One of the things I appreciate about Tony Daniel’s run on “Batman” is that he’s not afraid to build on what happened before. So often a new writer on a comic will arrive, ignore past stories and characters, and blaze their own trail. While that can work, it can also provide a bit of whiplash for the reader as supporting casts and plots drop out of the ongoing series on a regular basis. With Daniel as a writer on “Batman,” he’s successfully walking a fine line between remembering what’s happened before, and still trying to look ahead and do something different.
With his first big storyline, there were many callbacks to “The Long Halloween” mini-series, but while doing more than simply offering up a retread of that classic story. Here, Daniel’s successfully mining the past once more. There are references to both recent stories (“The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” as well as a “Teen Titans” story), and old characters dug up out of the mothballs in the attic. But Daniel is careful to make sure that it doesn’t matter if you’ve actually read these stories or not. One of the surprise characters at the end of the issue provides a nice impact regardless of if you’ve read her previous appearance, with a single line of dialogue providing everything you need to know. (The other character was an extra nice-surprise because it ties back to one of Daniel’s own scripts some six months ago; I wasn’t expecting a follow-up so quickly.) It’s exactly the way past continuity should be handled when it appears; quickly acknowledged, the reader is brought up to speed, and then the story hits the ground running again.
There’s also more to “Batman” #705 than nods to earlier stories, of course. I like that Daniel’s story is expanding in scope quickly; this could have easily been a straight-forward “bad guys come to Gotham” script, but instead the overall circles of impact are rapidly growing as more people are drawn into the conflict. Just like the real world, what initially looked small is becoming much larger the more you examine it.
I’m also happier with the art this month, which seems like a cross between Daniel’s earlier style and the shift that showed up last month. There’s an overall crisp look back in Daniel’s art, but the additional texture that Daniel’s been adding in is still there, just in a slightly smaller range. Everything still shimmers and moves under Daniel’s pen, from the capes of Batman and Peacock, to characters leaping through the air. Even something as simple as Sensei reaching towards the reader early on has a nice dramatic moment, and it’s impressive how well Daniel’s grown into the art on “Batman” since his arrival a few years ago.
“Batman” isn’t getting as much attention as some of the other, newer books in the Bat-stable, and that’s a pity. “Batman” continues to be a solid, entertaining book thanks to Tony Daniel. At the end of the day, this book is just plain fun, and that’s all I’m asking for here.