If James Tynion wanted people to take his run seriously, then this is definitely not the way to do it… I mean, I lost count of how many times I rolled my eyes while reading this…

The Story

I’m going to try my best to not sound like a broken record, but it’s going to be hard because so much of what prevents this book from being any good is simply the execution. The actual beats of the plot? Yeah, they’re solid. But how Tynion executes them… It’s a damn nightmare.

The story starts off with a young Bruce who is seeking out the world’s greatest detective to complete his training. First off, I just want to say that there are way too many people who qualify as the “world’s greatest detective at this point.” It’s a nuisance. Anyway, Bruce is seeking this man out, Cassander Wycliffe Baker, so he can become a better detective and complete his training.

To prove he is, in fact, the world’s greatest detective, Baker runs through a gamut of details he knows about Bruce upon their meeting, just by looking at him. And… I hate every panel of it because it’s so over-the-top and unbelievable. I’d list examples of the lunacy, but there would be too many, so I encourage you to just read it for yourself.

Really? Really? The mere concept of this is so far-fetched that it’s impossible to take seriously. Baker doesn’t come off as an elite detective by spouting off these details, it just makes Tynion look like an incompetent writer that is so far removed from reality that his attempts to write a “serious” story come off as delusional. It’s also worth noting that Baker was “humiliated and outmatched” by the Designer. That’s not exactly a vote of confidence considering the Designer was made to look like a total chump during the past arc. I’m not sure Tynion really thought this out or gaged people’s perception of the Designer, because I haven’t talked to anyone who felt he was threatening or a badass by the end of “Their Dark Designs.”

Ultimately, none of this even matters though, because it’s revealed that Baker didn’t even deduct any of these discoveries by using his skills as a detective. Instead, he has just been following Bruce for years. That’s right, Baker disappeared after his encounter with the Designer – an event that isn’t explained at all, just referenced – and he was intended to be the first person Bruce trained with on his mission to become Batman, but when Bruce couldn’t find him, he moved on to other mentors. I guess when Baker became aware that someone was seeking him out, his paranoia pushed him to hide and follow Bruce to determine his intentions. And then he proceeded to follow him for twelve freaking years picking up all of Bruce’s doodles along the way.

So, let’s break this down. Baker, so far, hasn’t really proven he has any detective skills. He’s just proven he’s good at surveillance, and that speaks poorly to Bruce’s awareness that Baker was able to do this for twelve years without being noticed. Which kind of speaks to Bruce’s incompetence. It also speaks to how oblivious Bruce is under Tynion’s pen. Also, what does it say about Bruce that he literally leaves sketches everywhere he goes? For someone on a secret mission, it seems pretty stupid to leave little doodles everywhere you’ve been. You’re leaving a footprint, evidence, that you were there.

Originally, this idea of Bruce’s “little Gothams” felt like a deep, introspective thought of Bruce planning how to improve Gotham in the daylight. In fact, it was presented that way. But now, it just comes off as some bored kid trying to kill time. Nothing about this behavior says, “I’m a serious person looking to improve myself in practical ways to illegally stop the crime in Gotham, and I’m heading the training that was bestowed upon me.” Nope, instead, it comes across as Bruce backpacking across the world with an attitude of “La, la, la, la! Doing doodles of Gotham! Here you go, waiter. Here’s a doodle to go along with your tip! Come visit America! We’re the best! Especially Gotham! My parents were killed there!”

And after Baker reveals the room with the doodles (I refuse to call them sketches), Bruce says, “Teach me.” Teach you what? How to stalk somebody? I’d be more concerned at how poorly you were taught by your previous mentors that you didn’t pick up on someone following you for twelve freaking years. You better to go back to Ra’s, Ducard, Shiva, Thaddeus Brown, and the others and demand a refund because you got swindled. I mean, seriously, what’s the point here? Am I overthinking this? Absolutely. But someone, somewhere should have asked the point of this scene because it greatly discredits two individuals in a story where the plot depends on their credibility.

Anyway, moving on. So, in the present day, Bruce is in his office with a sword through his leg. Lucius quickly arrives and removes the sword, which would kill Batman, but don’t worry, he has a compression to put on to help stop the bleeding. (*Sigh*) Both men acknowledge this, and Lucius presses that Batman needs to get medical help otherwise he’ll die. (Ok, I take my sigh back.) But… Batman refuses and demands to know where Catwoman is so he can then go after Joker. (Oh, *beep* me! *Sigh*) Look, I have an entire rant prepared about the whole “Bat-God” thing, but I’m 99% positive I’ll be able to pull it out in the coming months, so I’ll save it for a later date to ensure I’m not complaining about the same crap every other week. Besides, if I were to go into my issues with the whole Bat-God thing, I may not have enough room to complain about the overly melodramatic exchange between Bruce and Selina.

