see a bigger attempt at including more Dick into the picture even though it was a toxin induced nightmare for Dick. The sequence changes involving the Graysonís, Catwoman, Jason Todd, and Bruceís skeleton was an extremely cool touch and delves light onto the fact that Dick is still uncomfortable with wearing the cowl and questions his effectiveness in comparison to Bruce.
The use of the Riddler as the yin to Batmanís yang was initially cool but quickly turned Riddler into more of an annoyance than anything. It was though Nygma was used solely as a thorn in the side of Batman even when bringing a revealing bit of information to Batmanís attention that leads Blackspell. Which left me thinking this; shouldnít Batman, even if it is Grayson, still be a far superior detective than the Riddler? Regardless, I had originally surmised that the Riddler was actually behind the killings but the final doozy of a page hints at something far more sinister lurking around the corner for Batman.
My one major gripe I had with this issue is that there was a few times that I found myself lost due to a case of poor story transitioning. It took a couple of re-reads and intense concentration to finally decipher what the writer and artist were trying to convey. Which leads into the fact that this is Tony Danielís first issue of Batman with someone other than him handling the penciling duties leaving that aspect to artist Guillem March. I may be in the minority but I really enjoyed the detailed pencils found here. While there were certainly flaws in the form of scene transitioning that is a matter that both March and Daniel are accountable for. If anything, I found that the coloring was simply too bright for this book and was a distracting factor. The art would have benefited from the use of a much darker and muted color palette to capture the essence of the characters and the city.
Final Thoughts: I like the direction that Batman is headed in. The inclusion of the mystery themes to the story brings back memories of some great Batman stories and this certainly captured that feel. If the writer and artist can work on the process of shifting scenes than this issue would have been much more fluid and enjoyable. It was still a good issue and definitely worth a look.
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