Overview

Batman #639

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Batman #639

Credits

  • Words: Judd Winick
  • Art: Doug Mahnke
  • Inks: Tom Nguyen
  • Colors: Alex Sinclair
  • Story Title: Family Reunion: Part 1- Word on the Street
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $2.25
  • Release Date: Apr 27, 2005

Batman is on a worldwide search to find out if the Red Hood’s identity is for real. Meanwhile, Black Mask tries to maintain a hold on Gotham’s underworld.

Even those with a passing interest in Batman comics have probably seen all the brouhaha surrounding the identity of the Red Hood. However, in the era of "waiting for the trade," I’ll go ahead and give a spoiler warning right now, because the Red Hood’s identity is central to this issue.

*****

Okay, now that you’ve been warned, I’m not entirely buying into the whole Red Hood is Jason Todd thing. I understand that the creators and DC have confirmed this, but I still didn’t see how it could work. Apparently, unbeknownst to the world, the groundwork for Jason’s comeback was laid during their Loeb/Lee "Hush" run. The grave of Jason Todd was desecrated therein by Clayface (posing as Jason), and the passive reader like myself took it at face value. Upon closer inspection, Jason’s grave was empty…so where was the body?

And that is the same question that Batman finds himself trying to answer this issue. He’s checking Lazarus Pits (all closed up), visiting Green Arrow (he was dead after all) and basically driving himself crazy trying to figure out the answer to the one mystery he never wanted to confront. Back in Gotham City, Onyx is on the Red Hood case, checking into secret meetings and such in search for the elusive and deadly new criminal/vigilante. As for the Black Mask; he is at wit’s end. The Red Hood is intercepting and destroying any and all major shipments of arms, drugs, you name it. Business is not good.

Like I said, I’m not sold on the Red Hood/Jason Todd thing just yet. I do have faith in Winick, though, so I won’t jump to conclusions. In fact, I like the approach that Winick took with this issue. While Batman is focusing his attention on a mystery that he cannot personally turn his back on, the Red Hood goes pretty much unchecked back home--Onyx may be good, but she’s no Batman. The avenues Batman takes to try and figure out Jason’s resurrection are all good ones, and with each brick wall he encounters, the uncertainty deepens. Winick also gives a slight yet effective nod to the events of Identity Crisis here that I am certain we have not seen the end of.

I’ve enjoyed Mahnke’s contribution to this title. Batman seems to get more artist makeovers than any other high-profile comic character out there, so it’s always interesting to see the "evolution" take place when a new art team arrives. To his credit, I like the more reserved look. It’s not flashy like Lee, Turner or Churchill’s, and it’s not campy like or gritty like Risso’s. I liked each of those artists on their own merits, but Mahnke’s styling and ability to pace fits very well with Winick’s script. Nguyen’s inks and Sinclair’s colors fit this same mold, giving the book a more classic look that I feel this title should have.

Since "War Games," Batman has been a pretty solid read. The creators seem to have a very good handle on the characters and the necessity for a solid mystery to drive the World’s Greatest Detective. My hope is that the outcome is as solid as the build-up has been.

-Kert McAfee

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