Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: New Business
Written by: Judd Winick
Pencilled by: Doug Mahnke
Inked by: Tom Nguyen
Colored by: Alex Sinclair
Lettered by: Pat Brosseau
Editor: Bob Schreck
Publisher: DC Comics
Winick’s first go round on the Bat left me a bit cold. I was hoping for a rebirth of the Scarecrow and instead I got the Scarebeast (or whatever that thing was called). Sure, it turned out to be the good Professor all along, but it was still a new villain, not the return to glory for an old one.
But that was then, this is now. And now, I find myself pleasantly surprised. Winick’s first effort as continuing Batman writer (not just one arc and out) is good. It’s not flawless, but it is good. Alfred has a strong internal monologue about halfway through the issue that nicely brings the readers up to speed on War Games without seeming like just so much exposition. The small amount of Batman internal dialogue we get is right in line with the character. What scores the most points with me though is that Winick is the first to write a Black Mask (since War Games) that does not make me want to toss the book away in disgust. I am still not impressed with him as king villain of Gotham City, but Winick intelligently downplays the blabbering idiot persona that Mask had during War Games. The most intriguing elements, however, is the financial threat to Wayne Enterprises and the new Red Hood.
I am of two minds about Mahnke’s redesign of the Hood. On the one hand, I am glad to see him ditch the tuxedo and red cape. The old “hood” is also ditched, which, despite eliminating my favorite element of Hood’s previous design, the lack of eyes, is probably a good choice. However, what replaces the previous elements is not very interesting. The new “hood” fairs best. It is a simple, streamlined update of the old. However, the turtleneck, leather jacket, and big boots are fairly generic.
Despite the “blah” factor of the costume, however, Mahnke does a great job on pencils. The fight scene between Bats and Hood that opens the book is very visceral and well laid out (who knew Batman had a logo on his boots?) and the rest of the book, overall, has a great look to it. A large part of that is certainly owed to Alex Sinclair as his coloring continues to impress.
Overall, it is a good opening effort. If Winick chooses to drag the “who is the Red Hood?” element out for too long in this arc (especially the way it is set up here) I am liable to become impatient, but everything else looks promising. I am excited to find out what the role of the Batman villain on the last page will turn out to be and hoping that Black Mask can finally evolve (or return to) a character that is a strong fit for baddest bad in town.