Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Comic Book Review: Batman #697

Batman #697 is the conclusion of Tony Daniel's first arc, doing double duty on the title. This issue promised us the reveal of The Black Mask, but after the last issue, many readers already guessed correctly who he was. While this issue wasn't the greatest, it did provide a very satisfying conclusion.
The issue begins in Devil's Square, which is on fire. Black Mask is talking to the mask itself. He's angry at what the mask made him do, and say that he will destroy it, but the mask reveals that he doesn't have a choice, to which Fright appears and agrees, putting the mask on the man, and kissing him.

Batman takes over narrative here. He's worried about the military moving in the Devil's Square. The citizens in there as well as any incoming soldiers would all be infected by Black Mask's toxins. Babs calls them off, and Batman, who was able to synthesize an antidote, calls the calvary and moves in. Batman is able to move past the false faces, and makes it to a drainage pipe, that will lead to Black Mask's hideout.

It cuts back to Black Mask, who realizes that his army is dwindling, so he decides to get out of Devil's Square. Fright mentions that she told Dr. Death to release the remaining toxins to slow Batman down, but warn Black Mask that Batman will be hunting him, to which he replies that he will be ready for him.

In the Chemical Lab, Dr. Death can't get the toxin chambers to open because the network has crashed. Hugo Strange is ready to jet, but the power goes out, and Batman attacks. Batman takes out he two Dr.s, but is met by the Reaper. They struggle, but Dick gets him with a couple of antidote-coated batarangs. The Reaper is slowly beginning to think on his own,but is starting to disintegrate. Dick directs The Reaper to the two Dr.s there, who are responsible for his current circumstances.

Batman is slightly behind Black Mask, but knows where he's headed thanks to Kitrina's maps. He heads toward a bridge, which explodes. He quickly jumps across, where he see a woman's body. He cautiously inspects, and it's revealed to be a very much alive Fright, who's toxins begin to infect Dick, making him see in threes. Fright pulls out a gun, but Black Mask interjects, wanting to take the killing shot himself. He shoots, and hitting Fright multiple times, as Dick eludes the bullets. Dick and Black Mask fight, with Dick throwing Mask to the floor. Mask shoots, missing Dick, sparking an explosion behind them. Dick smothers Mask with his cape, protecting him, and Mask begins to plead with Batman, to put him out of his misery, to of course which Dick declines.Batman punches to mask off, revealing Dr. Jeremiah Arkham.

Dr. Arkham is now a patient in his own asylum. Batman watches him, wondering if Arkham has always been insane, or if someone or something pushed him over the edge. Commissioner Gordon shows up, saying how Arkham hasn't spoken since they brought him in, and talking about Jeremiah's trial being only a week away.

Dick is shown, waiting on top a building contemplating the recent events. The Penguin is shown with his bodyguard, and Mario Falcone with two henchmen. Fright, in the company of Dr. Death and Hugo Strange, is revealed to survive, with a mask over her face, most likely to protect burns sustained in the explosion.

Catwoman appears behind Dick being the one he was waiting on. She talks about trust, and says that she doesn't know where Kitrina is since she escaped her ropes. Dick doesn't respond and flies off into the night. He will never trust Selina he says, especially when she lies to his face. Kitrina comes out from behind Selina, and is shown in a new costume, as she will be Catgirl under Selina's training

The last scene, is Dick, thinking about how he saved the city as Batman, while putting the Black Mask on a mantle.

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