Batman #129 review

Failsafe has taken over Gotham. The Bat Family and the JLA are defeated. Batman is hiding out in Atlantis, trying to come up with a plan. I was not very impressed with the previous issue because it was presenting a scenario that’s been done over and over again, just with different villains and conflicts. I’ve been hoping that this issue would be an improvement, because this story is kind of falling apart for me. So, let’s jump right in and have a look.

I’ve been critical of the hard-boiled narration that Zdarsky uses throughout this run, but I actually dig it in the opening pages of this issue. It’s more subtle than the over-the-top lines that we got earlier, and it’s also effective in the way it establishes how Batman’s struggling with the fact that Gotham is in danger and the challenge of stopping Failsafe. At the same time, the narration brings new readers up to speed pretty quickly. It’s just a nice intro that smoothly transitions into the continuation of the story proper.

That said, I still can’t say that I’m a fan of the story. Of course Failsafe completely overpowers Aquaman—an underwater king who could summon the bloody Kraken to fight for him if he wanted to! In earlier issues, Failsafe seemed much more intimidating to me because we got to see how stressed out Bruce was as he tried to escape Failsafe and nothing was working, but seeing Failsafe just dominate all those who stand in his way with such ease every month is becoming really repetitive for me. I’m losing interest in this character fast.

I can look past the villain becoming less and less interesting if our main character was still compelling enough, but even in that regard I think this comic is missing the mark. It’s honestly quite baffling to me how convoluted and nonsensical Batman’s actions are in this book. Sure, Failsafe is pushing Batman to his absolute limits, but all Batman ends up doing here is cause the destruction of the Watchtower and cause himself to kind of float around in space with no means of escape. As a result, zero progress has been made in this issue. The plot has barely advanced; there is hardly any new character development; and the whole situation is so ridiculously convoluted that I’m just not sure what the point of any of this is anymore. Of course the idea of Batman floating in space like this makes for a cool cliffhanger, and maybe the next issue will shed a new light on the events as depicted in this issue, but right now it just isn’t working for me.

As for the art, I don’t think it’s as good as it could be. While the action sequences are still pretty well done because Jiminez is very good at creating a sense of motion, it’s mainly the inks that seem rather muddy to me at times. There are instances where faces look slightly wonky because of it. Then there is a scene where Aquaman puts on several pieces of armor, but none of these pieces seem functional to me and they also make Aquaman look very silly, so I’m not sure why the creative team decided to waste a few of panels on this. That said, I do think it’s quite impressive how Jiminez keeps producing such kinetic artwork with so much energy month in and month out. Even when I’m not as enthusiastic about the execution of his art, like this month, I still think it’s better than a lot of art that we see in other comics, particularly from the Big Two.

The backup story, “I am a Gun,” is much more enjoyable for me. I like how the writing is a blend of the grittiness that we see in Batman: Year One and the silliness that we see in Silver Age comics, and somehow it’s balanced so well that it works together. I also like that we get to see in more detail how Bruce created the Zur-En-Arrh backup persona, and even The Joker has a few great lines in the beginning of this month’s installment that feel authentic to the character.

However, what I don’t like as much, is that there is so much emphasis on the fact that Batman doesn’t kill while Zur has no problems with killing. I think that examining why Batman doesn’t kill isn’t necessarily a particularly interesting concept anymore, because this whole no-kill thing has been discussed in and out of comics for many years at this point.

The art is very good, though. Like the writing, it balances the Year One grittiness with the Silver Age silliness seamlessly. The sequences are all very clean, the colors are varied and rich but still blend well on the page, and all the character designs and layouts are excellent. From a technical standpoint, this backup—both in terms of writing and art—is put together at a high level. It still remains to be seen where exactly this is going, though. It feels like one of those stories where the ending is going to determine whether the whole thing has been worth it—aside from the amazing art.

Recommended if…

  • You read comics for over-the-top action scenes.
  • Zur-En-Arrh is one of your favorite parts of the Batman mythos.
  • You’re a fan of both the Year One and Silver Age aesthetics.

Overall: The main story feels rather pointless to me. Batman’s destroying more than he’s actually fixing this month, and he makes himself look like a bit of a fool in the process. I’m also losing interesting in Failsafe. The backup story is a lot more fun, though! I’d almost recommend this comic for the backup alone, but not at this price point. Aside from the backup, this issue isn’t doing anything for me.

Score: 4.5/10

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