As an outline, this story sounds like it could be a real mess. Every time you turn around, Tony Daniel is adding another “Batman” character into the mix, both allies and villains cropping up left and right. But you know what? It’s working pretty well. And while it’s going to suffer in comparison of being in the shadow of “Batman & Robin,” “Batman” has turned into a fine little book on its own.
I think part of Daniel’s key to success is that he’s sticking with the more “reality” based villains. There isn’t a Killer Croc or Clayface rampaging through the story; instead we’re getting Catwoman, Huntress, Penguin, Riddler, Reaper, Black Mask, and the Falcone family. As a result, they’re all evenly matched against one another, and we end up with a group of characters all warily circling one another, each trying to make a move without getting burned. None of the returning characters here ever feel gratuitous or tacked on, for that matter. With each step of the story, I found myself nodding as another face showed up, because it made sense in the grand scheme of things. It’s careful plotting on the part of Daniel, and his methodical approach lends itself well to the comic.
Daniel (along with inkers Sandu Florea and Norm Rapmund) is also doing a solid job on the art. I like the way he has Batman’s cape move through the air; it brings back that look and feel of heavy fabric making loud flapping noises as it wrinkles and folds, all the while billowing behind him. His silhouettes of Batman look beautifully iconic; there’s a scene early on where as a house burns behind him, the contrast of the red clouds and the black outline of Batman just pops out at the reader. Even his staging of the smaller scenes is well thought out; as Kitrina hangs upside down at the mercy of Catwoman, he places each image carefully. First Catwoman’s face upside down, followed by Kitrina’s right side up, both from Kitrina’s point of reference. Then it rotates 180 degrees, with a single panel showing the scene again from Catwoman’s point of view and with Catwoman as the one who’s right side up. The flipping around and around is a nice trick, one that not only frames the scene, but has a little fun in the process.
Credit has to go where it’s due; Daniel’s doing a good job on “Batman,” in making it his own book. This is a strong first story, and based on what he’s doing here I’ll be happy to see him stick around for a while. For those looking for a classic Batman story, you’ve found a winner here.