This was a pleasant surprise. I'd forgotten that Tony Daniel was taking a few issues off of drawing "Batman" as part of the gearing up to #700. So, while Daniel continues to write the book, Guillem March of "Gotham City Sirens" has stepped in to draw this two-part story. I'll admit, I was a little worried. I've enjoyed Daniel's moody art on "Batman" once he started writing the book as well, but March's art on "Gotham City Sirens" got me to stop reading that title.
So with that in mind, it was an extremely pleasant surprise to read "Batman" #698. First off, this is the first time I've seen Daniel write for another artist, and it's good to see that he's got that down. Daniel clearly trusts March; it's never over-written, and he lets the art tell its side of the story. As for the story, it's good. The Bat-books have been quietly building up a story about the Riddler for some time now, teasing us as to if he's still gone straight or not. This might be the pay-off, as he takes the center stage and Daniel's story looks like it's heading for a second-half swerve that turns everything upside down. The nice thing though is that it's hard to say for certain if that's what we're getting. There's just enough ambiguity (is this for real or a set-up, and if the latter by whom?) to keep readers guessing until next month.
The big surprise, though, was seeing a book by March where I enjoyed the art. March's work here reminded me of, bizarrely, Joe Kubert. It has those thick stringy lines for texture (especially in the alleyway scene where the first body is found), and I found myself loving the way he drew Gordon, Kate Spencer, and an out-of-costume Dick Grayson. I feel like March has improved leaps and bounds when I wasn't paying attention, and now I need to start looking at "Gotham City Sirens" on a regular basis if this is what he's done in my absence. Before I'd written him off as a generic bad-girl artist, but there's none of that T&A styling present here. My one complaint with the art is actually Tomeu Morey's colors. When it's just a color for the background, Morey's rich, saturated look works perfectly; when purple curtains in the background of a room are jumping out and distracting me from the central action, though, it's time to start toning the colors down a bit.
I never thought I'd say this, but here we go: if March needs to step in to help out Daniel on the art again, I'd welcome his presence. Daniel and March work well together, and it's nice to see each of them providing a satisfying read. Daniel's run on "Batman" was one of the big surprises for me in the last year, but March's art improving so much is now high on the list as well. Good stuff.