When "Batman" #708 was solicited, it was to be written by Tony Daniel and drawn by Andy Clarke, with a story involving Batman, the new Catgirl, and the Falcone crime family. Next month's "Batman" would be the conclusion of a three-part story, written by David Hine, and crossing over with "Red Robin" and "Gotham City Sirens."
What we're actually getting, though, is the three-part story expanded to four parts, with a new opening chapter this month in "Batman." Never mind that the creative team promised for "Batman" #708 sounded a lot more enticing. This story still feels, unfortunately, like a bit of a dud.
It doesn't help matters that it's heavily tying into events that happened in the now-cancelled "Azrael" comic. Considering that "Azrael" sold less than 15% of the copies of "Batman," this is a slightly dubious decision. You can't even think that this story was supposed to boost "Azrael" sales, since the book is cancelled. Instead it feels like we're getting dangling stories from a dead book, propped up under the name of a best-selling comic from the same company.
With all that in mind, it's not a complete disaster. I like the over-the-top lunacy of the Crusader, who feels like a refugee from Matt Wagner's "Grendel" with his flaming arrows and quasi-biblical dialogue. There are some good snippets of dialogue as well from Hine, which is good. But on the whole, the story feels grafted together with little rhyme or reason, and perhaps most importantly this doesn't feel like an issue of "Batman."
Guillem March's art looks wonderfully creepy in this issue; not just the Crusader with his burnt cross on his face and the curls of hair licking the edges of his head, but the appearance of the other "angels" and the general "cranked up to crazy town" levels of madness poured onto each page. Since March is also coloring his own art, it gives him the opportunity to play with the overall look of the comic; the title page flashback, for instance, looks gorgeous with the saturations of red and purple on the ground, and the different shades of blue in the sky and the water. The page looks less like comic art and more like a painting, with March's holistic approach to the page, and it's a reminder of the sort of finished product March is capable of. Even something as simple as the circles of raindrop impressions in the water, or the wet poster left on top of the body, ends up giving us a striking final image.
Not getting a team-up between Daniel and Clarke was reason enough for disappointment, but this issue felt lifeless in the story department. There's nothing here that entices me to pick up issues of "Red Robin" and "Gotham City Sirens" to find out what happens next, much less next month's issue of "Batman." Fans of March's art will want to check this comic out, but otherwise I'm all right with waiting until May for my next issue of "Batman."