Super Types

June 6, 2010

Batman: Recapping the Last 100 issues pt 2: #651-699

Our celebration of Batman #700 continues as we recap and review the last 100 issues of Batman by breaking down each story arc, bringing you up to speed on one of comics’ longest running titles! Last week we looked at Batman classics like Hush, Broken City and Under the Hood. This week we’re going over Batman #651-699 featuring runs by Tony Daniel, James Robinson and the controversial run of Grant Morrison! Plus, we’re treated to some beautiful art by Andy Kubert, J.H. Williams III and Guillem March and many others!

So lets pick up right where we left off. Judd Winick had just wrapped up his long feud with Batman and the Red Hood and after the events of the DC Universe-wide event, Infinite Crisis, we rejoin Batman as he returns to Gotham City one year later.

**If you’re like Bruce Wayne and have been living in a cave these last few years, there may be spoilers ahead!**

Batman #651-654 — Face the Face

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Don Kramer
Released: May 2006-August 2006

The Bat-Family has been gone from Gotham City for a year, and the company wide One Year Later reboot has this story bouncing between Batman and Detective Comics. Someone is offing super villains with a trademark two shots to the head. The obvious suspect is Two Face, but Batman left a rehabilitated and healed Harvey Dent in charge of Gotham during his absence.

The One Year Later concept was developed to refreshen our favorite characters and point them toward new directions, and Face the Face does just that, bringing Batman and Robin back to basics. The opening conflict in the story about the Dynamic Duo taking out Poison Ivy after she’s taken over a sky scrapper was such a joy to read. James Robinson and Don Kramer bring us classic Batman and Robin with art just as compelling as the story. Face the Face gets an A.

Batman #655-658 — Batman and Son

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist:
Andy Kubert
Released:
September 2006-December 2006

So begins the iconic run of Grant Morrison on Batman, and boy does Morrison give Batman’s life a dose of super hero level baby-mama-drama. After basically ending all major crime in Gotham, Bruce takes a small vacation to reconnect with his less darker self. But when an army of ninja man-bats (That’s right. Ninja F’n man-bats. Hell yeah!) drop in on a party, Batman steps in where he’s captured and taken to former lover, Talia Al Ghul, and introduced to his son, Damian.

From the beginning of the story, Morrison is planting the clues for what’s to come over the next few years in Batman’s life. Morrison also brings a great sense of attitude and heart to his Batman which is exemplified in some great dialogue with Alfred, and a particular scene with Batman throwing a near dead Joker into a dumpster.

But the high quality doesn’t end with the writing; superstar artist Andy Kubert brings his pencils to the page in explosive fashion. Although Kubert and Morrison’s first stint on the title was short lived, it’s a great opening chapter to the epic. A

Batman #659-662 — Grotesk

Writer: John Ostrander
Artist: Tom Mandrake
Released: Janurary 2007-April 2007

As it happens so often in comics, things get delayed, pushed around, or what have you, and so was the case here. John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake’s four issue run was pushed up in the schedule after Grant Morrison’s first stint on the book.

So, with the previous four amazing issues of Batman out the window for now, we’re given Grotesk. Mobsters, gangsters and other all around bad guys in Gotham are suffering firey deaths, and like always, Batman is on the case. The culprit in this plot is, as the title says, Grotesk, a new, disfigured, hunchback vigilante out to punish all of Gotham’s evil doers.

Frankly, the story isn’t very interesting, especially since trying to follow Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert’s four issues. The story doesn’t change anything about the Batman or his life, and we we’re treated to great B movie lines like “Time to Bleed,” and a scene where Batman is disguised as a facial pierced, hippie haired, forensics call in guy.

Personally, I’ve never cared for Mandrake’s art. It all just seems too clunky and deformed, but this is probably the best I’ve seen him. Ostrander and Mandrake have proved they’re a good team in the past, but with a story that can’t touch Morrison’s and Kubert’s, it’s really just frustrating for the fans. D-

Batman #663 — The Clown at Midnight

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: John Lee Fleet
Released: May 2007

Grant Morrison returns to Batman with a kind of story we haven’t seen in the book since the days of Dennis O’Neil in the 1970s. A Batman story written entirely in prose.

