Comic Reviews: Batman and Daphne Byrne!
Batman #86 (DC Comics)
After a genre defining (and patience testing) run from Tom King, the mainline Batman series is going back to basics in an effort to boost the sales back to their previous numbers. DC made a lot of waves with their controversial decision to cut King’s run short by fifteen issues, but in bringing in writer James Tynion IV and artist Tony S Daniel to usher us into Batman #100, they bring in a sense of familiarity to Bruce Wayne and his allies that is both comforting and little on the safe side.
After the fallout of Bane’s takeover of Gotham, the Wayne Foundation puts into motion their plans to help rebuild a better Gotham City, one that will never need a Batman. As the big gala event gets underway, a group of assassins assembled by Deathstroke meets to crash the event. No one knows who hired them, but Batman quickly arrives to make short work of the villains assembled before him. But someone else has plans for the Gotham project, and it won’t go the way that Bruce Wayne intends….
This issue reads very much like the start of new run. It establishes the new status quo of Batman quickly for new readers who didn’t know that Alfred died in the previous run, or that Catwoman and Batman are now married, but still gives you a basic Batman story where he fights a few B-list baddies and one A-list one, and leads to clues around the mystery of this new arc. Tynion has already proven himself as a good Batman writer, but it’s pretty apparent that DC wanted him to deliver a “safe” Batman story after the lengthy Tom King run, and that’s fine. I enjoyed King’s run on the title, but I’ll admit that there were times where it could have been a lot more streamlined. That being said, it is a little difficult to read this and not hope for something a little more interesting.
Also on the safe side is Tony S Daniel’s art. I’m a big fan of Daniel’s art, but like Tynion, he’s definitely the easiest choice DC editorial could have made with this new run. His art is is still plenty detailed and dynamic, and he fills this issue with a ton of awesome panels and action set pieces, and we’re probably due for some pretty amazing action set pieces later in the run.
Despite knowing the behind scenes reasons for Tom King’s run ending so soon, Batman #86 is still plenty enjoyable. Even though it reads more like a fill in run on the title than an actual “main” storyline, this will definitely get the results that the publisher wants, and give fans of the Dark Knight something they are more comfortable with. Even though it had it’s faults, Tom King’s run on Batman was different, but apparently it was too different to make it 100 issues.
Daphne Byrne #1 (DC Comics)
The Hill House imprint at DC has given us a slasher series with Basket Full of Heads and a ghostly tale with Doll House Family, and now they’re giving us some good old fashioned gothic horror with Daphne Byrne, from Laura Marks and Kelley Jones. A slow burn of an opening issue, the real star of the book is Jones’ art, which is tailor made for this kind of book.
Daphne Byrne is a strange young girl who lives in New York City in the late 1800s. It’s the height of the spiritualism movement, and Daphne’s mother regularly visits a medium to communicate with her deceased husband (and Daphne’s father) Frederick. Daphne isn’t a believer in the medium’s tricks, and after exposing her for a fraud seeks out a different way to communicate with her father. But after a strange dream causes her to sacrifice a pig, she wakes up with blood on her hands. It’s not possible that it really happened, is it?
Laura Marks’ opening issue is very heavy on mood and atmosphere, and does a very effective job of establishing Daphne’s character and world without bogging you down in exposition. In fact, that’s the strongest thing about this issue. In a few snippets of dialogue we get a complete understanding of Daphne and her relationship (or lack thereof) with her schoolmates. Marks’ script doesn’t do much outside of establishing the world and characters, which unfortunately means that I still don’t have much of an idea of what this series is supposed to be about, other than spiritualism and mediums.
I’m a gigantic fan of Kelley Jones, so anytime he’s working on a title I’m gonna check it out. Daphne Byrne is tailor made for Jones, and he absolutely knocks it out of the park here. Chock full of creepy characters and locations, Jones really puts a lot of detail in the macabre here, creating some panels that are pure nightmare fuel.
While Daphne Byrne isn’t quite what I was expecting, it adds to the diversity of the Hill House line, and is a nice diversion from the other titles offered. Those looking for a little gothic horror in their comic reading will definitely want to check it out, and fans of Kelly Jones will be very happy with what they get here.