“Time and the Batman”
Three Batman in three separate eras find themselves embroiled in plots involving Professor Carter Nichols and the Joker’s mysterious “joke book.”
“Yesterday,” illustrated by Tony Daniel (with Ian Hannin, colors)
“Today,” first five pages illustrated by Frank Quitely (with Alex Sinclair, colors) and final three pages illustrated by Scott Kolins (with Tony Avina, colors)
“Tomorrow,” illustrated by Andy Kubert (with Brad Anderson, colors)
“And Tomorrow . . .” penciled by David Finch & inked by Richard Friend (with Peter Steigerweld, colors)
Batman #700 will probably make my shortlist for the greatest disappointments of 2010. While I have few complaints about the story--the issue is as masterfully written as it is ambitious--there is sadly much to question regarding the book’s overall value.
Let’s first break down the content: For $4.99 the reader gets 31 pages of story, an eight-page art gallery, and a four-page feature focusing on the Batcave. Of the 31 story pages, only 25 correspond to the solicited story and the remaining six pages (a series of future glimpses illustrated by David Finch) offer precious little narrative and barely rise above “art gallery” status, which is especially disappointing given the inclusion of an art gallery proper. Still, one of the future glimpses is the seemingly in-continuity appearance of Terry McGinnis/Batman Beyond under the tutelage of an aged (Damian?) Wayne.
The art gallery itself is not bad, and aside from one particular oddity--a piece from Dustin Nguyen (perhaps a discarded Streets of Gotham cover?)--all of the images are welcome additions to this package, and quite striking in their own right.
I really have nothing to say regarding Freddie Williams’s “Secret of the Batcave” piece other than to point out that it seems an obvious afterthought shoehorned into this book to meet a specific page requirement. I suppose, however, that it is better than nothing.
Again, however, the plot of the three-part story is exceptional. While it won’t convert naysayers who continue to object to Grant Morrison’s direction for the Batman line, there are a countless number of smile-inducing moments.
The past sequence, entitled “Yesterday,” is evocative of the Adam West/Burt Ward television series from the 60s. While Morison has often spoke about his intentions to capture this Adam West spirit--particularly when discussing his opening arc to Batman and Robin--this time he truly manages to succeed. Tony Daniel’s art is near-flawless and deserving of praise given the amount of content he is asked to illustrate in each page.
The present-day portion, “Today,” is clearly the weakest of the three vignettes. This failure is, in many ways, a product of Frank Quitely’s apparent inability to illustrate a full eight pages for this issue--a disappointment that borders on absurdity. Scott Kolins (who, to add insult to injury, isn’t even credited on the book’s cover) fills in for the last three pages, and does a serviceable job; the problem, however, lies in the vast disparity between the two artists’ styles.
“Tomorrow,” a return to the future first seen in Batman #666, is brilliantly illustrated and tightly scripted. Andy Kubert convincingly illustrates a dystopian Gotham City, and proves quite capable of rendering the grotesque villains that make up Damian’s rogues gallery. Morrison, meanwhile, continues to prove his skill at capturing the former Robin’s unique voice and approach to crime fighting.
Though the third story ultimately satisfies by bringing full-circle the mysteries that were left unanswered in the first two chapters, one cannot help but be disappointed by the realization that this issue more-or-less concludes with Kubert’s final panel. While the remaining content is appealing and sometimes inspired, none of it would seem to justify the $2 increase from this title’s standard $2.99 price.
For the Morrison devout and for followers of Batman (and/or any of its sister titles--particularly Batman and Robin), this issue is a no-brainer; anyone else, though, would be best served picking up something else. Here’s hoping that DC puts in a stronger effort for the remaining two members of its trinity, both of whom have milestone anniversary releases coming later this month.
Seven hundred issues is a tremendous milestone to celebrate, and Batman is a character who has transcended comic books to become a true media icon. That transcendence is a testament to the genius of Batman’s creator, Bob Kane, as well as the other creators who came after him and continued to build the legacy of this iconic character.
