Though it begins with an intriguing and tantalizing teaser, “Batman” #688 only provides a few interesting moments, mostly repeating character moments seen in last week’s “Batman and Robin” #2. While those repetitions aren’t Judd Winick’s fault, it does lessen the impact of them in this issue.
The main repetition is a discussion between Alfred and Dick as Dick struggles with his new role as Batman, adjusting to the costume and the attitude. The scene here is more comedic and lighthearted than in “Batman and Robin” with Alfred amused that one of his duties is now “pacifying a neurotic Batman.” The different tone allows the scene to be its own, but it reads like a second-rate knockoff of last week’s powerful discussion between the characters — again, not Winick’s fault, but it’s hard to ignore.
This issue places a lot of emphasis on Gotham not knowing what to make of Dick as Batman after the events of “Battle for the Cowl” where they saw two or three others attempt to fill Bruce Wayne’s shoes. Winick plays up Dick’s attempt to win people over by having him not disable security cameras and making sure crime scenes are spotless for the police. It’s a smart approach, but doesn’t win over Commissioner Gordon just yet.
Much of this issue is also taken up with scenes focusing on the Penguin and Two-Face as they maneuver for control of Gotham’s underworld. Neither scene adds anything to the issue or tells us anything new about the character, and really detract from what should be an issue that strives to build up Dick as the new Batman. If the first cover of Tony Daniel’s upcoming run on the title is accurate, the Two-Face scene does serve a purpose in setting him up in opposition to Dick, but a more concentrated focus on the new Dark Knight would be welcomed.
Mark Bagley’s art is competent, but he has trouble with both Dick and Damian, unable to draw either at the right age. Dick looks a good five years younger than he does in every other book and Damian looks more like 14 than 10. The scene where the two spar almost gets confusing as a result with Dick not looking too much older or different than Damian save hair length. Other than that, his art works well with Winick’s writing, is clear and conveys the events of each scene completely, particularly what each character is thinking or feeling at that moment.
The image of “Batman” as the secondary Bat-title is not helped here with this issue repeating scenes from “Batman and Robin” #2, a move that effectively sabotages Judd Winick as he’s forced to contend with Grant Morrison. The lighter tone sets Winick apart, but isn’t enough for this book to stand by itself.