I’m of two minds about the reveal of the new Black Mask this issue. Teased over the last year and introduced in “Batman: Battle for the Cowl,” the identity of the new Black Mask character has hovered over “Batman” the past few months with increasing presence. And, like so many secret identity reveals in fiction, it’s hard to have the moment of truth measure up to the ideas that the audience have built up in their heads. So on the one hand, yes, the identity of the new Black Mask is a slight disappointment. But on the other hand, I’m glad it’s finally out of the way because I think Daniel’s run on “Batman” has been interesting despite it.
In many ways, this is almost a turning point towards all the things I do like about Daniel’s “Batman” so far. With the Black Mask stopped for now, it means he can tell more stories about Gotham’s crime families and overlords, all of whom he’s made interesting. I want to see more of these slightly old-fashioned characters trying to take over Gotham. It’s been almost surprising to see the take that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale used in “The Long Halloween” go unused for so long and, rather than mimicking, Daniel is following in the footsteps but going somewhere new. Likewise, the idea of a protege for Catwoman is something we’ve seen before, but Kitrina has proven herself over the past few issues to be fun, and I want to see a lot more of her down the road.
As for Black Mask himself, even while he’s the least interesting thing about the issue, Daniel handles the reveal well. I found myself actually slightly interested as we saw the behind-the-scenes struggle of the new Black Mask, and his choice in henchmen and assistants has been a nice mix of faces from the past as well. (I really do wonder, though, why artists like to unmask someone only to reveal glasses underneath said mask. As someone who has worn glasses since 1980, trust me, it doesn’t work very well.) And of course, now that his story is at least temporarily over, it opens up the book to all sorts of possibilities.
I do find myself these days wishing that somehow Daniel could go back and re-draw his issues of “Batman R.I.P.” It’s hard to believe they were by the same artist; Daniel now has dark and creepy Batman fully under his control, about to tackle everything from a dozen-person fray to Batman pulling himself through the sewers. I love the movement of Batman here, and how Daniel makes the cape look both heavy and graceful at the same time. And, as always, Daniel plays with form from time to time. This month there’s a beautiful page drawn in silhouettes, and instead of being gimmicky it ends up strengthening the scene, making the fight that much more powerful.
With the return of Bruce Wayne on the horizon, I hope that Daniel sticks around on “Batman” to give us his take on the original Batman as well. Regardless, though, I think it’s safe to say by now that even when part of the issue doesn’t interest me, Daniel’s still performing a solid enough job on “Batman” that I’m eager for the next issue. That’s always a good sign.