The best thing about the current Batman run is that it actually feels like a Batman book, where, for me, the preceding run failed to accomplish this. That alone is a major plus for James Tynion, Guillem March, and Tony Daniel. There are, however, many minor aspects and details that get under my skin. It’s not enough to ruin the book for me, but they definitely take me out of the moment while reading the issue, and that’s never good. So, what’s working in Batman and what isn’t? And more importantly, do the pros outweigh the cons? Find out below!
Anyway, this issue kicks off with Catwoman frantically digging up a grave. We know this has to have something to do with the Designer and “the perfect crime,” but we still don’t know exactly what that is, or the role the rogues played in it. Regardless, Catwoman’s spooked. To try and catch up with the current state of affairs, she contacts Riddler to see if her suspicions are correct.
As expected, we get banter about Selina being with Batman now, that she’s not a rogue anymore, will Batman still love her when he finds out what they did, blah, blah, blah. It’s all doom-and-gloom, ominous, and, honestly, rather generic and predictable. Had the exchange been executed with more finesse, it might have been quite good. Unfortunately, the exchange was written with a heavy hand, and lines like, “Why the hell should I help Batman’s girlfriend?” to which Catwoman responds, “Because I have very sharp claws and a bad temper.” Just come off as hokey.
I mean, I’m all for some comic-booky goodness, but I do have my limits, even for comic books. And while I’ll forgive books from the Golden Age or Silver Age – they are products of their time – I think it’s fair to expect more or better today unless the intention of the book is to be camp.
Anyway, the really interesting development between Catwoman and Riddler’s conversation is who is in the grave that Selina is digging up. Yep, that’s the Joker in the casket. I have so many questions, and I don’t know if they’ll actually be answered, or answered well. I mean, right away I have to question why the body hasn’t decomposed yet if it’s been buried for years. Also, the idea that Joker has been dead for years doesn’t line up with continuity, nor does it make much sense. Am I misunderstanding, or is DC really just saying, “F-it!” to continuity?
And yes, I know that everyone is going to say, “THREE JOKERS!!!!” but Didio has already confirmed Three Jokers will be Black Label and not in continuity. So… Yeah, what’s the deal here? I’m intrigued, but I can’t say I’m excited because I’m not exactly confident everything will unfold well. It just seems like an obviously poor misstep.
Turning to the Batman aspect of the story, he’s in the process of apprehending Cheshire – who wasn’t actually captured previously (I had an entire rant about this in my Batman #87 review) – and while doing so is informed that all of the other assassins have escaped… Well, actually, they’ve been kidnapped… by Penguin.
I actually like this development, because it creates more intrigue and mystery into what Penguin, Catwoman, and Riddler did years ago, but it also shows the desperation in which Penguin is willing to go. The moment I think I’m on board though, we take another turn south as Penguin threatens Deathstroke. Uh… I can’t imagine Penguin doing this to the likes of someone as dangerous as Deathstroke. Penguin is many things, but he isn’t stupid, and threatening Deathstroke’s life seems like a stupid move. Again, it’s a small moment, but it took me out of the story.
In all of this, Batman is trying to connect the pieces – much in the way that we are – but Tynion’s approach feels rather clumsy. It feels as though we’re supposed to be in the same boat as Batman, working to solve the mystery with him, but we’re not. We don’t know much, and we are caught in a mystery as well, but we know things that Batman doesn’t, so it feels like Tynion is trying to play this using two different techniques that, in some ways, contradict the effectiveness in the other. By that, I mean that it appears as though we’re supposed to be as clueless as Batman, and that the scenes featuring Batman are written that way, but we’re privy to at least some of the information Selina/ the rogues have. Because Tynion isn’t just sticking to Batman’s perspective or Catwoman’s perspective, it makes for a less satisfying read, and relies heavily on exposition.
Yes, the exposition king strikes again! Tynion still has a bad habit of writing way too much exposition. We see it early on as he goes out of his way to explain how Catwoman and Riddler have a secret, secure phone line that they used to contact one another, and again when Penguin monologues about why and how he broke the rogues out of prison. It feels lazy and less engaging than it could be, but more importantly, it robs us of actually experiencing the story – a trend that is becoming far too frequent in comics. It’s as if the new thing in writing comics is to have most of the interesting plot points occur in between issues. It sucks and is a terrible trend.
Ultimately, the conglomerate of problems I have with the book – though minor individually – all come to a singular issue… Tynion is trying to do too much at once. He’s trying to make the book multiple genres, rather than having it feel like it includes multiple genres. He’s trying to tell the same story from two different perspectives (Batman’s perspective and the rogue’s perspectives), while structuring the book as if we’re supposed to be clueless like Batman. And then, he’s so focused on creating “moments” – fights, exchanges, tech reveals, etc – that it tends to come at the expense of the story in a desperate attempt to do something cool. I’d prefer to just read a good story. It’s as if he’s running through a checklist of what makes Bat-fans happy, and I worry that it will come at the expense of not making anyone truly happy by the end of the run. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s a legitimate criticism.
Now, as a shipper of the Bat/ Cat relationship, we need to talk about the serious problem with their relationship here. If all of the rogues know that Selina is Catwoman and that Catwoman is with Batman, then how do they not know that Bruce Wayne is Batman, if Bruce and Selina are public in Gotham? Keeping Batman’s identity a secret on its own is a tall order, but this is just too unbelievable. I like the idea of what Tynion is wanting to do with the couple concerning daytime Gotham and Gotham after nightfall, but the approach doesn’t hold water and was poorly thought out.
I know it sounds as if I hate the issue, and I promise you that I don’t. I think the book has a number of fun elements, and I enjoy the way Tynion approaches the characters. I think I’m just frustrated that I keep finding so many writers and editors fail to actively work their stories. It’s as if they just run with things without much thought. And no, there aren’t any major issues to be found, but there are more than enough minor issues that prevent this book from being great, and I want these books to be great. They should be great.
Guillem March delivers the art for this issue, and I think his work actually looks better here. I personally love his take on Catwoman, and it’s a big reason I’m such a fan of Gotham City Sirens. That being said, much like Tynion’s script, I feel as though March is having a bit of an identity crisis when it comes to tone. There are pages and panels where his approach is more traditional, while other pages are heavily affected to contain more of a horror vibe. I mean, Penguin and Riddler look like actual monsters and creatures because their characteristics have been so exaggerated, meanwhile everyone else looks completely normal. I’m honestly fine with either approach, I just wish it was more consistent.
- You’ve enjoyed Tynion’s venture into Gotham so far.
- Guillem March is one hell of an artist.
- You want to learn more about what the rogues did in the past.
Tynion and March continue to deliver solid work, but they both seem to be so preoccupied with checking off so many different elements with Batman that I’m not sure if they’re completely focused on simply telling a good story. Again, there’s plenty to enjoy here, but I can’t quite say that it’s quality. If I were to compare it to food, I’d say this is more like fast food than a home-cooked meal.