Mmm… This looks like it’s plucked out of one of the later seasons of Grey’s Anatomy! How trite and chewy! Seriously though… This is bad writing. The dialogue is horrendous. It’s not heartwarming. It’s not emotional. And it’s certainly not realistic. It’s just awful. Not to mention Selina is openly discussing this in a public hospital! Then, for the cherry on top, after Tam tells Batman that Selina passes out, Bruce demands that she put the phone back to Selina’s ear so he can apologize and express his undying love. (Major eye roll.)

Following this, Batman goes after Catwoman so he can deliver her to Leslie Thompkins for treatment because it’s not safe for either of them to be in public places right now. But when he gets to the hospital, Selina is gone… Hmm… Maybe if Tynion hadn’t decided he wanted to channel his inner Nicholas Sparks – and quite poorly at that – he’d have just had Batman go to the hospital to get Catwoman rather than needlessly vomiting all of his emotions like a teenager at the most inopportune time. Just a thought.

And if you think it can’t get any worse, you’d be mistaken. A few pages later, we have to endure a phone call between Joker and Batman – accompanied by the ever-annoying Punchline. Have I mentioned how much I dislike Punchline? So much potential. Completely wasted. Anyway, the phone call is nothing but a bunch of grandstanding, master-planning, and threats, and again, it’s hard to take this book seriously.

Now, for those of you that are thinking, “Damn, dude. You’re being too harsh. Just enjoy the book.” Well, I’ll remind you: I’m here to critically assess this book to determine what makes it, and also prevents it, from being good. Instances like the ones I’ve listed above make it nearly impossible for me to enjoy something. And, yes, I understand that this a comic book, and we shouldn’t take anything about a man in tights fighting crime too seriously, but I also think this depends on the tone the writer is going for. Tynion is desperately (keyword from my previous review) trying to write a dark, serious story… and he’s failing miserably. I’ve said this before, but he doesn’t know what kind of story he wants to tell – high camp or gritty and serious – and it’s damaging the overall quality of the book. This is also something the editors should be catching and noting to Tynion, because he clearly needs a strong hand from editors to deliver quality work. This whole approach of “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” is sinking Tynion’s ship quickly.

I’m aware I haven’t presented any positives to this story, and it’s because I’m saving them for last. Yes, there actually are elements to this issue that I like. I’m not the evil bastard many of you like to think I am, I just have a critical eye, high standards, and strive to point out opportunities. I don’t grade on a scale.

I love the idea of Bruce losing his money. It isn’t a new story, but the angle that Tynion took with it looking like embezzlement is an interesting one, and a story that I wish had been handled more realistically by a better writer. Like I said last week, I think Tynion would honestly work better as an idea guy more so than the one to actually execute it.

I also enjoy the set-up of Penguin being the one who took Selina, and that he’s huddled in a safe spot with other rogues. Granted, one has to wonder how safe it actually is considering the Joker would undoubtedly know about it. But regardless, it shows that there might also be a resistance from the rogues during this war.

And… yep. That pretty much sums up my positives. I’d say I’m looking forward to the next issue, but I’m not. So… See you in two weeks?

The Art

Rafael Albuquerque and Guillem March deliver the art for this issue. Now, I’m not going to lie, I was super excited to see Albuquerque credited for this issue because I love his work. I knew his style wouldn’t mesh well with March’s, but it was nice to see a quality artist joining the team… Unfortunately, this is not Albuquerque’s best work. In fact, when I saw the pages, I thought I’d remembered incorrectly because the quality that I expected wasn’t there. I don’t know if he had to rush or what, but he didn’t deliver like I was hoping he would. Albuquerque’s pages – the ones with Baker – felt rather amateur, and that’s never a thought I’ve had while reading his work.

As for March, he remains consistent with what he’s been delivering throughout the entire arc. I love the look of his Penguin, and especially love his Scarecrow – DC needs to put him on a Scarecrow story immediately! It must be said though, March did a lot to try and help this dud of a script, and you can only do so much to shine up a turd.

If there’s one are that I didn’t enjoy March’s art, it was Selina during the phone call with Bruce. She looks like a doll. That is a blank face with tears drawn in to try and showcase emotion, but her face in every panel has no emotional response. Granted, if I’d gotten this script, I’d probably think, “Really? We’re doing this?” I mean, I’d do it… It’s my job… But I’d still think it was poor quality.

Recommended if:

  • You like day-time soap operas.
  • You don’t mind Tynion’s “throw everything and the kitchen sink in! Something has to work!” approach.
  • You’re fine with lackluster comics.

Overall

Tynion goes full day-time soap opera with this issue, and it’s not great. From the ludicrous plotting, to the miserable attempts to create a “moment,” and the overuse of melodrama… There’s not much that can save a book that’s suffering terribly from poor writing and pure desperation. I wanted to like this run. I wanted Tynion to do well and prove me wrong… Unfortunately, he’s only proving my case that he’s not that good of a writer.

SCORE: 3/10