Batman #111 review

Well, folks…. We’ve got a James Tynion Batman issue that I enjoyed. No, hell has not frozen over. It was bound to happen (and it has happened before), but Batman #111 is probably my favorite issue that Tynion has offered up. It should also come as no surprise that there really isn’t much Batman in the issue though, and when he is involved, I don’t really care for the story. So, that is problematic considering this is a Batman book.

The Story

Alright, let’s just get the opening pages out of the way. For months now, we’ve opened with Scarecrow is torturing Bruce Wayne/ Batman in the near future, before returning to the present-day to learn what will lead us to this moment. Each month, the opening is roughly the same and there isn’t anything that changes or progresses the story, it just serves as a reminder that this is taking place.

Clearly, I haven’t been a fan of this. I’m still not a fan of this. I think it’s a waste of pages, and it does nothing to progress the story. In fact, I feel that it actually hinders the issues by not allowing some scenes or moments the room to breathe. I really wish the editors would’ve stepped in at some point to say, “Yeah, hey, James… We get it. We understand that you’re trying to build some hype for Fear State, but showing the exact same scene with the exact same every month without actually revealing anything new… It’s a waste. Let’s use these pages for ____ instead.”

And considering this issue catches us up to the moment Batman is captured to be tortured, I can say with certainty, that aside from some nice art from Jorge Jiminez, no… These scenes don’t ever amount to anything. We could have had an amalgam of these scenes spread over four or five pages in the arc’s first issue, and it would’ve been way more effective. Anyway, moving on.

The rest of the issue is honestly quite good! We’ve got a fast-paced, action-packed issue that results in a quick, but satisfying, read. Last month, we saw Saint push the Magistrate to take down the Unsanity Collective. We were thrown even more of a twist when the issue ended with Peace Keeper-01 made an inaccurate claim that he and the Magistrate were taking fire from the Unsanity Collective, and would use lethal force. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t see this coming.

This chapter kicks off with Miracle Molly doing her best to protect Squeak and the rest of the UC. Knowing that she’s facing death, she asks Peace Keeper-01 if she can at least say goodbye to Squeak. It’s a request he grants, and an opportunity she takes advantage of. Using her cybernetic eye, she communicates to Squeak instructing her to scream at her command. Right as Peace Keeper-01 fires the kill shot, Molly drops to the ground, dodging the shot, and slaps a device on Squeak. The moment she does so, Squeak screams and lets out a concussive, sonic blast that would make Black Canary happy.

The attack hinders the entire kill squad, and Molly tries to escape. It’s an attempt that is respectable but still feels hopeless. Other members of the Unsanity Collective step in to help, including Breaker. There’s a lot of good action here, as well as a sense of urgency, and even some stakes. What I really appreciate about this scene though, is that not everyone escapes unscathed. We get consequences to actions, and it’s amazing that something that should be a fundamental element of storytelling actually happens in comics, where it is often neglected.

Batman joins the fray soon. This is a moment that I’m not overly enthusiastic about. I still take issue with Ghost-Maker and Harley Quinn being his sidekicks, but I know others don’t share that sentiment. Batman is clearly there to help the Unsanity Collective – who are legitimately the victims here no matter what you think about their mission or stance. The problem is that Batman helping the UC is exactly what Simon Saint wants. Drones capture the footage, and Saint is able to utilize this footage as a means to create a narrative that Batman is aiding known terrorists. They even spin the story further to claim that the UC has been working under Scarecrow, publicly tormenting the city.

Batman and team are successful in saving the Unsanity Collective, but both Molly and Squeak are injured in the process. If you didn’t dislike the Magistrate or Peace Keeper-01 already, the fact that they shot a child will definitely seal the deal. Batman’s success pushes Mayor Nakano to call for the utilization of the Magistrate to stop all vigilantes. If this feels like the start of Future State, then you’d be correct.

In another twist, Simon Saint sends Peace Keeper-01 to arrest Scarecrow so they can gain a win, but will secretly hire him to work for them in the near future. This is also reminiscent of the Future State reality, but when Peace Keeper-01 arrives at Arkham Asylum – where Scarecrow has been hiding out – Scarecrow pulls a quick one on him by injecting him with a concentrated dose of his fear toxin. The dose will supposedly be permanent, and Scarecrow instructs him to show Gotham how dangerous he is… I’m sure we know what this will lead to.

This is the first sign we’ve gotten that appears to lead us away from the Future State scenario. Scarecrow even reaches out to Saint to reveal what his plans are, and it’s a shift that makes Saint incredibly nervous. Scarecrow has the ability to prove Saint’s involvement with everything, and he just took out the Magistrate’s main muscle. The only thing Saint has working in his favor at the moment is numbers, with Scarecrow taking power. This issue’s actions also push the Unsanity Collective into a situation where they’re still just the wildcard in all of this, but they’re wildcards with an agenda against Saint and the Magistrate now. Overall, we’re left with some great dynamics leading into Fear State.

