Unrelenting action, check. Witty humor, check. Amazing visuals, check. Unexpected twists and turns, check. AzBats, check. And an ending that boils down to more than simply who can hit the hardest, check. This sounds awesome! I’m guessing right about now you’re probably waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well, fear not! I wasn’t just building this up in order to pull the rug out from under you. This actually is a pretty awesome issue. Sure, it’s got a couple things we can nitpick away at. But for the most part, this was a solid addition to Tynion’s Tec library and a worthy finale to Intelligence.
When we last saw our heroes, Luke Fox was about to upload an A.I. version of Batman into Jean-Paul in order to help him resist the Ascalon entity running amok in his noggin. We don’t have to wait long to see that this plan goes off without a hitch.
A nightmarish Batman Beyond looking vision shows up to do combat with the Azrael demon that seems to have wandered out of a Guillermo Del Toro creature shop. The way it’s presented, I half expected there to be some kind of epic battle between these two mental projections, with Jean-Paul regaining control of his body once the Nightmare-Batman walloped Toro-Az. But that doesn’t happen. Jean-Paul just wakes up and he is good to go. I guess simply having the Bat A.I. in there was enough to keep The System’s mental control over Jean-Paul in check, but it still would have been nice to see a little imagery showing some Bat-dominance though beat-down.
With Jean-Paul’s mental landscape back under his helm, we transition to the battlefield of the real world. A couple issues back, it was made clear that Ascalon meant to use Luke’s suits to exterminate Gotham’s degenerate population. At the time, it felt a little tedious. Were we really about to get another “The entire city is in danger and it will take everything our heroes have to stop it” plot. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen at all. Zatanna takes all the Batwing suits out like it was nothing. The simple fact that the story took what I thought was going to be another paint-by-numbers approach and instead swept it under the rug in seconds was extremely refreshing and allowed the narrative to focus more on a personal battle instead of averting a city wide catastrophe. Plus, it was just cool to see Zatanna own all those suits so effortlessly. GO MAGIC!!!
Next on the list of things to discuss is the fight between AzBats and Ascalon:
Well that looked like it hurt…
While the fight isn’t as smoothly choreographed as the battle from last tissue (a lot more bashing and a lot less finesse), it’s still plenty of fun. Jean-Paul gets to use his razor-wing bat projectiles, claws, and grapple. And, as evidenced from the image above, Jean-Paul thinks on his feet and ends up using his surroundings to help give him a tactical advantage in the fight against Ascalon. I’m not going to openly give away what happens (check the spoilers), but things definitely end up getting much more personal than just a hero taking out a villain.
They end up beating Ascalon, not by physically subduing him, but by handing him the Gnosis Sphere. Once he touches it, he understands that what he was doing was wrong, and he just leaves. I don’t have a problem with this. That was actually really cool and let them deal with a villain in a way that wasn’t about physical submission but mental elevation. What I have a problem with is that he takes the Gnosis Sphere with him. Was that necessary? It’s not like he needed to keep touching it in order to stay enlightened. This was an item that the Zataras had protected forever, and Zatanna decides to just give it away?!? How did she know Ascalon wasn’t going to misuse it? And even if he was going to be responsible with it, what if someone else stole it from him? Wouldn’t it have been far safer for her to keep it in her care than in the hands of a stranger that only just that instant became good? That seems pretty irresponsible of her if you ask me.
Batman doesn’t do anything. And when I say he doesn’t do anything, I mean he doesn’t do ANYTHING. Pretty much his entire contribution to the finale consists of him standing/floating next to Zatanna and watching her dispatch Luke’s Ascalon controlled Batwing suits. You could say that since an A.I. version of Batman is in Jean-Paul, that he is actually fighting alongside Jean-Paul to defeat Ascalon. But literally speaking, he doesn’t do anything. Unless you count pushing a wheel chair around.
Art for this issue is handled, once again, by Alvaro Martinez. And, without a doubt, Martinez is currently my favorite Batman artist working on the Bat-books right now. That’s not to say that I don’t also love the work of some of the other artists, but Martinez is just more inline with my personal preferences. His work is full of life and energy, emotion and power.
- His stuff simply looks like what I think comic art should look like.
- He handles facial expressions expertly.
- His sequential action scenes are easy to follow and high energy.
- He comes up with interesting pages layouts and panel framing.
- He shows significant regard to detail.
- He pays considerable attention to the environment the characters inhabit.
All in all, Martinez is a force to be reckoned with and a man of many talents. And from what I’ve seen from him so far, there is no challenge he hasn’t risen to and surpassed.
Odds and Ends:
- I’m going to guess that this was meant to invoke memories of Knightfall. Couple that with the fact that AzBats is the one saying it and that Ascalon performs a back-breaker on him (no, he doesn’t break his back), and I think it’s a safe bet to assume that’s what they were going for.
- So, is Ascalon Jean-Paul’s literal brother? I mean, we know Ascalon is an A.I. program inside of a robot body. So, does that mean Jean-Paul had an actual brother and Ascalon merely houses an A.I. version of who that brother was? Technically, that doesn’t mean Jean-Paul’s brother is dead. After all, an A.I. version of Batman is in Jean-Paul right now and Batman is still alive. So, a flesh and blood bother could be out there somewhere. Interesting.
- So, correct me if I’m wrong, but what I got from this is that The System, Ascalon, and Jean-Paul’s brother are the same thing???
(Image from Tec #960)
- I also found it interesting, and unexpected, that this dude ended up being Ludovic Valley. In the original store, Ludovic gets killed, and that’s what instigates The Order to activate Jean-Paul Valley. I guess I just kind of figured that part of the original story was still in play. It never occurred to me that Tynion was rewriting everything.
- AAWWWWWW YEAH!!! Time to get back to the Tim Drake portion of Tynion’s narrative.
- What, WHAT, WHAT?!? I’ll give Tynion this, he’s like the master of the tease.
- You wanna see AzBats in action!
- Alvaro Martinez’s art is your idea of quintessential comic art.
- You wanna see Zatanna go to town on some drones…with magic!
- You like when a story throws a couple of unexpected twists and turns your way.
What a fabulous finale! Tynion manages to craft a story that doesn’t adhere to preconceived notions. Instead, he throws convention to the wind, delivering some truly unexpected moments that will have you wondering what will happen till the very last page. Meanwhile, Martinez provides visuals that propel you into the very heart of this world. You’re right there alongside the characters for every laden punch and every gut-wrenching discovery. If you had been worried for a while that Tynion may have lost his way in the over-arcing narrative that’s been in play since the beginning of his tenure on Detective Comics, you shall be pleased with the conclusion to the Intelligence storyline as it seems that things are back on track and up to par.
SCORE: 8.5 / 10