Lead Story By: David Hine (writer), Agustin Padilla (artist), Tony Aviña (colorist)
Back Up Story By: Kyle Higgins (writer), Trevor McCarthy (artist), Andre Szymanowicz (colors)

The Lead Story: Batman hits Paris, with the tentative blessing of the French authorities, as a series of riots and weird murders baffle police. Batman Incorporated grows.

The Back Up Story: The Question wears a Mark of Cain and heads far, far away to deal with it.

What’s Good: The Batman story was pretty cool. The creative team wasted no time in diving into the action with Batman duking it out with a mystery figure on the rooftops of Paris. The writing was brisk and the action was clear. I wanted to know who the figure was and who was wearing the Batman cowl. I was surprised (in a good way) by the answer. The action then cranked back in time, a week ago, four days ago, twenty minutes ago, to fill in the blanks. The timing shifts drove up the tension and were mostly effective.

Artwise, Padilla and Aviña had fun with the action across dark rooftops, in police offices, and in the catacombs beneath Paris. The art was dynamic and fluid, and the fight scene with mystery man evocative.

Despite my close following of the Batman Incorporated arc, I was almost more intrigued by the Question story. I haven’t seen much of her, but the whole Mark of Cain thing and the eastern influence was pretty cool. Remember when Frank Miller radically expanded the Daredevil mythos by introducing his teacher (Stick) and the Hand? I felt that something like that was going on here; not in such depth, but it was a pretty fascinating start. Crisp dialogue and emotional tension made the back up story work.

What’s Not So Good: I followed the first transition in time (one week ago…), but by the time Hine sprung the third on me, I started to get confused and felt a bit resentful that I had to flip back and forth and check the time settings to keep the story straight in my head. Maybe the lesson is that time shifts are a useful tool, but not to be overused. Artwise, I thought that while Padilla and Aviña communicated effectively, their draftsmanship is not in a style that I would gravitate to. The people have a shiny, plastic feel to them that I found unnatural and distancing. On the Question, there was much more implied texture to the art, but some of the faces were (again, in a draftsmanship sort of way) off for me. These points are largely stylistic and taste-based, but you can’t remove the visual experience from the story in a comic book. A last point is only that both stories continue in the upcoming Batman Annual #28, which disappointed me a bit. I’m accustomed to Annuals being self-contained, mini-events that don’t require a lot of subsequent buys. Now I have to buy another pricey annual if I want to see the end of the stories.

Conclusion: DC has delivered a pretty solid, giant-sized Annual for our delight. The Batman story and the Question story are complementary in artistic style, pacing and writing focus, but I think that both work well in a single book under the Detective Comics cover. It is a bit pricey, so I leave it up to you. I don’t regret the money I spent…I’m just counting it.

Grade: B

-DS Arsenault