You know, it is quite telling when the story of a potential story that’s told inside your story sounds way more interesting than the story you’re actually telling… Wait, did you follow that? I said “story” a lot.
I’m just going to come out and say it… I did not like this issue. On one hand, there are a lot of inconsistencies concerning the plot leading up to this issue, but there are also a lot of convenient developments that occur with no valid explanation. It’s just… Well, it isn’t great. I’d previously mentioned to someone that Tynion appears to be desperately throwing everything and the kitchen sink to see what sticks, and because of that, we’re getting left with a mess of a story that isn’t well thought out or well worked.
But before we jump into the finer details of crafting a story, let’s start with what I’m sure a number of readers are super psyched about… Harley Quinn vs Punchline. Where the last issue promised a battle between the two, this issue actually delivers. By that, I mean that we actually get to see them fight, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the fight is good.
First off, there’s a lot of talking. And it’s all of this modern-day, schoolyard, “I’m going to insult you because that’s how I prove I’m a badass and everyone is going to love it” type of crap. I hate it. For me, this entire approach is just juvenile. I always relate this back to how a child imagines fights: very one-sided and lots of insults. It’s very much the “reality TV” interpretation of what a fight really is. But Tynion tries so hard to make Punchline a badass and Harley cathartically aware of her past and the mirror that Punchline represents, that all that really comes across is just that… how hard Tynion tries. In fact, it feels desperate. (That’s twice now that I’ve used “desperate” to describe this book.)
If you want to throw some verbal zingers in before a fight, maybe one or two while someone is hurt or injured, sure. I’m down for that. But when you have word balloons all over each panel as two people are coming to blows, it’s not enjoyable or believable. I don’t want monologue-conversations when two people are trying to beat the crap out of each other.
As for how this fight ends… We all knew Punchline was going to win this fight. I’m fine with it. I honestly feel that Harley needed to be knocked a couple of rungs down her ladder. I just wish Punchline had come in and beat the crap out of Harley without saying much of anything. She would’ve come across way more intimidating and I might have actually enjoyed the encounter opposed to the banter-fest we got. Also, this is the second time Tynion has resorted slitting someone’s throat for shock value in the same arc, and this comes on the heels of King splitting Batman’s throat during his run… Enough with slitting throats if it isn’t going to kill them. We need to move beyond shock value and focus on telling a good story.
Anyway, moving on to the title character… Batman. In Batman #92, Bruce came face to face with The Designer and we knew we were due for a fight in this chapter! We were also teased with the reveal of who the Designer is. Which is exactly what we get! Unfortunately, both are unsatisfying.
The fight could have (and should have) been entertaining, but it is just weird and hokey. I mean, Batman grabs a sword from his utility belt. Let me repeat that in case you didn’t catch it. Batman grabs a sword from his utility belt. No, I don’t mean that there’s a sheath attached to his belt, he pops open a pocket and flicks a sword out… I’m not joking. I wish I were, but I’m not. Not to mention, he does this while The Designer’s back is to him, then when The Designer turns around and draws his sword as well, he yells “EN GARDE!” What kind of hokey crap is this? No. No, I can’t take this seriously.
Also, I just want to point out that the only reason you, or someone else – typically a referee – says “en garde” is to notify both swordsmen to prepare for the fight. If you’re trying to potentially harm or kill someone, there’s no reason to yell that. You might as well say, “Hey! I’m going to try and cut you! Get ready! It’s coming! Ok! Here it comes!” It’s stupid and… yep, here are those words again… juvenile and desperate.
As for the reveal of The Designer… This is another place where I don’t really care to a certain degree. I didn’t care about the “who” aspect, because I didn’t expect it to be anyone significant. As it turns out, I’m right. But, I still don’t like the reveal because it doesn’t necessarily add up with anything that comes before it.
So, as it turns out, The Designer is just the corpse of the real Designer that Joker reanimated like he’s done with all of these zombie corpses leading up to this… My problem is that none of these other corpses have been as composed or talked like the Designer has, so the reveal doesn’t work. I mean, is there a special gas that Joker uses that’s different for the others? Is there a High IQ Zombie Gas or something? This was just another moment that I thought was stupid because it wasn’t thought out very well.
