Future State is behind us! Infinite Frontier is here! And we’re back with the new, but not-so-new-more-like-the-same Batman from James Tynion… And just like that, with a single issue, I’m back to wishing I wasn’t reviewing this book because it’s just not good.
Let me start with something positive. This issue is written in a way to catch readers up on the current status quo. There have been some changes to Gotham since we last visited the present timeline, and we know trusty-ol’ Tynion will deliver an abundance of exposition. Which he does. And because of this, Batman #106 creates a great jumping-on point for new readers. We’re also getting a unified Bat-family that actively works together – something we haven’t really gotten in years – so that is also a win… But that is where my praise for this book ends, so maybe this isn’t a great jumping-on point after all.
There’s honestly not much to this issue that is new. We start in the near future with Bruce being tortured by Scarecrow, and then jump back in time as Tynion lays the groundwork for how we get to that point. There are a lot of reminders along the way: the status of the Bat-family, the outcome of the Joker War, Punchline is in prison, the Fox’s now have the Wayne fortune, Grifter, etc. So, again, nothing new really, aside from a side-bar with Batman and Ghost-Maker to introduce the Unsanity, and the development of the Magistrate.
This brings me to one of the big problems we’re facing as we move forward… The Magistrate itself. The Magistrate was introduced in Future State, and was heavily featured in every Bat-story. Unfortunately, I, as well as many other readers, did not respond well to the Magistrate. Like most of what Tynion has done in Batman or Detective Comics up to this point, the general concept of what the Magistrate represents has been done before. Quite frankly, it’s been done better. And now, we’re going all-in with this direction for the near future. That’s terrifying. As a reader it’s terrifying and from a business aspect, it’s terrifying.
I didn’t find the Magistrate particularly interesting at their peak, so you can imagine how uninterested I am in learning the details of their formation. And honestly, we know enough about how they formed thanks to Future State. Do we really need to explore that? Since we jumped forward a little in time to start this story, could we not have just started after the vote? I mean, Tynion is kind of known for blowing past the actual narrative of his stories anyway (preventing us from going on the journey with these characters), so why stop now?
See, as I’ve said before, Tynion, in my opinion, just isn’t up-to-par as a quality writer to deliver what readers deserve for DC’s flagship title and brand. And, yes, I’m saying “brand” now because it’s pretty clear that DC has given Tynion the keys to the kingdom, and is allowing him the opportunity to control or determine nearly all things that are Batman. That worries me. Mainly because the people who appear to be so caught up and in awe of what Tynion has accomplished thus far, is Tynion, himself, and DC. That’s not to say that there aren’t fans of the current run, just that Tynion appears to be more impressed with himself than anyone else.
This ties back to Tynion’s craft. I’ll be the first to admit that some of his ideas aren’t terrible, but his execution often misses the mark. His plotting and pacing need a lot of improvement, and time after time, I’m made to feel as though he doesn’t have a strong understanding of how the world works. He’s trying to write about serious topics or infuse them into his story, but he doesn’t have a clear understanding of them. Whether it’s finances or the judicial system, the nuance of these subjects seems to slip his grasp. To make matters worse, he tries to write about these topics with an edge, and it just makes it that much more unbearable.
I kept trying to think of the best way of describe Tynion as a writer, and I couldn’t pull my thoughts together to relay something that seemed fitting. But then, while chatting with the team here at Batman News, one of us said, “Clearly, Tynion thinks that he’s making these profound statements about justice and how Batman should respond to different types of vigilantism, but they’re all written the exact same way. [Redacted] nailed it, comparing him to an “edgy teenager” who thinks they have a unique outlook on society, but in reality, lacks any sort of wisdom and discernment. It’s an immature worldview projected onto immature characters by an immature writer.” I couldn’t agree more… especially with that last sentence.
Which brings me to characterization. Everyone feels slightly off to a degree. The fact that Batman and Ghost-Maker teaming up is a joke. The fact that Barbara – who is known for being headstrong – wouldn’t confront Bruce about Ghost-Maker is a joke. The entire scene where Bruce and Ghost-Maker are acting like a bunch of frat boys is a joke. Tynion’s need to overwrite so that he can insert weird jokes or “isms” is a joke… Do you get the running theme here? This book has become a joke, and that’s a shame. Unfortunately, everyone involved is so caught up with convincing themselves that everything they’re doing is so great, that they’re incapable of realizing how terrible the product actually is. And the moment you point out a legitimate opportunity, you’re just coined a ‘hater.’
Jorge Jimenez returns to art duties, and as much as I love his work, I also find myself disappointed because I feel his talent is more deserving of a stronger writer/ script. Harsh? Yes, but it’s honestly how I feel. Jimenez is a great storyteller, and we’re just not getting the impact that he was able to deliver under quality writers like Tomasi or Snyder.
That being said, I’m not fond of Jimenez’s character designs. I don’t enjoy the way Ghost-Maker looks, and I especially dislike to new Scarecrow design. The designs, on their own, are fine, but, for me, it doesn’t feel like a good fit for the Batman universe. And speaking of Scarecrow… The design for his text is awful. I started getting a headache and felt like I was suffering from motion sickness while reading it. Why didn’t anyone speak out against this? Does anyone even know how to say, “no” anymore? If not, I can help you with that. My old nickname in my corporate job was “Dr. No.”
The Damian Back-Up
At the very end of the book, we get a few pages allocated to Joshua Williamson and Gleb Melnikov for the Damian back-up. He’s no longer Robin, but this story is intended to serve as a “backdoor pilot” for Robin. So, yeah… Great synergy there, folks.
Anyway, the plotting of this story is solid. I can’t say that I’m fond of the direction DC is going with Damian, but it’s mainly because the direction feels forced, or like a logistical necessity rather than a plot/character-driven development. I don’t hate the idea though, and it could lead to some interesting developments.
Williamson falls victim to a number of the same problems that Tynion does as a writer though, so these stories being paired together feels a bit like a one-two punch of mediocre writing. While I’m open to the concept of Damian leaving Bruce and returning to his mother to reclaim his future mantle as the Demon, the dialogue left a lot to be desired. Again, it’s all in the execution, and this is just ok. It’s fine. Unlike Batman though, I’m actually curious to see where this story goes, so I guess that says something…
- If you’ve never really read Batman but want an ok fanfiction of the character, I guess this will do. There is probably better fanfiction on the internet that you can read for free though.
I really was hoping for the best with Batman #106, but it’s quite clear we’re just going to get more of the same. Actually, DC and Tynion appear to be doubling down, and they’re ignoring general feedback in the process. A year from now, when people start asking how Batman fell from its pedestal, I’m just going to link back to all of my reviews. There’ll be no need to add an “I told you so.”