Following on from his recent Batman: Detective collection, writer Paul Dini puts the Batman through his paces in a post-crisis Gotham City.
As always with DC after these big, continuity-changing events, many of the supporting cast have had a makeover. Here, for example, The Riddler is no longer Gotham’s goofiest villain, and is instead a fully reformed private investigator, working alongside a reluctant Batman to find the murderer of one of Bruce Wayne’s best mates (as ever, as soon as we’re introduced to Bruce’s old chum, we know he’s going to snuff it: being a friend from Bruce’s past is akin to being the guy you’ve never seen before on an episode of Star Trek). Harley Quinn also seems intent on turning over a new leaf, while Scarface makes a reappearance, only now with a beautiful, female ventriloquist controlling him (so long, Arnold Wesker: we’ll miss you).
A couple of new villains are also introduced, including a hi-tech suicide bomber (limited repeat potential, there, really) who rather neatly douses Robin with plastic explosive, and the team-up with Zatanna against a David Blaine-style magician who – gasp! – isn’t quite what he seems has some satisfying action. There’s also a mildly intriguing nod to Batman and Zatanna’s childhood.
These are the points of interest, but overall this book doesn’t delve too deeply into the Batman mythos: it seems aimed squarely at the casual Bat-fan. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; books like this can be fun, but ultimately this seems a little shallow. It moves fast enough, and the clean, bright artwork is easy on the eye, but there’s not much compelling you to move on to each new story if you’re after more than a quick diversion.
It’s a shame, because Dini the man responsible for giving us the immortal Batman: The Animated Series (not to be confused with the execrable The Batman currently clogging up TV schedules) knows his Batmobile from his Bat-mite, but the decades spent writing family-friendly stories in half-hour, self-contained episodes have clearly rubbed off on him.