The issue ends with Batman confronting Scarecrow. Batman placed a tracker on Peace Keeper-01 during their altercation, so he uses that to track him to Scarecrow’s location. He ultimately arrives too late to stop Scarecrow from turning on Peace Keeper-01, and PK is already gone by the time Batman arrives. The final scene is another moment where I’m unsatisfied with the book. The scene is just odd. Batman is watching Scarecrow from the shadows and it’s played as if Crane doesn’t know Batman is there based on Batman’s perspective and actions… But Scarecrow is openly speaking to Batman before getting the jump on him.

I hate this because it’s a bad depiction of Batman and done because the plot needs to get from Point A to Point B. This is something that Tynion has been guilty of throughout his entire run. And it isn’t just here, it is also prevalent in his Detective Comics run. I don’t expect Batman to be unstoppable, but he should be written as having a certain skillset, and Tynion continuously undermines him for the sake of plot or to build up other characters… I feel like it is lazy, ineffective storytelling.

That’s one of my biggest and only complaints about the issue though, so that says something – especially coming from me. I found Batman #111 to be a fun, entertaining read. I really enjoy Miracle Molly, and I like some of the other supporting characters like Breaker and Squeak as well. Speaking of Squeak, I’m sure some people will take issue with the character because they’re referred to with the “they/them” pronouns, creating implications pertaining to their gender identity. I, personally, don’t have any issues with this. In fact, I think presented this in the best way possible. He’s seeking inclusion and manages to do so without being preachy or heavy-handed.

The Art

Jorge Jimenez continues to deliver beautiful art from issue to issue. The action here is great, and with so much action filling the issue, it’s fair to say that Jimenez does the heavy lifting here. I can’t stress how GhostI’ve had months where I’ve complained that he doesn’t have a strong enough script to support his work, or that I’d prefer him handling another character, but everything seems to fall into place here.

And I can’t talk about the art without praising Tomeu Morey’s colors here. There’s such a vast palette of colors in play and lends to a beautiful, dynamic book. The colors also help with tone as well though. The fight between Batman, the Unsanity Collective, and the Magistrate all take place under a red hue, creating the feeling of danger and intensity. Breaker comes onto the scene with a strong presence, washed in a purple hue to represent power. When Batman and the Unsanity Collective reach safety, the hue shifts to white, which conveys peace. Later, Scarecrow’s scenes take place under a green hue. The green conveys growth – or in this case, Scarecrow’s growth in the form of his rise in power – but it’s also a specific shade of green that represents the emotion of sickness, then shifts to a purple hue when Scarecrow one-ups Peace Keeper-01 – yet another example of power.

There’s so much here that plays into color theory and color emotion, and it’s something that doesn’t get discussed enough in comics. This is also why I feel that Morey is one of the best colorists in the industry. And this isn’t the first time that he’s done this – he does it often – I just feel that it had much more impact because everything between the script, the pencils, and the colors all fell into place and jived.

Ghost-Maker

The backup for this issue is another Ghost-Maker story. I haven’t been a fan of these – I find them incredibly cheesy and insufferable – but this chapter is the best of the lot. It’s still not great, but it’s better. Anyway, we learn about another villain for this story, and this chapter leads more into some of the horror elements. It’s still weird and bottom-of-the-barrel comic book storytelling, it just happens to be better than what preceded it.

I’ve also been unhappy with the art. There’s an anime/manga-type of style to Ricardo Lopez Ortiz’s art, and it’s just something that doesn’t jive with me. Overlooking that personal preference though, I feel like his work is often inconsistent, and there are often panels that aren’t very clear. We get that here, however, there’s more of a horror element to the art for this story, and I feel the delivery is a little stronger. I wouldn’t mind seeing more work from Ortiz if it falls into the horror genre.

This issue ends and then teases the conclusion of the story in… the Batman Annual that’s coming out in November. What? Why make readers wait three months before they can finish this story? I mean, I don’t like it, so I’m good if it just ends now, but if you’re someone who is enjoying this, then it must be frustrating. DC should’ve just concluded this in the upcoming Batman issues, or should’ve devoted a Secret Files issue to it. Making readers wait three months is pure insanity. Also, I already feel that a majority of readers don’t care, so making them wait an additional three months will only make fewer people care.

Recommended if:

  • You’re a fan of Miracle Molly.
  • You’re looking forward to Fear State.
  • You’re enjoying Tynion’s Batman.

 

Overall:

Batman #111 makes it quite clear that James Tynion has been building to Fear State under the guise of Future State/ the Magistrate. The issue reveals a number of plot threads that will unfold in the upcoming event, and they’re executed well enough that I’m interested. Incredible artwork from Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey – along with some entertaining and engaging action – makes this a worthy read. That doesn’t mean the issue is without its problems though. James Tynion still has opportunities, namely his depiction of Batman.

SCORE: 7/10


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this movie for the purpose of this review.