With this anniversary issue, I truly expected something fantastic--a feast of words and visuals that would serve to illustrate the magnificence of the Batman. Instead, I found myself underwhelmed by the comic--even after having read the issue three times in one day.
My problem with the issue falls at the feet of Grant Morrison. The author has a style that is totally unique, which I applaud. However, his approach to stories is not always suited to superhero comics.
Morrison has an imagination that constantly churns out these offbeat ideas and visuals that when confined to the proper genre are masterful works of comic storytelling. Unfortunately, avant-garde approaches do not always relate to success when dealing with the capes and tights--and this issue is a sterling example of that fault.
Now it isn’t that the story has a bad plot; in fact, I found it quite compelling. A look at four versions of Batman in four separate chapters all tied together by a mystery that encompasses all four of the Batmen throughout time.
“Yesterday,” the Bruce Wayne story is by far the strongest of the four. We glimpse Batman and Robin as they are introduced to Professor Nichols and the Maybe Machine, a device that allows the user to view what may have been. As luck would have it the dynamic duo are at the mercy of some of their most reviled rogues--such as the Joker and Scarecrow.
From there, we go to “Today,” Dick Grayson’s Batman, which is where the Morrisonisms start to rear their incomprehensible head. While still adequate, I had some problems with the presentation of Dick as a pompous egotistical ass, which is how he came off in this chapter.
Where things really fall apart is during “Tomorrow,” featuring Damian Wayne as Batman and then to “And Tomorrow,” a short look at Terry McGinnis as Batman Beyond. Both chapters fall by the wayside as Morrison goes on a tangent in a seemingly maniacal manner by doing the equivalent of throwing crap at a wall and seeing what sticks. The result is a final two acts that are derailed by the use of zany far-fetched ideas that are utterly irrelevant to what could have been an exceptional tale.
The real shame in all of this is that the inferior story undermines the great art that is to be had in this issue. An all-star cast of artists contributed some damn good visuals to a story that betrayed all of their hard work. I have to confess that I am quite puzzled as to why DC would not have gone a different route with such a numerically distinct issue. I hope that I can find access to that Maybe Machine and get a glimpse of what could have been.
When I first heard that Grant Morrison was going to be writing Batman #700, I anticipated that it would be another chapter in his long-running Batman saga of Bruce Wayne’s life, death, and rebirth. However, whilst this anniversary issue certainly contains thematic ties to Morrison’s current run on the Batbooks, it’s actually a far more self-contained story than I expected--relating a time-travel-based mystery that takes place across several different periods whilst also functioning as a statement on the enduring, iconic nature of Batman as a character.
Splitting the issue into three distinct sections (plus an epilogue) turns out to be a very satisfying way of telling the story, which involves three different Batmen--Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, and Damian Wayne--and their various interactions with Professor Carter Nichols and his time-travel technology. Whilst presenting the story in a linear, chronological fashion necessarily makes the out-of-sequence causality of the central time-travelling plot harder to follow, it enables us to better appreciate the point of view of the three Batmen as they attempt to piece together exactly what happened to Nichols, who is found murdered by Dick and Damian in the present day.
It also helps Morrison to juxtapose the tone of past Batman comics against the modern take on the character, with the opening segment containing plenty of Silver Age zaniness that might feel out of place in today’s books. The writer seems to relish the opportunities for absurd comedy that are offered by this more colourful era. I loved the Joker’s description of the “Tediously Sane Hatter,” and the reference to the unseen team-up between Two-Face, Clayface, No-Face, and Falseface.
The choice of artists for each section is also fitting. Tony Daniel, who illustrated some of Grant Morrison’s issues featuring Bruce Wayne (including “Batman RIP”), draws the segment set in the past in which we’re treated to an “unseen” adventure involving Bruce’s Batman and Dick’s Robin as they battle a colourful cadre of some of Batman’s best-known historical villains. Frank Quitely, who defined the tone of the Batman and Robin series with his first three issues, takes over art chores for the present-day segment, followed by Andy Kubert, who reprises his take on Damian as the dark Batman of the future (as first seen in Morrison’s Batman #666).
