Batman #136 review

This is such a frustrating run. Not only have the first two arcs been very disappointing in terms of quality, but it’s also been really derivative of older runs and other stories. It’s a real chore to get through these issues, and I’m afraid this one’s not any different. So to those who want a quick recommendation: No, don’t buy this book. To those who want more of a review: Let’s have a look.

This issue’s biggest flaw is probably that it’s a disjointed read. I guess it’s intended as some kind of filler/bridging episode between the previous arc and the upcoming Batman/Catwoman crossover, but it’s not really doing anything interesting on its own. It reads like a collection of random scenes, hastily put together. There isn’t much in the way of character development, even as Batman is visiting and interacting with various people. None of the scenes flow well into each other. It’s the one jarring, sudden shift after the other.

There’s one scene in particular that’s indicative of how little this issue accomplishes as a whole. We see Batman stalking a bunch of rich villains. Basically, he enters the room, drops a few one-liners, gets attacked from behind, wins, drops a couple more one-liners, and walks away, and he has accomplished pretty much nothing. The scene kind of picks up on older plot threads from early in the first arc, revolving around Penguin’s death, but the scene goes nowhere, much like the issue as a whole goes nowhere.

Then there is this “Bruce Wayne is hurt; Batman is fine” angle that Zdarsky is taking throughout the entire issue. It’s such a tired Batman trope at this point and Zdarsky fails to integrate it into the narrative in a way that’s interesting, as the writer neglects to properly develop the theme or put his own spin on it. Of course Zur-En-Arrh plays a part in this issue, too, and is connected to that. But even Zur-En-Arrh reads like a rather generic demon that’s possessed Bruce Wayne, and it’s a far cry from what Grant Morrison had established originally. I’m sure Zdarsky has some kind of plan, but reading this issue, I don’t feel optimistic that he knows exactly what he’s doing, and if this is going to be just some Bruce versus Zur-En-Arrh story where Bruce has to battle his inner demons for the millionth time, I just don’t think it’s worth the effort. Try something new, for Gotham’s sake!

Lastly, there’s the rooftop scene with Batman and Catwoman, which is nothing to write home about, either. The scene doesn’t work for me because the conflict between them feels very forced. To me it’s so obvious they’re at odds not because of a development that occurred organically in the story, but because, for some reason, editorial thinks it’s a good idea to have them fight each other again…or something. I also don’t like how fragile and insecure and broken Bruce acts sometimes, like in the scene with Selina. Sure, Bruce should have to deal with interesting conflicts, both internally and externally, but the way DC has been portraying his sadness and insecurities is often just unbecoming of the goddamn Batman.

As for the art, it’s not very good, either. Particularly Batman’s proportions are off. Sometimes he has a smaller chest. Sometimes his upper body is almost entirely chest. Sometimes he is more slim, and sometimes he appears almost fat. At least the colors create some consistency: they are layered and offer enough variation in tone for an interesting aesthetic, and are the glue that holds this disjointed mess together.

Recommended if…

  • You’re looking forward to the Batman/Catwoman crossover.
  • You’re a fan of the Bat Family.

Overall: The different scenes don’t connect well and Batman doesn’t accomplish much of anything. The story feels uninspired, Batman and Catwoman’s conflict feels forced, and the art is pretty inconsistent, especially when Batman’s proportions are all over the map, from panel to panel. Like I said in my intro, don’t buy this book. It’s not up to par and it’s way too expensive.

Score: 2/10

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