The last time we saw the Joker was at the beginning of Morrison’s Batman run in issue #655 where a crazed GCPD cop dressed as Batman shot the Joker at point blank range in the head. Believe it or not, somehow the Joker survived, and we experience Joker’s rebirth within the halls of Arkham Asylum.

For an issue of Batman that may not be completely considered a comic book, it’s one of the coolest issues the title has seen in decades. Grant Morrison holds nothing back as he brings you inside the head of Batman’s deadliest foe. Some readers may be turned off by the novella style, but it’s another part of Morrison’s run that sets up more events to come.

Jon Van Fleet offers a few panels of some unique art that range from pretty cool, to looking like a bad late 90s computer game. Over all it doesn’t add much to the story, but I found myself appreciating the fact that it was there nonetheless. A-

Batman #664-665 — Three Ghosts of Batman

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Andy Kubert
Released: May 2007-June 2007

We’re back to a traditional style of comics with Morrison and Andy Kubert returning to the title. Batman is back on the street chasing some old cases involving some missing women. When a confrontation between a bunch of crooked GCPD officers and a handful of hookers leads him to a Goliath Batman impersonator, the Dark Knight not only gets his ass gift wrapped to him, but is sent a message similar to something out of Charles Dickens.

Meanwhile, things are heating up with Bruce Wayne and super model Jessible Jet and Talia plan on cooling them off after restoring her and Bruce’s son, Damian, to perfect health.

The very beginnings of Batman’s descent into the darkness really starts showing here with things getting very weird, and Morrison is stirring in the ingredients only bits at a time. And Andy Kubert’s Batman has never looked better. Every panel is beautiful and shows real depth to the story. Like we’ve seen before, it’s just a shame that this story gets put on hold for so long before we start to get real answers. A-

Batman #666 — Batman in Bethlehem

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Andy Kubert
Released: July 2007

Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert tie into Three Ghosts of Batman for the landmark 666th issue where we’re taken to the not too distant future where Damian has taken over as Batman in Gotham City. Unlike his father, Damian has no problem bringing punishment to the villains of Gotham, and Commissioner Barbara Gordon is determined to stop Batman’s vicious methods of vigilantism.

When a crazed Batman wannabe and child of the Anti-Christ lures Damian to a hostage filled building, we see Damian has made a few exchanges with the devil himself.

This was an interesting one-shot, and like always, Morrison and Kubert are on top of their game, and while it does tie into Morrison’s run, again, it’s disappointing that we’re once more straying from the main story. B+

Batman #667-669 — Club of Heroes

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: J.H. Williams III
Released: August 2007-November 2007

It’s kind of annoying being fed so many great pieces of what’s building to be a great tale and then have it interrupted by so many other side stories, but Club of Heroes is a very welcome annoyance.

Grant Morrison retains writing duties for this story, and it just shows how versatile he is as a creator. Batman and Robin are invited to an island where a discrete summit of heroes from across the globe have assembled. A disturbing video of a killer on the island dares the heroes to participate in a game of death, and heroes begin dying off one-by-one.

From weird mind bending stories to a classic stylistic mystery, Morrison is without question a great teller of super hero stories, but it wasn’t Morrison’s words that made this issue; it’s J.H. Williams III’s magnificent art work. William’s art actually flows and transforms through each scene. His style conforms only to the emotion and setting of the characters, and his panel structure is interesting and odd. This is the kind of Batman story I wish we could see more of. A

Batman #670-671 — The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Tony Daniel
Released: December 2007-January 2008

It’s that time again! Time for another Bat-Book wide crossover. Batman #670 is a prelude to the madness The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul with a pretty fun story with some hot criminal vixens and ninjas. But this issue was just the beginning of the 7 part tale. Issue #671, part 4 of 7, has Batman storming League of Assassin territory.

Tony Daniel is on the art, and, while still good, it’s not the best work he’s ever produced. Both him and Morrison do a good job for what little of the crossover they write, but The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul is meant to be enjoyed as a whole. C+

Batman #672-675 — Three Ghosts of Batman (Continued)

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Tony Daniel, Ryan Benjamin
Released: February 2008-April 2008

Finally, the story that began in issue #664 continues, and things get weirder than ever. We open with one of the “ghost Batmen”, who we also recognize from Batman #666, invading GCPD headquarters. Bruce is captured by his counterpart and runs through a psychological gauntlet. We learn that the Bat-Fakes are an experiment by the military, the GCPD, and one Dr. Simon Hurt, who plays a much larger role in this conspiracy later on.

