Batman #134 from DC tugs at the heartstrings and really ups the stakes. The issue continues its double feature of Batman trapped in an alternate dimension Gotham, and later Robin (the fantastic Tim Drake) working hard to find him. Both are penned by Chip Zdarksy, with the first story drawn by Mike Hawthorne, inks by Adriano Di Benedetto, colors by Tomeu Morey, and letters by Clayton Cowles.
Bruce had taken up the mantle of the Bat-Man in this drug-addled, totalitarian Gotham run by Red Mask. Along the way, he picked up this universe’s Catwoman, a Red Mask lackey who nearly killed Bruce. But it looks like she’s not too heartless, as she has led our guy into Gotham’s depths, where the Red Mask lurks. Things move fast as Zdarksy gets the hero directly into the lair to confront the villain. Hawthorne continues to draw a clean, robust set of characters and backdrops that Di Benedetto inks well. Nothing is overdone, scratchy, too dark, or too light. Every panel is an exercise in clarity, fortified by Morey’s artisanal chromaticity. This is key because the bulk of this first story relies on seeing what’s going on and the recognition of key figures who pop up.
Red Mask gets to monologue! That’s right. I found the villain getting his chance to introduce himself, along with other disturbing features of his work, to be the highlights of the issue. This is a showdown, and it goes a lot of ways, but few of them are good. Zdarsky takes some risks here that I’m glad DC allowed. All in all, this issue definitely skyrocketed the value of this storyline for me.
Batman #134 is tense, but it’s best at serving up the humanity in heroism. Zdarsky digs into Bruce’s thoughts a lot. This issue is no exception. Bruce is an alien in a familiar nightmare world, and recognizable faces are visibly messing with his head. Yes, he gets to Batman his way out of things, but I love his thoughts, his fears, his fatigue, his heart breaking. That’s the strength of Zdarsky’s writing. Revealing Batman’s tactics is all well and good. But getting into the heart of such a stalwart, stifling vigilante, there is grim treasure in need of revelation. And Zdarsky is dragging it all up to face the light of day.
‘Toy Box’ continues Tim’s multiversal hunt for Bruce. Zdarsky writes this story with Miguel Mendoça on sleek art, Roman Stevens on shiny colors, and Cowles locking down the letters. Now that he’s retrieved the Toyman and the gun that zapped Bruce, Tim and Mister Terrific can get on with the search. But first, Zdarsky gives us a fun two pages of a night in Gotham. Then, he drops Tim back into the mission, and there are some nice internal bits with Tim, plus a cool piece of dialogue with the Toyman. But what makes this part of the story hit happens later on, once Tim (in a snazzy new multiverse suit) makes the leap into the Bleed. It’s a tear-jerker moment. I loved it, and I never saw it coming.
Both of these stories really hit emotional high notes at their ends. I now believe in the first story all over again. I anxiously await the Batman and Robin reunion that will inevitably break me. Stay tuned, and while you wait, buy this issue and read it.
Batman #134 is available wherever comic books are sold.
Both of these stories really hit emotional high notes at their ends. I now believe in the first story all over again. I anxiously await the Batman and Robin reunion that will inevitably break me.
William J. Jackson is a small town laddie who self publishes books of punk genres, Victorian Age superheroes, rocket ships and human turmoil. He loves him some comic books, Nature, Star Trek and the fine art of the introvert.