There’s also an added bonus for art fans in the form of a gallery of several Batman pinups, and a cool guide to the Batcave that’s reminiscent of the old-fashioned cutaway diagrams of vehicles and locations that used to appear in the comics and magazines that I used to read as a kid. Although they don’t add anything to the story of the issue, they’re a fun addition to the book.
As with the rest of Morrison’s run on the Batbooks, the story includes plenty of subtle details that continue to unify different Batman continuities into one single sprawling narrative. It incorporates elements as diverse as Chief O’Hara from the 1960s TV show, the facial markings of the Adam West Batman cowl, the mutant gangs from Dark Knight Returns, a reference to the classic “Laughing Fish” Joker storyline from Detective Comics #475-76, and Terry McGinnis, the hero of the future-set Batman Beyond TV cartoon series, whose safety ends up being a crucial catalyst for the issue’s larger plot.
There are also quite a few echoes of previous plot points from Morrison’s run. Batman submitting to the time-travel-hypnosis experiment is reminiscent of the isolation-chamber experiment in his earliest encounter with Dr. Hurt. The Joker’s enigmatic joke book being passed down through time recalls the book that seems to be of significance in current issues of Return of Bruce Wayne and Batman and Robin.
Additionally, the apparent “locked room murder” of Prof. Nichols reminded me of the killing of the Toad in the first arc of Batman and Robin (which makes me wonder whether we’re going to see an equally creative explanation for that development later in that series). There’s a continuation of the apparent cycle of Robins becoming Batmen, which is perpetuated into the far future.
Finally, occasional minor characters from Morrison’s previous issues crop up again here (such as the purple-clad pimp that Dick meets, who should be familiar to followers of Morrison’s Bat-saga as Lone-Eye Lincoln from “Batman RIP”). However, these references certainly aren’t crucial to understanding the story of the issue; they’re more like Easter Eggs for longtime followers of Morrison’s Batman saga. As such, anyone who hasn’t read the rest of the writer’s run but picks up this book because it’s a special anniversary issue shouldn’t have any trouble following it.
There are a few weaknesses that prevent the issue from being quite as great as it perhaps could have been. Considering the mind-bending possibilities offered by the plot device of time-travel, Prof. Nichols’s murder doesn’t turn out to be the most compelling or intricate mystery, eventually being resolved in a surprisingly straightforward manner.
What’s more, the story is fairly unclear as to exactly how the time-travel technology works. Batman describes it as a “Maybe Machine” that simply creates hypnotic visions of how things might have been in the past--and of possible futures--but that doesn’t seem to jibe with the fact that real, physical time-travel is the crux of the story. However, as I understand it, the original stories featuring Professor Nichols were pretty vague on this point, too--so perhaps Morrison is simply aping that ambiguity.
Finally, the switch in artists from Frank Quitely to Scott Kolins during the middle section of the book is a little jarring (at first, I thought that Quitely had suddenly started to experiment with a new style), and it slightly ruins the conceit of having a different artist work on each different time period. That said, it’s only a small distraction, and Kolins’s art seems to do the job perfectly well, even if it is noticeably different to that of Quitely.
After the main story, we’re treated to a closing epilogue illustrated by David Finch, which is perhaps the high point of the issue. It provides a poetic musing on the enduring power of Batman as a character--and of the Bat-symbol as an iconic, powerful sigil--via a tour of the many possible Batmen of the future (including, if I’m not mistaken, Morrison’s own “Batman One Million”).
Incidentally, I love the implication that the Bat-sign has magical, mythical power: as in the second issue of Return of Bruce Wayne, it’s implied that it can be used to summon Batman anywhere (and anywhen), as we see when a young girl in the future uses a spray can to paint the symbol and invoke her saviour in just as straightforward a manner as Commissioner Gordon using his giant searchlight to call out for the “Caped Crusader” (but don’t call him that to his face--he doesn’t like it).
