Batman #132 review

Bruce is lost in an alternate dimension, where we’re seeing variations of familiar characters, especially from the rogues gallery, including Harvey Dent and Red Mask. The previous issue was entertaining, but the concept of this alternate version of Gotham still seems uninspired to me. Can the creative team up the ante, or is it just going to be more of the same? Let’s have a look.

Unfortunately, I’m not too impressed with the concept or the backstory of this alternate Gotham. It’s a world where Bruce Wayne is dead and where Batman never existed. This is not a new idea. Of course that doesn’t mean that the execution of this idea can’t still be good, but so far the elements of a dystopian Gotham that’s being patrolled by venom-enhanced cops and villains being even meaner and darker than the regular versions don’t seem that meaningful to me. This is one of those issues where there are a few moments that I think are good, but the issue as a whole doesn’t do much for me.

Things that I like are, for example, the fact that Red Mask—who clearly isn’t physically strong—has complete control over Harvey Dent’s strength. Red Mask can press a button and Harvey basically turns into a small, weak man. When Red Mask presses the button again, Harvey is back to his muscular, bulky size. This potentially creates an interesting dynamic between the two characters, and I hope that Zdarsky can develop this more and use it to build a solid character arc.

Another moment that I enjoy is when Bruce infiltrates a fundraiser by pretending to be a billionaire playboy. It’s fun seeing Zdarsky adjust Bruce’s speaking voice slightly for this particular role, and I like how smoothly Bruce blends into the crowd. Unfortunately, the fight scene that follows is kind of rushed. On the one hand, it’s cool to see Bruce wipe the floor with a bunch of villains, especially since he’s using improvised weapons and tactics, but on the other hand, it all happens so fast that it’s hard to connect to the scene. What makes it significantly worse is that Bruce falls out of a window into the depths of Gotham and crashes through the roof of another building and gets up and walks away. Zdarsky tries to justify this by saying that Bruce already fell from the moon, but that’s not much of a justification. The moon scenario was utter nonsense, and so is this falling scene right here. Bruce should’ve broken every bone in his body.

What I find the most baffling of all, however, is that by the end of this issue Bruce suddenly realizes that, in order to defeat his enemies, he needs to strike fear and become a bat. I mean, isn’t that kind of what he’s been doing for years? Why does he need to realize this all over again? What’s up with that?

The art is solid, though. It’s not entirely my cup of tea and I don’t really like how Hawthorne draws characters’ faces: the facial structures aren’t consistent and expressions aren’t always well-rendered. At times it’s almost like these characters have had plastic surgery or something. But as distracting as that is, once you get past it, there’s a lot that Hawthorne does really well. For example, quite a few of his backgrounds are detailed and really set a scene and atmosphere; fight scenes, albeit not incredibly well-scripted by Zdarsky, are dynamic, kinetic and fun; and there’s just a good sense of pacing and movement from panel to panel throughout the comic. I’d say that on a technical level, Hawthorne gets some things right, but on an aesthetic level I’m not always on board.

“The Toy Box” continues. I’m enjoying this backup a lot more than the main story. Zdarsky writes a smart, skillful Tim Drake, who’s focused on his goal of finding Bruce. I like that we get to see Tim’s process of figuring out how to track down Bruce across space and time. Of course we’ve seen a similar story featuring Tim after Bruce’s first disappearance during the Morrison era, so this is once again pretty derivative, but it’s still well-written and well-executed. Tim’s a competent hero and loyal friend, which is what we want to see.

If there’s one thing that I would’ve cut from this comic, it’s the scene where he meets Bernard. I think the scene itself is fine, but it does unnecessarily interrupt the main narrative, which isn’t an ideal situation with so few pages for each backup. I think we could’ve just as easily skipped this scene and watched Tim go on his epic adventure instead. While the scene with Bernard is cute, it doesn’t add anything of real importance to the story and only takes up space.

Mendonça draws the backup, and the art is pretty good. He draws straightforward but solid layouts and finds ways to balance out the quiet character moments with some cool action sequences. Especially the opening pages are explosive and a great way to kick off this backup, as it immediately grabs your attention. The only thing that I would critique here is the fact that backgrounds can be very bland or even nonexistent, which does not help at all when trying to establish a sense of place.

Recommended if…

  • You’re looking for a competent, heroic Tim Drake.
  • Gotham just isn’t dark enough.
  • Dystopian superhero stories are your favorite.

Overall: I’m not blown away by this issue. I wouldn’t outright say that it’s bad, but it definitely isn’t entirely working for me. The main story has a few good moments, but overall it just feels like a remix of familiar elements rather than a truly original story, and the execution just isn’t quite up to par. The backup is a lot more entertaining for me, but even then it’s rather derivative. I wouldn’t recommend this issue; it’s just too expensive for something that’s a really quick and forgettable read.

Score: 5/10

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