I remember when I was reading the different "Superman" titles back in the early 1990s and each comic had its own niche and take on Superman's world. So one had to do with his dealings with Lex Luthor and Supergirl, another was old fashioned superheroics, a third went for the strange Jack Kirby influenced characters... you get the idea. So with the relaunch of the "Batman" family of titles in November, it's been nice to see the same sort of unofficial division happening. "Detective Comics" is dark and creepy, "Batman Incorporated" is way out there and larger than life, and as for "Batman" itself? It's a great mix of the character's super-powered villains and the organized crime of Gotham.
With Tony Daniel's third installment of "Eye of the Beholder," we're getting a whole lot of fun. It's in many ways the most "classic" of the Bat-books at the moment, delivering a "Batman" comic set firmly in the DC Universe but not losing sight of the elements that make Batman a great character. Sensei feels like a long-time Bat-villain under Daniel's hands, and the return of the Riddler (who Daniel last dealt with in "Batman" #698-699, so it's good to see a follow-up) and Enigma (forgotten since he and Geoff Johns created her for "Teen Titans") is a pleasant diversion. At the same time, we're learning more about the location of the mysterious Beholder that everyone's trying to find, and while I Ching and Peacock are sidelined a bit this issue, they're still part of the overall plot.
But more than that, Daniel is using the richness of the supporting cast here. We've got Robin, Alfred, Lucius Fox, Catgirl, even the director of Arkham Asylum. This feels like it's part of a larger narrative that Daniel began when he took over writing "Batman," and with each new chapter you're getting a story that works well on its own but also clicks into the puzzle that he's building. I think my favorite parts are the ones involving Catwoman and Catgirl; Daniel is doing a good job presenting their relationship with both each other and Batman, and I'm glad Catgirl's stuck around since her initial introduction. Her point in the plot works well, without making her overly important.
It helps that Daniel's art continues to strengthen on "Batman." From the crouching Catwoman on the window sill to Batman and Catgirl leaping through the air, there's a lot of energy and detail in every image. Even something as simple as Catgirl giving Batman a sidelong glance when she has to explain something to him is drawn carefully; it's hard to believe at times how much Daniel has grown into his role as "Batman" artist.
The latest "Batman" has it all; secret histories of characters, fights, ambushes, and of course the set-up for next month's conclusion. The tone picked for "Batman" is fun, pure and simple, and this comic delivers it in spades.