Batman #128 review

While I’ve certainly had fun reading Zdarsky’s previous issues, I don’t believe that his run has been a home run so far at all. The Zur-En-Arrh stuff is pretty contrived when you really start to think about it, and at times it’s like Zdarsky is more concerned with having fun than crafting a story that makes sense. Last month we ended on a cliffhanger with Superman showing up to fight Failsafe in an attempt to rescue Batman, and ever since I’ve been thinking how boring and predictable it would be if Failsafe just sticks some kryptonite into Superman and ends the fight that way. Is the creative team going to disappoint and do exactly that, or are they going to go for a more interesting approach? Let’s have a look.

Well, of course it’s kryptonite. This fight could have been pretty cool, but it’s really just two pages of Superman completely failing to get anything done while getting stabbed with a kryptonite shard. It’s an underwhelming opening sequence that doesn’t exactly make me hungry for more, but it’s far from the biggest problem that this book has.

After Superman is defeated, the JLA shows up. You’d think that these guys would approach Failsafe with caution and actually have a solid strategy, but instead they rush in and simply try to bash Failsafe. Of course that’s ineffective, we’ve already seen how that approach doesn’t work when the Bat Family tried the exact same thing. Failsafe just wipes the floor with everyone all the time and nobody seems to be smart enough to realize that perhaps they need to come up with a better plan of attack. It’s like Zdarsky is intentionally making the JLA and the Bat Family members look stupid so Batman looks smarter, and that is not a sign of good writing in my opinion.

That’s not to say that this entire issue is badly written, though. In fact, I think that Tim Drake is handled very well here, so any fans of the character that are disappointed with the Tim Drake solo series that debuted last week might want to check this out. Tim is super loyal to Batman, and he has faith in Batman, and he is giving everything that he’s got to get Batman and Superman to safety after the two of them have sustained severe injuries. The way Tim speaks and acts here is authentic to the character, and I like that Zdarsky writes him as a true hero.

Tim’s not the only character that’s being heroic, by the way. Batman himself, despite having completely messed up the whole situation because he essentially put everyone around him in danger, is acting pretty heroic under the circumstances. Though severely injured, Batman realizes that as long as he’s near his allies, he is only continuing to put his allies in danger because Failsafe is relentlessly hunting him down. We see him leaping out of a flying aircraft and diving into an ocean to save his friends, and it’s not just some random ultimate sacrifice—there actually is a purpose to this, because Batman has a plan.

Unfortunately, as awesome as that heroic action may be, this is also the point where the story starts to fall apart for me. I won’t say that the arc is completely ruined now, but it is definitely at a point where I would not continue reading this if I wasn’t reviewing it. See, we jump two weeks into the future, and suddenly we find ourselves in a world where Gotham has fallen and is under complete control of Failsafe. Not only that, but apparently there are multiple Failsafes now as he’s searching the entire planet for Batman, which makes me wonder just how small planet Earth actually is in the DCU. On top of that, now Failsafe wants the entire world—not just Batman—to know that Gotham is his and that he is basically challenging Batman to come and take Gotham back. This is not only an extremely elaborate and convoluted way to lure Batman to Gotham so that Failsafe can destroy Batman, but it’s also pretty uninspired.

I’m just so sick and tired of seeing all of Gotham being threatened by the next big villain—it’s a scenario that has absolutely been done to death at this point and I don’t want to read this kind of stuff anymore for a while. Sure, the villain and motivation might be different, but it really feels like I’m reading the same story over and over again to a point that I’m just getting bored out of my skull. But yet again, that’s still not the biggest problem that this issue has.

The presentation is lacking. When that time skip happens, we just rush through the whole thing. We see glimpses of how messed up the world is, and all of it is relayed to us through exposition, which is not a very engaging way to present this stuff. I guess that the creative team is trying to go for shock value or something, but since this sort of thing happens every month anyway, that’s entirely lost on me. It’s also rather unbelievable to me that Failsafe could do all of this in two weeks, but then again, if the JLA and the Bat Family are just trying to punch this robotic dude in the kisser as their way to stop him, I guess I should really just be surprised that it took Failsafe this long to get to this point.

The art is still pretty good, though. Jimenez creates fun, dynamic visuals where things are blown up, characters strike great poses, backgrounds look cool, and characters have the appropriate facial expressions that add weight and energy to each of the scenes. Morey uses a wide and varied palette so every page has something new to offer in terms of aesthetics and tone, which adds even more depth and character to Jimenez’s pencils. That said, I do think that at times there’s too much going on with the colors, as it can get slightly overwhelming when there are so many colors on display that I’m not always sure where to look anymore. The art is still the best thing about this Failsafe story, though. Even if the fight scenes aren’t particularly well-written, Jimenez still manages to make them look good.

The backup story, “I Am A Gun,” is quite enjoyable. This is essentially the origin story of Zur-En-Arrh, and while this first part is still entirely setup for the story that is to come, I do like how it’s put together. Basically it juxtaposes the Dark Age aesthetic of Batman: Year One with the Silver Age aesthetic of Zur-En-Arrh, and the way that this plays off of each other is executed in a fun and creative way. We see Bruce undergoing mind experiments to create Zur-En-Arrh, and it seems to drive him a little crazy—which is where the Silver Age aesthetic comes in—while making Tim and Alfred worry about him. From the writing to the art, the backup reads smoothly and looks great, but there are two things here that I’m not quite sure of yet.

First of all, I don’t agree with the idea that Batman would think of himself as a gun. In the context of this story, the idea that a gun needs a safety is certainly a way to introduce the idea of Zur-En-Arrh, but the gun analogy does not work at all for me. It also feels like a pretty forced and inorganic way to introduce Zur-En-Arrh, and I don’t think it’s authentic to Bruce’s character, either.

Secondly, apparently the Joker is the big bad in this backup. While it remains to be seen how intriguing Joker will be, I think it’s pretty redundant that this story asks the question of whether or not Joker is “broken,” because we all know that he is. Even if that’s meant to come from a younger Bruce Wayne who isn’t as familiar with Joker yet, I still don’t think that makes for a particularly riveting read when the readership is already very familiar with said character. Hopefully Zdarsky can come up with a unique angle here…we’ll have to wait and see.

Recommended if…

  • You want to read a comic where Tim is treated with respect and actually written well.
  • All you care about is over the top action; it’s fine for you if the story doesn’t really make sense.
  • The idea that all of Gotham is under threat yet again doesn’t bother you.
  • You like Failsafe.

Overall: I’m not very impressed with this issue. The story doesn’t really work for me; Failsafe is so overpowered that it’s getting ridiculous; the JLA and the Bat Family are written like mindless brawlers; and the time skip takes away all of the tension because it presents a scenario that we’ve already seen over and over again. I had fun reading the previous Batman issues, but I was bored reading this one. As for a recommendation, why not check out Ram V’s Detective Comics instead?

Score: 5/10

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