Been neglecting the comic book side of things of late so let’s see what we can do about rectifying that. Batman #656 is an interesting setup for a storyline, introducing plot elements which promise to deliver interesting stories for a while yet – all backed up by solid art.
The issue starts off with Bruce Wayne attending an art show (which ironically is displaying a lot of comic book related pop art) and flirting with an ex-model. Outside, Alfred is cooling his heels in the car (and catching up on his reading) when a duo are dumped out of a passing car; Alfred recognises them as being the Langstrom’s – Professor Langstrom was the man who invented a serum which allowed him to become The Man-Bat, a monstrous creature that was very much like a giant bat with legs.
Suddenly the art show is crashed by a whole heap of Man-Bats … well, not just Man-Bats. They’re, as the dialogue states, Ninja Man-Bats. “Ninja Manbats. Alarming Twist.” The MBs start attacking folk and Bruce takes the chance to quickly change into his Batman threads, then proceeds to fight the horde. Six of the beasts get beaten in pretty short order in a combat sequence which is rather well done, an excellent mix of solid art and great internal dialogue.
Unfortunately for Batman, a second wave of Man Bats (this one a LOT bigger than the first) sweep in and he’s soon beaten by sheer weight of numbers. Batman is knocked out and dragged to what looks like the Gotham City docks where he wakes up and comes face to face with Talia Al Ghul. Talia admits to creating the Ninja Man Bats as her personal commando squad but has another surprise for poor ol’ Bruce; it seems that Bruce is now a father.
A father, yep. So how did this happen? Well, way back in the day there was a story wherein Ra’s Al Ghul (that’s Talia’s father) concluded that Batman would make good breeding stock so Ra’s could have a grandchild worthy of continuing Ra’s work. Talia and Bruce ended up impersonating the Beast with Two Backs (work it out, kids) and so Talia suddenly had a bun in the oven.
Whether or not that story was incontinuity or not is something that has often been debated but it would seem that post-Infinite Crisis that it most certainly is (as well as the existence of Aunt Agatha cooking and looking after Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson).
As mentioned previously, the art is solid and adds considerably to the pacing of the story – though there are a few scenes where characters eyes seem to be literally popping out their heads in ways which would not only be painful but also anatomically impossible. The background art is certainly worth a look as it regularly ties in quite clevery with what’s happening in the foreground (specifically the pop art captions).
In short, Batman #656 serves as a great setup for future stories.