In terms of the epilogue’s message, it seems to be quite similar to what Morrison is saying with his Return of Bruce Wayne series. It shows Batman to be a concept that can survive being transplanted into any setting or era without losing the essence of its appeal. Additionally, the meditation on the power of superhero symbols and the timeless, universal quality of the core concepts of heroes fighting evil also calls to mind Morrison’s Final Crisis.
If they ever collect Morrison’s Batman run into one gigantic omnibus, they should call it “Batman and Robin will Never Die!” because that seems to be the mantra that underpins everything that the writer has been doing with the character since he started working on the Batbooks some years ago. Bearing in mind current developments in the Return of Bruce Wayne series, it feels as though Morrison is implicitly rebuffing the Riddler’s riddle of “What can we beat, but never defeat?”--suggesting that if there’s one person who will not only always beat the clock, but who can also defeat the endless onslaught of time itself, it’s the Batman.
When I was a kid, my favorite "special" issues were Marvel’s annuals and DC’s anniversary milestones--especially if the DC anniversary issues were edited by Julius Schwartz, who wanted the story to be something special.
My first Schwartz anniversary issue was Detective Comics #400, which was NOT an over-sized special issue nor a look at Batman's future. It was merely a contemporary story with the then-standard number of pages, but it was the first appearance of Man-Bat (which was special enough as it turned out), and it was illustrated by Neal Adams (which made it all the more special). Anniversary issues should feature a company's top talent--and Batman #700 certainly hits that goal.
My second Schwartz anniversary issue (though he had others in between that I didn’t see) was Justice League of America #100, which featured the return of the Seven Soldiers of Victory in one of the annual JLA/JSA team-ups that Schwartz did every summer. Of course, Grant Morrison re-visited this idea of the Seven Soldiers in his own take on that team concept a few years ago.
My third was Superman #300, which featured a regular-sized story set 25 years in the future (sort of). The story, by Elliot S. Maggin and Cary Bates, was an “imaginary tale” in which the infant Kal-El arrived on Earth in 1976 (the year of the story’s publication) and was raised by the US military. We were then shown Kal-El's life in 1990 and 2001--years in which we would have futuristic buildings (including the “New Empire State Building”) and far-out fashions.
Schwartz’s Green Lantern #100 was not anything special--perhaps because it was actually the 11th issue of the series after it had returned from hiatus only four years earlier. However, Batman #300 was a very special issue that I recalled so fondly from my youth that I bought it as a back issue a few years ago at an outrageous price.
The tale was titled “The Last Batman Story--?” and it was set decades into the future in “Megalopolis East”--“The vast, teeming urban sprawl that reaches from Boston through New York and Metropolis to Washington, DC.” In other words, the entire Eastern Seaboard of the United States from Maryland to Massachusetts is one huge city broken up into “districts,” of which Gotham City is one.
In this Gotham City of the future, Bruce Wayne is ready to retire as Batman and Dick Grayson is Gotham’s primary protector--wearing the “adult Robin costume” first designed by Neal Adams in 1971 and usually worn by the Earth-Two Dick Grayson. I loved that far-off glimpse of Batman’s future (though, truth be told, the story isn’t as well-written as I thought it was when I was younger).
This current Batman anniversary issue definitely continues the tradition of those old Schwartz comics--even recalling Batman #200 (which was before my time as a regular comic book reader) in which The Joker, Penguin, Scarecrow, and others made an appearance. Morrison and editor Mike Martz appear to have meant for this anniversary issue to be an homage to those Schwartz-edited anniversary milestones of the past.
Even if they didn’t intend it, this issue works as an homage to those earlier anniversary issues nonetheless--including the four-page tour of the Batcave that was written by Matthew Manning and designed by Freddie Williams.*
As for the three-part story itself, Morrison’s plot thread that weaves through all three time periods is a bit thin--but the story is an enjoyable look at the past, present, and future of Batman.
