Batman #642 Review

Reviewer : Tim Byrne
Story Title : Breaking the Skin

Writer : Andersen Gabrych
Penciller : Chris Marrinan
Inker : Andrew Pepoy
Colorist : Alex Sinclair
Letterer : Pat Brosseau
Editor : Bob Schreck

After the mega-huge-super-ultra revelations of the last story-arc, almost anything else was going to seem less significant by comparison.

This is the case (to an extent) with this tale of a robbery and mind-control-gone-bad involving Killer Croc, the Mad Hatter and Gotham’s newest crime boss.

In a savvy device, the significance of the previous arc is referenced in a brief sequence with Bruce contemplating the Robin memorial before donning his cowl and leaving the Batcave. Its a neat device to connect to the previous story, while at the same time reminding us that the task of fighting crime as a masked vigilante isn’t going to stop just because you’re in the middle of a personal crisis.

However, the reference to the previous tale does underscore how apparently pedestrian the stakes are in this little jaunt. Mad Hatter, using a computer chip to control Killer Croc, plans a bank heist using a number of his other drones, including Croc. In a complete shock, things go pear-shaped, and Batman makes his presence felt in the situation.

Mad Hatter has often been a villain that it was hard to take too seriously. Hats that control people’s minds? Really?? A recent arc in Gotham Central succeeded in making the idea of controlling minds seem truly as menacing as it would ordinarily be, but in this instance Hatter really comes across as no more than a cackling B-villain.

Batman’s use of resources organised by (former) Commissioner Gordon is a nice nod to continuity, that also serves to remind us of the lack of allies and friends that Bruce truly has to confide in regarding his feelings regarding Jason Todd. It is completely believable that someone with Bruce’s obsessions would choose to take his ‘mind off things’ by swinging around the city and picking fights with criminals. The stakes of this battle are yet to be seen.

The art is fine, although it does suffer by comparison with Jim Lee’s work, in another obscure Bat-title that comes out this week. The depiction of Croc is particularly good, although the inconsistency of Croc’s portrayal has often been a source of frustration for me.

I’m in for the long haul with Batman, but I doubt this issue will win any new converts.