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The Copycat Criminal

May 13, 2010

     Batman #700 is right around the corner, but first, Tony Daniel revisits the question of the Riddler’s sanity and continued reformation in Batman #698.  Dick Grayson starts out the issue having a dream about being on the trapeze with his parents.  It quickly turns sour, however, as his parents turn into Catwoman and Jason Todd, then Oracle and Batman’s skeleton, the last of whom drops Dick (because he’s a skeleton).  Seems the Black Mask’s toxins are giving poor Dick nightmares.  Then, Dick goes out as Batman to meet with Commissioner Gordon, who has found a dead body who seems to have been murdered by Mr. Zsasz.  But the Riddler shows up and points out a similarity to another criminal who seems to have been murdered by the Penguin in a similarly unconvincing way.  Dick then finds another criminal killed seemingly by Two-Face.  All three men have three commonalities: they were all money people, they all were recently released from Blackgate Pentitentiary, and they were all cellmates with Firefly.  After an interrogation with Firefly goes nowhere, Batman gets led into a trap to save a fourth man.  Although he escapes, the fourth man is still murdered, seemingly by Mr. Freeze.  The Riddler points out an interestingly mustachioed man at all the crime scenes, and Batman discovers that his name is Sebastian Blackspell, a master illusionist who was arrested for a short while for breaking and entering.  When Batman tracks Blackspell, he finds another dead man in his apartment, one who is rather elaborately displayed, but seems to not have been planned like the rest.  He spots Blackspell and chases him, but it’s obvious that Blackspell is stringing him along.  At the end of the trail, Batman finds the Riddler, seemingly infected with Joker venom and laughing.

     Obviously, Tony Daniel intended to, with his previous arc, return the Riddler to villainly and quite possibly use some of the newer interpretations of the character to make him seem more villainous.  It almost makes me wonder if Blackspell is really the Riddler, or is working for the Riddler, or something along those lines.  At any rate, since Batman #700 is coming up, this story will only be two issues long.  Considering that it’s the Riddler, this is obviously far too rushed to be the best kind of storyline Daniel could craft.  That’s too bad, since Daniel is doing rather well with the character.  As a result, this issue is interesting, but not terribly exciting.  It seems rather obviously that the Riddler is leading Batman along some path, so it’s definitely not as well thought out as the previous arc.  Guillem March’s artwork is very pretty, though.  I am well aware of the controversy surrounding him and his artistic portrayal of women, but I don’t know enough of his work to be able to weigh in on that.  The one woman in the issue isn’t portrayed sluttily or unrealistically, and everyone else is a guy.  He draws guys rather well.  And I like that the Riddler is so facially distinct from Batman (chin).  It’s nice to see someone not draw everyone’s face all the same and just rely on costumes and hair to tell the difference.  So, with one issue left, it’s obvious that Daniel won’t get to tell the story he really wanted to.  Let’s just hope that it’s graceful enough that it can set up future stories with the Riddler.

Plot: 7.5      Art: 8.8      Dialogue: 8.2      Overall: 7.8

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