Like Batman #200, “Yesterday” presents a tale of Bruce Wayne dealing with his rogues as they appeared in the 1960s--evoking both the Adam West television series and the Carmine Infantino-era Batman (though issue #200 was penciled by Chic Stone).
Tony Daniel’s illustrations for “Yesterday” are absolutely fantastic. His work here is on the level that I was hoping for when he became Morrison’s co-creator on Batman nearly three years ago. I thought at the time that he might become one of the “definitive Batman artists” along with Dick Sprang, Infantino, Adams, and Marshall Rogers. Unfortunately, I ended up being disappointed with his overall efforts, as he made sporadic errors in storytelling flow and, in some instances, in understanding what visuals Morrison’s story actually required.
However, in this issue Daniel is nearly perfect in every aspect of his work--the only errors being two minor bits. Namely, the depiction of The Joker’s grin and the amount of damage that Prof. Nichols’s glasses suffered on page five compared to how damaged they appear to be on pages seven and nine.
At first, I thought that perhaps the version of Prof. Nichols on page nine had come from the future where his glasses were differently damaged. However, that version of Nichols (as seen in the “Tomorrow” chapter) is wearing rectangular lenses that are not damaged rather than round lenses that are cracked (his right round lens should be completely broken and out of its frame).
Still, despite the inconsistency in the level of damage to the professor’s glasses, Daniel’s does an absolutely incredible job with his pencils and inks. I particularly liked the depiction of The Joker--especially in the last panel on page six, which evokes Rogers’s depiction of the Clown Prince of Crime in “The Laughing Fish” story in Detective Comics #475 (which is referenced here as a future scheme that The Joker is pondering).
My only complaint with the way that Daniel drew The Joker is the same complaint that I have with the way that so many pencilers draw the character--his smile is supposed to be permanently fixed on his face due to the partial paralysis of some of the muscles in his cheeks; he should have only a limited ability to change his facial expressions, and he shouldn’t be able to frown at all.
What I enjoyed the most about this first chapter, though, is the appearance of Prof. Nichols, a character I first encountered in World’s Finest Comics #206, which reprinted "The Secret of the Captive Cavemen" from World’s Finest #138.
The exact technique that Prof. Nichols uses to send people into the past or future has always been a bit loosely defined--as Dave Wallace noted in his review--and the “Maybe Machine” that Morrison uses in this story was not actually one of the professor’s time-traveling apparatuses. It was a separate device that debuted in the professor's 31st appearance in a Batman or Robin tale in Batman #127--"The Second Life of Batman" in 1959.
His then-new invention allowed the user to see how events would have unfolded had a particular historical moment been altered--such as Thomas and Martha Wayne dying in an automobile wreck rather than murdered by Joe Chill in Crime Alley.
In a way, I suppose the Maybe Machine is actually a device that allows the user to see into parallel universes--which is an idea that Morrison might make use of in his upcoming “Muliversity” series that was originally planned for later this year (I have no idea whether that’s still the plan).
Based on the history of the professor's appearances--beginning in Batman #24 in 1944 and continuing to "The Secret of the Captive Cavemen" in 1963--the way his actual time traveling technique seems to work is that he hypnotizes the travelers in the present and then gives them a hypnotic suggestion of what time he wants them to believe they are in. He then irradiates their body with some sort of temporal ray that brings about a desired change.
Initially, the temporal ray seemed to project their consciousness into the past. Eventually, though, their physical bodies appear to have been transported into either the past or future that was hypnotically suggested. On at least two occasions, Nichols had to contact Superman to use his powers to break the time barrier and help Batman and Robin when the professor was unable to retrieve the Dynamic Duo.
By the time Morrison's first chapter in this issue takes place--with the Mad Hatter’s own hypnotically suggested physical appearance--Prof. Nichols should actually have been able to transport his subjects physically through time (which he is obviously able to do with himself, as we learned in the “Today” and “Tomorrow” chapters).
