By David Hine (writer), Greg Tocchini (artist, pgs. 1-14), Andrei Bressan (artist, pgs. 15-20), Artur Fujita (colors), Patrick Brosseau (letters)

The Story: Batman, Robin and Nightrunner must deal with a mass escape from Le Jardin Noir, the Parisian equivalent of Arkham Asylum. Will they be able to conquer an entire new pantheon of super-powered criminals, including one who might just be even more twisted than the Joker himself?

What’s Good: Holy conflagration of evil, Batman! This is the last issue of Batman and Robin before the big reboot, and what an issue it is. An absolutely packed 20 pages that introduces an entire new metahuman rogue’s gallery, including the Son of Man. Named for the well known surrealist painting by René Magritte, Son of Man may be the most terrifying and inventive incarnation of evil since Harlan Ellison dreamed up AM. Bad guys have done a lot of nasty things in comic book history, but I gotta say–the reveal on the last two pages just went to the top spot on my own personal list. Not that it wasn’t rather deserved, but still… *Shudder*

Although the issue’s third act more than makes this worth reading in my opinion, the preceding pages are fairly standard, if quite well written, Batman fare. Although it’s great fun seeing new villains and important locations added to the ever-expanding Batverse, Hine is really handicapped in his exposition by only having 20 pages to work with. It’s just about impossible to get the needed information about all the new villains across, and tell a proper story to boot. To Hine’s credit, he doesn’t really try–he introduces the villains, and jumps right into the story, trusting the reader to put everything together. For the most part, this works very well: although none of the villains (save the Son of Man) are really fleshed out as people, Hine is able to use them as storytelling tools to great effect, and I would eagerly read more about any or all of them.

What’s Not So Good: I’ve already addressed the length issue above–apparently this storyline was originally pitched as a miniseries, and eventually was pared down to this short story. While it does suffer from the truncation, Hine uses what he’s been given to very good effect.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the artwork. While Andrei Bressan thankfully handles the artwork on the crucial last five pages, Greg Tocchini continues to struggle with the art for the rest of the book. Once again, Batman–whose cowl ends up making him look like Hawkman half the time–is the worst example of this. Tocchini does do a good job during one particularly visually striking scene towards the end, but even that doesn’t cancel out the wince-inducing nature of the previous 13 pages.

Conclusion: Listen up, DC: get me a new artist, and then let David Hine go crazy in this new corner of the Batverse he’s carved out. I don’t care if you put it in an ongoing, a miniseries, a graphic novel, it doesn’t matter. Just, whatever this was? I want more. As fast as Hine can write it.

Grade: A-


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