With “Joker War” behind us, one has to wonder what James Tynion has planned for the remainder of his run. We know that his run was originally intended to be a short stint just to get to 5G and that he changed the ending of “Joker War”, but after some solid sales and with 5G scrapped, Tynion has been granted the keys to Gotham for a long stretch. Am I excited? Not really, however, I’m remaining optimistic. And if I’m being honest, what he does here is really smart, because he re-establishes his foundation.
Batman #101 is definitely a transitional issue, so if you’re looking for something big and bombastic – or even plot-driven – you’re not going to find that here. While I know that will disappoint some of you, I actually think it’s a smart move on Tynion’s part. There have been some shifts in direction for Batman and the Bat-family, so a bit of a reset, or confirmation, of the status quo is definitely needed.
The chapter starts with Batman and Catwoman discussing the current state of Gotham. The conversation is a little forced as Batman preaches about how different the city is, but it feels forced because the city itself doesn’t actually feel different. It’s just the writer’s perception that feels different, while Gotham itself is very much the same. Now, Batman’s reality does feel different, and that’s something that Tynion actually touches on.
Bruce references the past and how he used to always have a Robin at his side and Alfred waiting for them at home. This is definitely a nice sentiment, and something that I believe many readers miss, but I worry that Tynion dips into this a little too often. I also understand why DC feels the need to forge a new path. I don’t necessarily agree with that decision, but I understand it.
Batman also confesses to Selina that the Joker was right. He agrees with Joker that he’s been going about this the wrong way. I, personally, agree with this in the respect that criminals continue to escape, and many continue to kill. I kind of fall in the Red Hood/ Huntress/ Punisher mindset – at least with mass murderers – that for the greater good, it would be best to put some people down… permanently. But this isn’t what Tynion leans into. Instead, he leans into the idea that how Batman operates has been the problem, and I disagree. I feel like Batman, when he had a Robin at his side, was Batman at his best.
My favorite part of this book isn’t between Batman and Catwoman though, but between Batman and Lucius instead. Their scene together opens with an incredibly well-executed fight between Batman and Grifter. Seriously, there’s a magnificent two-page spread that Guillem March delivers, and it really allows him the opportunity to shine. Grifter has been hired by Lucius to serve as the family’s bodyguard, and he attacks Batman just to see if he can get the jump on him. As expected, Batman isn’t too thrilled with Cole Cash’s self-amusement, and he warns Cash that he knows about his real boss, Halo. Foreshadowing? Yeah, that’s pretty obvious and I’m completely ok with that.
The crux of Batman and Lucius’ conversation really hinges on confirming the new normal. Bruce lost his money, and the board of Wayne Enterprises wants him out for the sake of the company. While it’s known that Joker was the one behind all of the chaos, many people still feel that Bruce was negligent and because of that is undeserving of his spot. Lucius also adds that many of the members are young and greedy, which is a nice little touch added by Tynion to help calm some arguments readers might have. Lucius reassures Bruce that he would still receive a portion of profits since it his family name, but the for sake of the company and the good that the company is trying to do, it’s best if he steps away. However, the money that Bruce does receive won’t allow him the ability to have endless Batmobiles and gadgets at his disposal.
I’m on the fence with this development. Taking Batman back to a street-level hero and removing that ever-growing trend of turning him into DC’s version of Iron Man is something I welcome. What I don’t really care for is this repetition of Bruce losing his money for this to happen. It’s been done before. It’s been done recently. Unfortunately, every time DC explores this, they never actually commit to it, and before you know it, Bruce has tons of gadgets and all of his money back. Instead, I wish they’d just let Bruce understand that, legally, he can’t just blow money on being Batman because there are different agencies that would find it suspicious and investigate.
More than that though, I really liked the idea that Tynion started in his very first arc of Bruce actively becoming more of a philanthropic figure in the public eye to help Gotham. I would have loved to see more of that, and wish it would have actually been explored rather than it just getting dropped. There’s a story to tell there, and while I do feel there’s a story to tell where Bruce is broke, a rich superhero losing their money is pretty cliché these days.
By the end of the issue, we revert back to Batman and Catwoman. The two lament about the current situations, and agree that they need to separate so they can both take care of the situations that are holding them back from being together, and agree to take a year to fix things on their own. This… is absolute bull crap. The logic presented here doesn’t add up, and it’s ultimately nothing more than editorial seemingly wanting to move as far away from King’s run as possible. That being said, I actually felt that the growth of Bruce and Selina’s relationship was handled fairly well under King’s pen, and believe this only serves as a reason for readers to that they can’t become invested in runs from the big two because the publishers are always so quick to change the status quo.
And that will ultimately be the real test here… Establishing a status quo that readers want to get invested in and feel they can become invested in. We hear a lot about how Batman needs to change, and I hope that DC, in terms of their overall strategy, realizes this is something they need to do as well. If they want readers to invest in their titles, then they need to do the same thing.
Guillem March returns to art duties for this issue and does some solid work here. You can always rely on March to deliver a strong story, but if I’m being honest, I’m not a fan of how he interprets the faces of men. They always look evil and deformed – which could work well in some instances, but doesn’t really work here. His representation of female characters, however, are always stunning and beautiful. Perhaps a little over-sexualized for some, but they’re still beautiful. It just makes for a strange juxtaposition.
Now, despite saying that I don’t care for March’s depiction of male characters, I will praise his Grifter. In fact, I wish we could get a Grifter mini or maxi-series with March on art. I already praised the fight scene, but the way March draws Grifter is so damn good, that I want more! I’ll cross my fingers. It could definitely happen, and you know that Lee is going to want to push some of his key Wildstorm characters.
- You’re curious to see where Tynion plans on taking Batman.
- You’re a fan of Grifter.
- Lucius Fox has the beginnings of what could be an incredible arc.
Batman #101 isn’t the most exciting issue we’ve gotten from James Tynion, but it is one of the better issues he’s delivered. He takes his time here to re-establish the status quo, and that will hopefully give him a better foundation after the lackluster “Joker War.” My only concern is that Tynion will quickly abandon some of the more interesting story elements he introduces here, much in the way that he did when he first started his Batman run. And, if we’re honest, he doesn’t have the best track record for delivering strong, long-form stories, so I’m not holding my breath. I hope he proves me wrong, I’m just not sure if it will happen.