Grant Morrison is scripting a great story, and he’s structuring it well. Someone who’s not paying much attention to the story may be lost pretty quickly, but then again this is a story that deserves your complete attention. Tony Daniel’s art has drastically improved over these issues as well. A-

Batman #676-681 — R.I.P.

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Tony Daniel
Released: June 2008-December 2008

It’s all been building to this. For months and months, Grant Morrison has been planting the seeds to the Dark Knight’s death, and the conspiracy comes to a head in R.I.P.

Dr. Simon Hurt joins the Black Glove and Evil Cult Syndicate, to systematically dismantle the body, mind and heart of Batman. Bruce Wayne is pushed to his limits and falls into a psychological default known as the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh. And Simon Hurt pits the ultimate evil vs. the ultimate good in Batman vs. the Joker in a show down worthy of a Pay-Per-View spectacle.

R.I.P. is the most unique and deep story we’ve seen in the pages of Batman since Hush. Grant Morrison delivered on nearly every level, and Tony Daniel provided some beautiful pencils. The one weird contradiction in this story was the actual death of Bruce Wayne having nothing to do with his canon death in the company wide event, Final Crisis, also written by Morrison.

R.I.P. is still being talked about 18 months after its conclusion and I’m sure we’ll still be talking about it for years to come. A+

Batman #682-685 — Last Rites

Writers: Grant Morrison, Dennis O’Neil, Paul Dini
Artists: Lee Garbett, Guillem March, Dustin Nguyen
Released: January 2009-March 2009

Last Rites is actually composed of a few different Batman story’s written by some of the most influential writers that have been attached to the character.

The first, issues #682 and 683 is actually a Final Crisis tie-in, unlike the R.I.P. story itself, where we see batman living out some twisted nightmares and illusions while being tortured by Darkseid.

The next story, issue #684, crosses over with Detective Comics and is penned by comics legend Dennis O’Neil. The Last Days of Gotham part 2 tells the story of Commissioner Gordon and Nightwing dealing with Batman’s death, while a phony Two-Face tries to take Gotham.

Issue #685 is taken over by the Batman: Streets of Gotham team, Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen, and really isn’t even a Batman story at all. Catwoman is confronting Tommy Eliot, Hush, who has taken over the identity of Bruce Wayne.

Grant Morrison’s two issue touch on Last Rites is pretty interesting, and Last Days of Gotham saw some great art by Guillem March, but, even though Paul Dini is one of my personal favorites, his effect is easily forgotten. B

Batman #686 — Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?

Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artist: Andy Kubert
Released: April 2009

Superstar writer Neil Gaiman comes to Batman for part one of a very special two part story crossing over to Detective Comics.

It’s a funeral for Batman, and friends and villains from all periods and places of his history are invited. We join a street hood outside a bar on Crime Ally to greet some of Batman’s top rogues gallery including Catwoman, Two-Face and the Joker. Inside,¬†Catwoman and Alfred tell their very interesting perspectives on their history and relationship with the Caped Crusader.

You may notice how the title of this story references Alan Moore’s Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, where essentially the Golden Age Superman’s existence comes to a close. That’s not really the case here, as this version of Batman isn’t ending, but Neil Gaiman’s two-parter is very reminiscent of a dream by Batman, and like most dreams, they always tell the strangest stories.

Andy Kubert returns to Batman with a less hard edged style than some of his previous Batman work, and it’s for the better. You can tell he has done some heavy research for this story, as each different character resembles the Batman era they came from. From the Golden Age, to Batman: The Animated Series, to the Modern Age, this is a tale for the most well-read of Batman fans.

This is a highlight of the entire 600+ issue run of Batman, and a story that no Batman fan should pass on. A+

Batman #687-691 — Long Shadows

Writer: Judd Winick
Artists: Ed Benes, Mark Bagley
Released: August 2009-December 2009

After the events of Batman: Battle for the Cowl, Dick Grayson takes over his mentor’s mantle and dawns the mantle of the Batman, but he’s having some trouble adjusting to a role he didn’t ask for.

