Batman #139 is published by DC Comics, written by Chip Zdarsky, with art by Jorge Jimenez, colors by Tomeu Morey, and letters by Clayton Cowles. There is a backup story written by Zdarsky, art by Jorge Corona, colors by Ivan Plascencia, and letters by Cowles. Batman is on his own, with a dangerous secondary personality threatening to take control, as he hunts down the Joker
A fresh start after the cataclysmic Gotham War, the comic uses fundamentals to build from. Batman vs Joker is the most iconic showdown in fiction and serves as a fantastic basis to build from in this new arc. But aside from the age-old enmity, much of this issue is new and trying something different. Bruce’s detective side is much more prevalent in the opening half, but it felt rushed and discovered slightly too quickly with no flashy gadgets or vehicles, there is a grungier atmosphere to Batman #139.
There’s a deeply sinister scene with dolls and portraits, full of discomfort, building off the huge threads inside Zdarsky’s Batman run that are now starting to show their teeth. The backup personality within Batman’s mind has been whispering for a long time; Zdarsky’s storytelling is world-class. There are multiple facets laced within the narrative that will appear later, sometimes after they’ve been forgotten by the reader. At the same time, mentors and pieces of Bruce’s history are revealed
After the huge cast in the Gotham War, the stripped-back feeling of this issue is striking. Batman is now on his own. Totally isolated, cut off from his family and his systems, it’s back to a Year One style of vigilantism. The book relies on captions for noise and for prose, and Zdarsky keeps a stoic and descriptive tone for all of it. When there is more dialogue, the narration falls silent to let the voices take control. The conversation at the end is primarily a monologue from the villain, and there is a significant difference between this confrontation to many that have happened before. It makes the words far more chilling and menacing. The last part of the book submerges into madness, with Batman’s fragility shattering.
The art is fantastic. The first thought that comes to mind is the change in Bruce’s appearance. He has had to take drastic action to obscure his identity whilst living in a small apartment, and he now looks vastly different. Zdarsky has made Batman’s age a theme, and Jimenez has instigated that within the art. The years are present on his face.
Some of the imagery is terrifically terrifying, especially when Batman enters a house filled with bodies and disturbing dolls. It’s a bizarre exploration of size and perspective, and the imagery only gets better and more inventive as the madness slips into the book. The shift in tone is eye-opening and perfectly executed. At first, the gothic architecture and period paintings on the wall are beautiful and demonstrate the normal, regal Gotham. But there is a gradual yet determined slide of sanity.
The colors are fascinating. There are beautiful but traditional tones that become overtaken by more powerful colors. Purple and yellow light can appear within the shadows, signaling the very vibrant backup personality. But there is also an intense red that frequently appears. But building up to the final part of the book, the comic dulls in color. That is only used to make the last scene mind-boggling. The lettering is fine for 90 percent of the book, but there are some caption boxes and custom word balloons that are difficult to read.
The backup story also deals with the consequences of The Gotham War. Vandal Savage is back, appearing to have died in the final issue. But he may be forced to stay in Gotham for a while longer. Whilst his return possibly happened too quickly, it installs a dangerous villain into the city. The art features very thick line weights, with proportions that make Savage look huge and bulky. The comic has a rough and violent edge to it that represents the brutality of the character.
Batman #139 is both simple and complicated. The cast has shrunk, only concentrating on Batman and his greatest enemy. But with both of them on such a soul-searching journey, the narrative is anything but simple. The personality crisis that Batman is going through is long-winded and not always fully understood, but it cannot be denied that it is shaking up the character in the most drastic method in years. And all of this is visualised by an utterly sensational art team.
Batman #139 is both simple and complicated.