Rather than an error by Morrison in understanding the technology created by Prof. Nichols, there may actually be a reason that the Joker is led to believe the Maybe Machine is the actual time-traveling device.
That Nichols used his Maybe Machines on Batman and Robin rather than his actual time-traveling technique could be construed as an attempt to fool The Joker and the others in order to keep Batman and Robin in the present where they might be able to physically overcome their captors (at least that’s my No Prize explanation for the apparent problem).
As for the “Today” chapter, I did not get the sense that Dick Grayson was being “a pompous egotistical ass,” as my colleague Robert Tacopina felt. In fact, I had quite the opposite opinion of Grayson here.
In the second panel of the first page of this chapter (page 11 of the issue), Grayson enters Prof. Nichols’s basement laboratory and immediately asks Officer Bailey, “How’s Max?” The police officer responds, “We’re hoping to get him outta the wheelchair soon. Thanks for asking.”
Such immediate concern for the friend and a colleague of a person he encounters does not show Grayson as an asshole; it shows him to be a thoughtful man who demonstrates empathy for others--which is quite the opposite of how either Bruce Wayne or Damian Wayne would handle these types of social situations.
I often have to remind myself to ask people how they or their loved ones are doing (if I know they have experienced some sort of tragedy or trauma). I often forget to do so in real-life meetings, and I have to edit my concern into my e-mail exchanges after I’ve written what I really want to go on about. I’m like Bruce and Damian in that regard--probably more like Bruce, as Damian doesn’t strike me as someone who would even consider it as an afterthought.
However, Morrison understands that Grayson is a different type of Batman (or Robin) than are Bruce and Damian; Grayson shows compassion and thoughtfulness right up front as part of his initial interactions with others.
Robert was undoubtedly reading a tone and attitude into some later dialog in the chapter that I didn’t read into those scenes. On the contrary, I read the entire chapter as Dick being friendly to just about everyone--the man and woman running from the Mutants, Lone-Eye Lincoln (the pimp), and S’reena (the prostitute). Hell, Grayson even took Damian out to lunch at a diner where Dick had a hot cup of coffee while Damian ate a pepperoni pizza.**
As my colleagues have mentioned, the unfortunate part of the “Today” chapter is that Frank Quitely’s health problems must be so severe that he was unable to finish all eight pages on time--and so Scott Kolins had to complete the final three.
Quitely’s work is excellent (as usual), and Kolins makes no attempt to imitate the style of those first five pages. Instead, the look that he and his colorist, Tony Avina, create is about as far from the look that Quitely and Alex Sinclair created as they could get.
I imagine the need for a replacement illustrator for the final three pages of Quitely’s story was immediate--that there was no time to bring in someone whose usual style is closer to Quitely’s--and it might have seemed bad form for Marts to insist that Kolins imitate the look of Quitely’s pages (which I have no doubt Kolins could have done).
Despite it being good work by Kolins and Avina, those three pages from “Today” stand out like a sore thumb in the issue--which is unfortunate but not a disaster.
The final chapter, “Tomorrow,” is another exceptionally illustrated piece--this time by Andy Kubert.
It opens with Damian Wayne (as the future Batman) interrogating a cyborg named Roboto, who appears to be the mirror image (literally) of Marvel’s character Deathlok--though Roboto’s cybernetic eyepiece (his right eye rather than Deatlok’s identical left side eyepiece) is also reminiscent of the gun-sight technology that Batman’s nemesis Deadshot wears on his right eye (from Marshall Rogers’s 1977 re-design of Deadshot).
By the end of this chapter, we see Damian confront a villain named January (aka, 2-Face-2) who combines aspects of Two-Face, the Hellenic god Janus, and the Calendar Man as he kidnaps the “two faces” of time on New Year’s Eve--an infant (symbolizing Baby New Year) and an old man (symbolizing Father Time).
We are later given clues that indicate that the baby is none other than Terry “Batman Beyond” McGinnis as an infant (which means the Wayne training him in the epilogue would almost certainly have to be Damian rather than Bruce--in contrast to the Batman Beyond television series).
