EDITOR'S NOTE: Since this issue of BATMAN features part 2 of a story that began in DETECTIVE, John Bierly is reviewing #685. BATMAN's regular review, Bill Ramey, will return just in time for "Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?" - Jett
BATMAN #685 picks up from the end of DETECTIVE COMICS #852, which was the beginning of Paul Dini's two-part epilogue to his thrilling, emotionally exciting, and psychologically twisted "Heart of Hush" storyline that played out in DETECTIVE last year.
Let's start with the cover by Alex Ross. Sometimes his artwork is a bit too realistic for me, but I really dig his take on Selina Kyle's most recent costume. I love how she's holding a jewel but still beckoning us with a come-hither finger and stare. Absolutely gorgeous. (What I DON'T like about the cover is that it's plastered with TWO events: "Last Rites" and "Faces of Evil." Enough with the gimmicks!)
At least Dini still knows how to write a great Batman story without having actually having Batman appear. Part one of this in DETECTIVE #852 was more intriguing than part two here, because Tommy Elliot's narration as he tried to "replace" Bruce Wayne was really chilling and really built upon the new psychological profile Dini created for Elliot in the flashbacks that ran throughout the "Heart of Hush" issues. (It's coming out in a hardback collection in April. Grab it. It's still the best Batman story from 2008.) And then, of course, we got that great reveal at the end of part one, when we learned that Selina Kyle was far from finished with her torment and torture of the man who literally stole her heart to harm the man who's figuratively been stealing it for years.
This time, we get more of a talker between Selina and Tommy. Dini writes Selina really well, and as much as I've raved about Dustin Nguyen's fabulous artwork in the past, I've still never seen him draw Selina as breathtakingly sexy as he does in this issue. He's at the absolute top of his game, and I particularly like the scenes where he draws her with her goggles on but without the mask, letting her bangs sweep across the tops of the lenses. (I really need a girlfriend.)
The story does it job well, allowing Selina to be Selina and Tommy to be Tommy. A couple of guest stars also pop up, and I'm glad to see them working with Selina. My biggest problem is that Tommy gets away with something he'd never really have gotten away with in the company of these two people. And Nguyen draws one of them way too short.
But these quibbles aside, it's still as good an issue of BATMAN as you can ask for without it actually featuring Batman. The ending is a little flat -- not nearly as edgy or as infinitely bad-ass as the brutal epilogue Ra's Al Ghul got in DETECTIVE #840. But it does at least close this chapter for now.
Dini and Nguyen aren't going to be doing Batman forever, and I hate to see their talents wasted on editorially mandated stuff like "Last Rites" when they could be doing what they've been doing -- telling me the best stories they can about the best hero in comics. As our fearless leader Jett has said time and again, just give us good writers and good artists telling good stories. We don't need big crossovers and events and gimmicks. We just need Batman! - John Bierly