And that brings me to one of my major problems with the current arc… Tynion isn’t really working the story or editing himself. Every page feels like a “wouldn’t it be cool if…” but nobody is there to ask the relevant questions (who, what, why, where, when and how). I can’t help but think of the quote from Jurassic Park. You know the one. “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Yeah, well apply that to the writers and editors in this case. If the writer isn’t incapable of editing themselves, then the editor needs to do it for them. And yes, I’m well aware of how full the plates are for editors, but the basic story beats should be figured out and worked before the writing ever actually begins.
There are just too many wild and crazy things going on, and I don’t mean that in a good way. It’s to the point that this book is having an identity crisis on what it wants to be. One page it’s trying to be serious and dark. The next page is CW-superhero-level melodrama. Then the next page is hokey and reminiscent of Batman ’66. It’s not a good mix.
And I still haven’t even discussed Catwoman’s role in this… They’ve been foreshadowing her moment for months now, but it doesn’t make sense. So, here, she’s using the Underbroker to pull all of the money from the various Wayne Enterprises accounts, to put into her account so it’s “safe.” My question is, “How is this safe?” For one, a criminal organization has Selina’s account information… That alone would prevent me from shoveling billions into it. Also, if the money is already spread into multiple shell accounts, why not just leave them until it looks as though someone is taking the money? And one final thing, if Selina has her account number, as well as the account numbers for all of the Wayne accounts, and she’s already hacked her way into the accounts, then why does she need the Underbroker to complete the transfer? None of this adds up to logical actions or reasoning… Like at all.
And what in the hell happens at the end? There’s a huge “BANG” representing a gunshot. The Underbroker disappears and Catwoman passes out (but not before saying “Baatmmaaaaan”… Don’t even get me started.) Was Selina shot? There’s no blood. Or did Punchline shoot the Underbroker? It’s not very clear.
As for Bruce losing all of his money… Didn’t this just happen during the New 52?
Do you know what the real shame is though? When Batman magically recants the Designer’s original plan for each of the rogues to execute… That story… That sounds like an incredible read! Why couldn’t we have gotten that? It felt smart, well thought, and highly entertaining without the need of shock value, silly gags, or desperate attempts to create a cool moment.
Writers and editors… Work your stories, please.
Guillem March and Javier Fernandez deliver the art for this issue, and it’s not great. Actually, the work itself is fine. March’s work is as good as usual, and Fernandez’s brings an interesting style to the book. The two styles clash with each other though, which doesn’t help with the reading experience. It wasn’t my favorite, but I feel like I’ve been negative enough with this book, so I’m just going to move on. My only comment will be that DC needs to stop double shipping. For the sake of quality and commitment to readers, they need to deliver better work and that’s not possible on this schedule.
- You want to find out who The Designer is.
- Punchline vs Harley
I wouldn’t run out and buy this book if I weren’t covering it, so I’m genuinely curious to know what you ladies and gents enjoy about the book.
Tynion continues to fall into his bad habits, and I can’t help but come back to the conclusion that he’s just not a great writer. He’s fine. Good at times even, but, in general, the quality just isn’t there and it appears as though he’s more concerned with cutesy, tongue-in-cheek dialogue as opposed to delivering a good story. He’s all hype and no substance, and the technicality of his work is rather juvenile. In the end, this story is so convoluted and desperate that it’s really hard to enjoy… And I wanted to enjoy it. Some of the core ideas are great, but he either glosses right over them, or the execution is such a mess that I can’t take it seriously. Maybe he should be more of an idea guy than the execution guy, because more often than not, I feel he fails in his execution.
I’m not saying any of this to be mean. I’m just trying to view this with a critical eye and look for the strengths of the book while also trying to find ways to improve it… Because let’s face it, the quality of comics just doesn’t appear to be up to standard at the moment.