The old man representing Father Time is Prof. Nichols, who is then “murdered” by his younger time-traveling self (thus, a sort of suicide). The younger version of Nichols then sends his older body back to the “Present” while he continues on back to “Yesterday” to help Batman and Robin save his other past self from The Joker and the other villains by calling Commissioner Gordon. It's all a rather involved plot, but it ultimately seems insubstantial. I was hoping for something more avant-garde and time-bending.
When I saw that Prof. Nichols had been killed (at the beginning of “Today”), I was disappointed for two reasons--one, I like Prof. Nichols and I was hoping Morrison was going to use the character in future stories and, two, I had hoped Nichols was going to play a key role in finding the time-lost Bruce Wayne (which Grayson expressed to be his own hope as well).
However, the ending of this story indicates that only the future Prof. Nichols (when he is in his 80s) has been killed. The present Nichols is actually alive; he’s just time-hopping about on his own doing who knows what for who knows what reason.
Now, rather than hoping that Nichols will play a role in The Return of Bruce Wayne, I am now hoping Morrison will see fit to use him in “Multiversity” since, as I mentioned, his Maybe Machine actually seems to be a device that projects people into parallel universes.
Finally, the epilogue to this story shows us four different post-Damian future Batmen:
- Terry McGinnis, the mid-21st-century Batman of Batman Beyond.
- Brane and Ricky, the Batman and Robin of the early 31st century who battled the robot Army of the Saturnian (Titanian?) warlord Fura in Batman #26 (Brane is a descendent of Bruce Wayne who imitates the heroic actions of his ancestor).
- Brane Taylor, the Batman of the mid-31st century (and possibly the son or grandson of the previous Brane) whose base of operations is the Bat-Belfry overlooking Nugothotropolis (or a megalopolis that is essentially New Gotham and Metropolis), and who appeared in Batman #67 (1951) and Detective Comics #216 (1955).
- The Batman of the 853rd century from Morrison’s own DC One Million series--who fights crime on Pluto with his robot companion Robin, the Toy Wonder.
If the plot to this anniversary issue had a bit more substance to it, Batman #700 would be a five-bullet issue. As it is, it’s a fun anniversary tale illustrated by four artists at the top of their abilities (and Scott Kolins’s work was okay, too, even if it was jarring).
The added bonus of the pin-up pages in the back is a nice touch--though part of me wishes those pages could have been given over to the story so that Morrison could have provided more substance in the plot. Of particular note are the pin-ups by Dustin Nguyen (his second image--with the stained-glass window effect that may have been intended for Streets of Gotham) and Bill Sienkiewicz’s incredible illustration.
It’s really too bad that Sienkiewicz no longer illustrates comic books--and that he never completed Alan Moore’s unfinished masterpiece Big Numbers--but at least we get occasional images like this one in which he displays his full talent and artistic vision.
Batman #700 may not be a classic, but it's close--and it's something that anyone who is remotely interested in Batman should pick up. After all, it's a milestone issue!
* That four-page spread of the Batcave contains one error, as the first panel on pages 3-4 notes that additional Batmobile models are “stored on Sublevel 3” while the final panel of that double-page spread tells us that “SUBLEVEL 3 (not pictured)” contains the “hydrogen generator, energy distribution center” while “SUBLEVEL 4 (not pictured) has “Storage for non-operational or out-of-rotation Batmobiles.”
Ah well, I suppose Dick must have moved the out-of-operational Batmobiles down a level after he took over as Batman.
** Though they stupidly removed their gloves while they were in that diner--leaving their fingerprints on the dishware and utensils (and we know Grayson’s prints are in the system since he was a police officer in Blüdhaven). I only hope they wiped all their prints once they finished eating and put their gloves back on.
*** Though there really is no way to make that story fit into Morrison’s continuity, as it obviously takes place after the time when Damian would be Batman but it still involves Bruce as the first Batman and Dick Grayson as an adult Robin.
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