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Review – Batman #86 (DC Comics)

Batman #86 (DC Comics) variant cover (detail) by Francesco Mattina
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  • Art - 10/10
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User Review
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Batman #86

Writer: James Tynion IV
Art: Tony S. Daniel
Inks: Danny Miki
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Publisher: DC Comics
Maturity Rating: Teen
Release Date: January 8th, 2020

2020 in Gotham City kicks off with a BANG! Batman continues to navigate the murky waters of nuptial bliss while simultaneously mourning the loss of his closest ally. Familiar foes resurface and a deadly “test” foreshadows that the greatest evil is still to come! 

Making the Dark Knight Great Again in Batman #86

Three years, six months, twenty-one days, sixteen hours, twenty-one minutes. That is how long I’ve been waiting for the true Rebirth of Batman. Now, I feel like I finally understand what Bob Dylan was going through when he wrote “The Times They Are A-Changin”. Or better yet, the Munchkins of Oz as they proclaimed aloud, “ding-dong, the Witch is dead!” It’s been a long time coming, Bat-fans. Out with the old, and in with the new(ish) as DC hits the reset button in Batman #86.  

Writing

Batman #86 (DC Comics) main cover by Tony S. Daniel
Batman #86 (DC Comics) main cover by Tony S. Daniel

Before delving too deeply into Batman #86, I’d like to first take moment to officially welcome James Tynion IV to Gotham City. Finally, Batman has the writer he both needs and deserves; congratulations and kudos. 

Back to the issue itself, which serves as great a launch point for anyone who may have dropped off or abandoned ship from Tom King’s previous run. Tynion kicks off with Batman/Bruce Wayne still navigating the murky waters of nuptial bliss, whilst simultaneously mourning the loss of the only father he’s ever known. Only this time, there’s no brooding troglodytic Batman to be found. Gone is the overblown, violent menace threatening to “BREAK YOUR DAMN BACK”. Most notably, readers are finally free from being subjected to those god-awful sexually-laced exchanges of “Bat” and “Cat”. Thank goodness for that—I couldn’t take much more. 

What Batman #86 signifies is a return to form. Tynion, like the great Batman writers of old, imbues an incredibly stylized narrative in his storytelling, thus offering readers a window into the Dark Knight’s soul. His Batman is reminiscent of the classic noir/detective vigilante, as opposed to the blunt instrument of chaos we’ve seen him portrayed as these past three-and-a-half years. For the first time in a very long time, I’m actually excited about what’s to come. I feel like I have a purpose, rather than simply a compulsion. I believe James Tynion IV possesses greatness in his writing and that he, in turn, will make Batman great again. 

Art

The term “living legend” might seem a bit trite. But in the case of Tony S. Daniel, I say if the shoe fits—wear it. For my money, there is simply none better. Tony Daniel has drawn so many Bat-classics over the past three decades that the man literally bleeds Gotham City. He’s like Gilbert (Fiddler’s Green) from The Sandman series: the living personification of a physical plane or place.

In Batman #86, Daniel is back with a vengeance as he looks to firmly cement his legacy as the undisputed greatest Batman artist of all time. Known for his breathtaking, sprawling splash pages, as well as his unabated eye for detail, Tony Daniel is a true master of scale and rendering. His characters, like his portrayal of Gotham City, are the very embodiments of the Platonic Form: undeniably perfect in every conceivable way.  

My favorite moment of the issue (and a nice piece of foreshadowing) happens almost immediately. Colored immaculately by Tomeu Morey, a brilliantly-drawn double-page splash depicts Batman surveying the streets from the rooftops above, half-illuminated in the pale orange glow of the Bat-Signal. A gargantuan Gotham City skyline sets the backdrop and in the distance, a billboard reads “Rebuilding Gotham City for Everyone – Wayne Enterprises“. Well, if Tony Daniel is the lead architect on this “rebuild” then it’s safe to say: the city is in good hands. 

Conclusion 

I did not enjoy Tom King’s Batman. It was pedantic, redundant, and at no point ever came across as anything less than self-serving. Want to hear my Hot Take? I assert that Tom King used Batman as a means to an end, to implement his wider focus, which was introducing a new series centered on Batman and Catwoman. He disrupted the Bat-canon and in my opinion caused irreparable harm to the character and series. His non-linear, often confusing storylines were at best the literary equivalent of a dog chasing its tail.

The only glimmer of hope that readers have seen in nearly five years has been the work of James Tynion IV. His Batman/TMNT crossover was what gave me hope during those darkest of nights. The simple fact of knowing that someone better was out there, just beyond the horizon, brought solace and comfort. Now, he’s finally arrived. So welcome, James Tynion IV, and thank you. Thank you for saving our city, reigniting our hope, and for rescuing our Dark Knight. 


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