Batman #131 review

The final issue of the “Failsafe” arc, which came out last month, was not to my liking. While the ending was intriguing enough for me to want to see what Zdarsky would do next, the way it was executed was uninspired and derivative. But this is the start of a new arc, and I’m hoping that the creative team can course correct after the Failsafe mess. Let’s have a look.

Last month Failsafe somehow sent Batman to another part of the multiverse. This month we get our first introduction to this alternative version of Gotham. Zdarsky tells us early on that this is supposed to be a darker and more foreboding version of the city, but so far it looks pretty much the same to me. We do run into alternate versions of familiar characters, but none of these seem darker or more foreboding than their original incarnations, either. If anything, they’re just a little more edgy. For example, a character based on Harvey Dent shows up, and so far he’s a pretty over-the-top, one-note tough guy that’s trying to make other people’s lives a living hell. The original Harvey Dent is my favorite Batman villain, but this version of the character is rather uninteresting to me and it’s not really working. It also doesn’t help that he talks in one-liners that make it seem like he’s trying incredibly hard to be intimidating, but pretty much every line he says falls flat because it’s so silly.

The rest of the dialogue throughout gets the job done, but I’m not blown away by any of it. Furthermore, Bruce’s inner monologue is still somewhat overwritten at times, as some of it is simply redundant and some of it disrupts the flow of fight scenes. That said, there are times where the inner monologue is actually helpful, explaining some of the visuals or decisions that Bruce makes along the way.

However, I did have a lot more fun reading this issue than some of the previous ones. Essentially, it’s one long action scene with a lot of momentum and energy. Hawthorne is pretty good at drawing fights; they’re actually sequential and just a lot of fun to see. He approaches each scene from various angles to make the fight more dynamic, and I wonder if that’s in the script or if Hawthorne came up with this visual approach himself. Although some of the action is rather over-the-top, such as Bruce and Dent slamming through a wall or the entire building they are fighting in going up in flames, there’s a strong sense that these characters are moving from panel to panel and page to page. I just really like seeing this, because I feel like a lot of fight scenes nowadays are reduced to a single splash page or more of a collage-style rendition, whereas the way it’s done here makes it feel more like it plays out in real time.

Yet, it remains to be seen how well this concept of an alternate version of Gotham is being used. If it turns out that it’s just regular Gotham except with slight variations of known characters, then I’m not convinced that using this concept is really worth it for the story. But if Zdarsky puts an interesting spin on it, this could turn out to be quite good.

A new backup story, “The Toy Box,” starts in this issue. Once again, Zdarsky writes it, and I like that because at least there’s a sense of connection with the main story seeing as it’s the same writer. That said, I’m on the fence about the story itself. On the one hand it’s kind of cool to see a story centered around Tim Drake that actually treats him like a hero and more like the Tim that we know and love. I enjoy that we get to see what he’s up to now that Bruce is somewhere else in the multiverse, and I enjoy his interaction with Nightwing. There’s a fun dynamic going on here: Tim wants to search for Batman while Dick basically tells him that he shouldn’t worry because Batman will find his way back on his own.

But, on the other hand, this is nothing new. Back in Morrison’s run—which Zdarsky is drawing from heavily—Batman ended up lost in space and time and Tim was hell-bent on finding him. The plot itself might be different in terms of the villains we encounter and the locations we find these characters in, but it still feels like we’re retreading the same steps.

The art by Mendonca is pretty decent. There are slight inconsistencies in how he draws character proportions or faces, but none of that truly bothers me. The page layouts are easy on the eye; the fight is fun, though very brief; and the backgrounds, though rather bland at times, do establish a sense of place, even if we have no idea about where these exact locations are.

Recommended if…

  • You need a comic where Tim Drake feels more authentic and heroic than he does in his current solo title.
  • Fight scenes are your favorite!
  • There aren’t enough stories about multiverse shenanigans.

Overall: I had quite a bit of fun reading this issue because the fights are so entertaining, but in terms of plot—in both the main story and the backup—it remains to be seen how strong this stuff will be. It definitely doesn’t help Zdarsky that he’s drawing so heavily from the Morrison era, but with this being but the first chapter of the new arc, it’s still possible for the creative team to course correct and deliver something awesome. That said, this is a direct follow-up to the “Failsafe” arc and while there’s a little bit of exposition to explain that stuff for new readers, I don’t think this is a great jumping-on point. If you don’t know what happened previously, you might be a little lost when you first pick up this book.

Score: 5.5/10

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