Batman #136 from DC presents an intense and disturbing wrap up to the ‘Failsafe’ storyline. The main story, ‘Dusk To Dawn,’ is written by Chip Zdarsky, with sumptuous art from Belén Ortega, colors from Tomeu Morey, and letters throughout the entire issue by Clayton Cowles. If you’ve been keeping up (and I pray you have), Batman was ‘killed’ by his super robot, Failsafe, built by Bat’s crazed ubermind version of himself, Zur-En-Arrh. Failsafe actually blasted Batman into the multiverse, where he found a drug-induced Gotham under the control of super-fast Red Mask, who is sort of the prototype and maker of Jokers. After falling for a bad Selina (again), getting his hand chopped off, and bounding about Earths palling with other Batmen, Robin came to his rescue. Now, he’s back in his own universe.
Right off the bat, pun intended, he’s scanned by Mr. Terrific. Wonderful to see another superhero guest star here that isn’t Superman. Batman is fine. He says so, despite the artificial hand. Hold on to this because he will spend this issue basically trying to convince the Bat Family he’s okay and fit for crimefighting. Like, right now, off he goes. He tackles the newest problem in town, the Penguin’s children. I was very happy to see the threads from Zdarsky’s other stories coming to light here. I feel Addison and Aiden Cobblepot will make for great Gotham villains.
But what you’ll really get throughout this first story is that Bruce is a hot mess. I continue to love that Zdarsky gives us Bruce’s thoughts as his mind is wracked by Zur, the multiverse, and his personal failures. Again and again, he gets up and tries to just be Batman. But that’s not gonna work out so well anymore, either.
I don’t think anyone has mastered the frailties and strengths of the Batman quite like Zdarsky has. And not only is the writing intense, personal, and dramatic, but my God, Ortega’s art is delicious. From Batman’s powerful form to the infinite expressions in characters (Bruce’s alone make this book), Ortega burned beauty into every square inch of each panel, while Morey wove color from silken strands to make this issue feel more like an expensive tapestry than a comic. Cowles completes that tapestry in not one but both stories this issue by aligning words and balloons that excite and inform.
But wait. Zdarsky drops a backup tale, ‘The Plans Below,’ what begins as a cool tale of the Batman attempting to solve a Riddler crime back in the day, only for this to degrade into another zany, disturbing rise of Zur-En-Arrh. Jorge Corona brings his captivating, exaggerated art style to this story, and it fits the mold. While Bruce is large in jaw and overly muscled, Zur looks perfect. Cartoonish. Brazen. A personification of dark male fantasy. And this tale includes Failsafe as well, a bonus treat. To complement the snazzy art, Ivan Plascencia paints a quixotic purple and orange miasma, which gave me the visual impression of medications and took me to thoughts on psychosis and hallucinations. Perfect jobs. This tale was creepy, and I fear (read: await!) its effects will soon slither into the present.
Batman #136 is a blast, an emotional punch in the heart, and a jolting revelation that, even when the drama ends, it’s really only just beginning to sink in. Please, if you truly love comic books, read this one. Every month. But especially this one.
Batman #136 is available wherever comic books are sold.
Batman #136 is a blast, an emotional punch in the heart, and a jolting revelation that, even when the drama ends, it’s really only just beginning to sink in.