Meanwhile, Two-Face knows the returning Dark Knight isn’t the same man he’s faced before, and has hired a team of meta-humans for an attack on the Batcave like nothing ever seen before.

Judd Winick returns to Batman, and like always, he delivers a cool action story with an all-star cast of characters. Ed Benes shows off some great art in issue #688 and Mark Bagley takes over the remainder of the run, also contributing some nice panels, but personally I would have liked to have seen more of Benes. B+

Batman #692-697Life After Death

Writer: Tony Daniel
Artist: Tony Daniel
Released: December 2009-March 2010

The Black Mask is back and he’s assembled a team of thugs to help take down the Batman. Dick Grayson, still struggling to live up to his mentor’s role, teams up with the Huntress and Catwoman to help with the case. But when the Penguin takes control of Batman’s mind and sends him across the city to do some of Oswald’s dirty work, Grayson gets furious. Batman and his team wage a full frontal assault on Black Mask’s gang to put him down once and for all, and uncover the maniac’s true identity.

Tony Daniel pulls double duty as both writer and artist, and he flourishes on both pen and pencil. The highlight of the story is the amazing art work. Batman hasn’t looked this cool in a long time. We’ve seen Daniel on the book before, but teamed with inker Sandu Florea and colorist Ian Hannin, you can factually feel Batman’s cape flowing in the cold wind.

A lot of people gave up on Batman after Bruce “died” and Dick Grayson took over, but those people are seriously missing out. A

Batman #698-699Riddle Me This

Writer: Tony Daniel
Artist: Guillem March
Released: April 2010-May 2010

A string of strange murders plagues the streets of Gotham! It’s just your typical afternoon in the world’s deadliest city, right? Someone is offing a bunch of Gotham’s low-lives in unique ways, and the Riddler steps in to beat Batman to the perp. When the man behind the killings is revealed to be an evil magician known as Blackspell, Riddler find himself among his victims.

It’s always great to have a classic serial murder story in Batman, especially when the great villains like the Riddler are involved, but this is not nearly as interesting a story as Tony Daniel’s previous work on the title. It feels more like quick filler on its way to issue #700, rather than something DC intended to draw a lot of money with, and I just thought Blackspell wasn’t very intriguing.

But that doesn’t stop Guillem March’s art from being any less awesome. His beautiful and stylistic work is the saving grace of this story. C+

There you have it! You are officially up to speed on Batman and are ready for the title’s iconic 700th issue. While this 100 issue run on¬†Batman may not have ended on a very high note, we were still graced with some of the best stories in comics throughout the last eight years. We’ve seen the greatest creators the industry has to offer, and they have succeeded in putting their mark on the Dark Knight.

Be sure to read up on Batman issues #600-#650!

Here is a gallery of work from the brilliant artists who have given life to the Caped Crusader over the course of these stories!

Don Kramer

Andy Kubert

Tom Mandrake

John Van Fleet

J.H. Williams III

Ryan Benjamin

Tony Daniel

Lee Garbett

Ed Benes

Mark Bagley

Tony Daniel

Guillem March

Look for our review of Batman #700 coming soon! And join us again in about eight years when we recap and review Batman #700-799!

Andrew Hurst
andrewhurst@comicattack.net






3 Comments


  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Comic Attack, Tyra Banks. Tyra Banks said: Batman: Recapping the Last 100 issues pt 2: #651-699: Meanwhile, things are heating up with Bruce Wayne and super … http://bit.ly/bEEtya [...]


  2. Awesome job Andrew.

    I’ve read almost all of these. I’ve loved both Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel’s run as writers.
    Tony Daniel is also one of my favorite Batman artists.


  3. Aron

    This is the Bat-Radia!

    Awesome! As far as art in this second half, I was really diggin’ Kubert, McDaniel, and Bagley. I really wish Bagley would have stuck around a lot longer.

    I guess Gaiman’s run was too smart for me. I was left saying, “What the hell was that?” at it’s conclusion.

    Batman #700 is coming! Time to PARTY!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>