Judd Winick’s return to “Batman” is already almost over, and I’m surprised to be sad to see him go. Maybe it’s because his previous run was primarily focused on the ill-fated decision to bring back Jason Todd, and I was curious to see what he’d accomplish free of those constraints. And while his return to the title has been brief, the one thing I think he’s shown above all else is that he’s good at writing Dick Grayson.
In Winick’s hands, Grayson-as-Batman is a mixture of confidence and still a bit of wonder. He’s proven himself to be a capable superhero as Nightwing, after all, and that certainly isn’t being questioned in these issues of “Batman.” Instead, Winick takes the tactic that it’s wearing the mantle of Batman and all the baggage and power that comes with it that Grayson is still adjusting to, and it’s a smart tactic. So we still see competence, but coupled with a slight learning curve. It’s the best part of Winick’s post-“Batman R.I.P.” stories, and I’m sorry that he won’t get to continue what was surely just the opening steps of a longer character arc.
The rest of the plot itself is mostly missable, with Batman fighting Clayface and Blanco in what is nice for characterization of Batman but otherwise a little dull. On the bright side, the new Black Mask going up against Penguin is entertaining, perhaps because over the past few years the Penguin has really proved to be a writer-proof character. No matter who writes him, he’s always interesting and comes across as being in-character. And in terms of finding a way to take the fight directly to Batman, I have to give Winick credit that Two-Face’s plan is a nice usage of the various abilities that exist in the DC Universe.
Mark Bagley’s art seems a little rushed here, which is funny when you consider he just came off of drawing the main feature in 52 weekly issues of “Trinity.” The addition of a second inker may have something to do with it, but the drawings seem a little rough and scratchy around the edges. Bagley’s art, both on “Batman” and elsewhere, is normally a bit slicker and smoother than what we get this month.
I’m assuming Winick still has next month’s issue to conclude his run (although some sources have — hopefully incorrectly — said that Tony Daniel takes over as writer next issue), but I’m finding myself sorry to see it end. Things were starting to just click into place, and it would have been nice to see him get some more time to take his scripts further. Hopefully Daniel, free of “Batman R.I.P.” constraints, will surprise us all as well.