James Tynion’s Batman, for me, is like watching a reality show. There’s a lot of hype and melodrama, but in the end, there just isn’t much substance. And, honestly, that’s a shame because Tynion has some grand ideas, but the execution just isn’t there.

The Story

This week’s issue continues “Their Dark Designs,” which takes us further into the Designer’s perfect crime, and… well, it’s fine. There’s a lot going on in this issue, but it doesn’t feel as though much of the story itself is fully realized. That, or Tynion is simply banking on the fact that the vast array of characters, alone, will create enough allure to make people happy. That’s not a knock – I know that merely seeing a range of characters together makes many readers happy, but that doesn’t make me happy. I want a good story with solid execution as well. Writing is a craft, after all. That appears to be a foreign concept for many young writers these days though.

Anyway, the story kicks off by reminding us that Penguin previously had his throat slit by Deathstroke and was left for dead. I’d honestly forgotten about this, so it grabbed my attention right away because I found this particular plot thread to be rather interesting. Unfortunately, the writing for this scene ends up being heavy-handed and doesn’t go anywhere anyway, because that’s the last we see of these characters.

The main focus here is split relatively evenly between Batman tracking the Riddler, and Catwoman and Harley’s mission. Since this is Batman, we’ll start with Batman’s plot.

Batman has Deathstroke in his custody and is searching for the Designer when Riddler highjacks the screens of Gotham and starts broadcasting a challenge to Batman. He’s planted explosives throughout the city, and if Batman isn’t able to answer the riddles to his crossword puzzle, each wrong answer will result in one of the bombs going off… So, in other words, classic Riddler.

Initially, the exchanges are fun. I’m not a fan of Tynion and March’s depiction of Riddler – it reads as very Jim Carey from Batman Forever to me – but I do enjoy the riddles… at first. What seemed to be an easy start in an attempt to ramp up to more difficult questions, ultimately ends up just being very simple, easy riddles. That, for me, is a let-down. I expect more from the Riddler, and the riddles presented here appear to be straight out of a book of riddles targeted to jr. high students. Batman eventually determining the answer to other spaces without clues is also a bit much… And by “bit,” I mean a lot. We should all learn the benefit of editing ourselves.

Beyond that, there isn’t much of a purpose for any of this. I mean, why is Riddler doing this now? Was this his perfect crime that the Designer helped him plan? If so, I’d demand a refund because the entire bit is mediocre at best, and never feels like an actual threat. The encounter does, eventually, bring Batman face to face with the Designer in a way that would almost hint that the Designer knows Bruce is under the cowl.

And that might beg the question, “Who is the Designer?” Quite frankly… I don’t care. There’s been little effort to make him an intriguing character, and he’s ultimately been set-up as a plot device more than anything else. This is one of those situations where I feel the more we learn about him, the less intriguing he becomes… And when you break that down, all it really means is that the Designer isn’t a great character.

On the Catwoman and Harley front, they’re meeting a guy named the Underbroker who brokers deals with criminals to help them with their missions. It’s an interesting concept, but, again, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The draw here isn’t the Underbroker though. Someone else has beat Selina and Harley there, and that someone is Punchline.

Cue the excited screams from a certain percentage of readers, but alas, I, again, am not one of them. Aside from Punchline’s design, I’m just not a fan of her so far. She’s literally done nothing but stand in the background, and yet, Tynion and everyone at DC tells us how cool she is. Meanwhile, I’m over here like, “Prove it.”

Maybe I’m jaded, but every time I read Punchline, she just comes off as a boring, hack-attempt to recreate Harley Quinn. Hell, she even comes off as a knock-off Joker’s Daughter… And I despise the current iteration of Joker’s Daughter, so that’s saying something. But, really, I just see the writing on the wall, and it’s the same thing I’ve encountered with every Tynion book I’ve ever read – maybe two or three exceptions… All hype and no substance.

And that brings me to my final point: Tynion wastes too much time. It’s clear he has these encounters and moments partially mapped out in his head, but it’s also clear that he doesn’t fully think them through. He just rushes to get to them. And while they could easily be great moments, the fact that he doesn’t build to them properly – or that he approaches them with melodrama – it ends up killing the moment.

Too many pages accomplish absolutely nothing. No plot progression, no character development. They’re simply there to provide banter for the sake of banter. And that leaves us with this. A product with little substance that relies too heavily on the art and action to get by, while somehow being too fast-paced and too slow all at the same time.

The Art

Guillem March delivers the art for this issue, and he does a lot of the heavy lifting. There’s a lot of action packed into these 20 pages, and while I do feel that half of the action isn’t necessary, it’s still illustrated incredibly well. The energy that is found in this book is a direct result of March, and I applaud him for it. I’ve made it very clear that I feel as though Tynion’s script lacks a lot of substance, but March does what he can to make up for that. Whatever identity this book has – and I’m still not completely sure what that is yet – it’s because of the texture that the art adds to the story overall.

Recommended if:

  • If you’ve been waiting for Harley vs Punchline, you get it here… Kind of…

Overall: Batman #92 is fine. It’s not terrible, but it’s far from satisfying. I feel like the core concept of what Tynion has dreamed up has some value, but the execution fails to live up to that potential by a good margin. At the end of the day, Tynion’s craft just isn’t strong enough to let Batman pack the punch that it needs to, and a mediocre Batman is never a good thing.

SCORE: 5.5/10