Judging from all the hoopla going on over at DC Comics Bruce (Batman) Wayne is coming back into the fold from somewhere around 1,000,000 BC or thereabouts. Since the events of Final Crisis, Bruce has been tossed into the past, which is interesting to think that none of the superheroes capable of time traveling could find him or would think of that. Of course, the world is a big place, and every second in time makes it that much bigger because folks tend to stay in motion.
However, during the time that Bruce has been gone, Dick Grayson has made quite the name for himself as Batman. He's brought a different kind of Batman to the suit and to Gotham, and even turned into a father figure of sorts for Damian, Bruce's blood son by Talia al-Ghul.
I've really enjoyed Dick as Batman. He didn't just go through the motions. Everything he did was well thought out, and the artists were definitely able to do more with Batman acrobatically.
Tony Daniel scripted and drew issue 697, and finished up the arc he's been doing tracking Black Mask. There aren't really any surprises about who the man under the mask was, but Daniel does a great job developing his story plot wise as well as artistically.
This issue kicks butt from the first page to the last, so for everyone who's been waiting for the big showdown, folks, this issue has got it going on. I loved the tense moment in the beginning with Fright and Black Mask, but the two-page splash showing Batman and company laying into the bad guys is awesome. I spent some serious time just figuring out who was on the page, and the biggest surprise was Ragman. It makes sense, but I just didn't see that one coming.
Instead of playing with the mob scene, though that would have been a blast, Daniel moves the story off into Batman's solitary pursuit of Black Mask and all the people he has to go through to get that one-on-one scene. The art totally rocks, stylistic yet stripped down to the fist-in-your-face action.
The one-page scene of Batman battling Black Mask with flames roiling all around them looks amazing. The inker and colorist did fabulous jobs on the finished art.
The conversations with Gordon and with Catwoman at the end of the issue are handled well, and I look forward to seeing what Catgirl is going to bring to the mix. Can't say that I really care for the costume, but it is strikingly different.
This issue really sets up Batman's return in some ways, but I have to wonder what's going to happen to Dick. Are we going to see a return of the Nightwing comic? Or does DC have other plans in store for Dick Grayson? That's the character's fate I'm most interested in at this time.