Batman: City of Madness #3 is published by DC Comics, written, art and colors by Christian Ward and letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. This is the final part of the series. Batman and Talon have infiltrated Gotham Below, finding a city that is full of nightmarish copies.
This issue delves into a city built up and teased for a while. Batman: City of Madness #3 spends almost all its pages in the Gotham Below, underneath the true city. The action starts immediately, displaying some of Batman Below’s own rogue’s gallery. All of the crucial plot threads, many of them operating in the background, come to fruition, colliding with each other. Reading this book is a haunting experience. It’s not always easy to follow, and the middle of the comic loses pace slightly. But the overall storyline has played second fiddle to this world. Ward finds a way to ground this cosmic horror issue, which is difficult. The use of the child that the Batman Below has kidnapped and is trying to transform into his own Robin is what gives the comic an anchor to return to amid all of the chaos and confusion.
Batman does not enter the Gotham Below on his own. Talon, the assassin for the Court of Owls, goes with him. Some team-ups of this kind may attempt to develop a begrudging respect between the rivals by the end of the journey. This issue doesn’t do that. The two are constantly at each other’s throats, grabbing each other and squabbling over the best course of action. This is true even underneath Gotham, facing copies and monstrosities. Batman does not want to kill and this limits what Talon can accomplish.
Two-Face, or Harvey Dent, is one of the most integral characters in this miniseries. This is for obvious reasons, as he is split down the middle physically and in regard to his personality. It is Dent’s involvement in the comic that is one of the most bewildering storylines and takes many revisits to grasp what is happening.
As for the Batman Below, the origins of the character are a huge deviation from what was expected. Instead of the true identity being the opposite of Bruce Wayne, it is something new entirely. It delves into the history of both Gothams, one of the most famous stories within the origins of the city. It also ties the character to Arkham Asylum, which is the hub of insanity within the Batman franchise. But the exploration into his history removes much of that character’s presence in its horrific form. The showdown between the Batmen is satisfying, as is the ending, but it could easily have been extended.
As an artist, Ward is truly unique. Now completely within the city of his creation, he can experiment to his fullest extent. The reimagining of Batman’s most iconic villains leads to some terrifying and fascinating results. Every single panel of Batman: City of Madness #3 is a visual masterpiece. The city is full and busy, with sprawling details that make up the space. The characters themselves are always clear only if they come from the Gotham Above, whilst the copies and creatures are more mysterious. The imagery is disturbing but you can’t look away due to how fascinating it is. Batman and Talon are similar in their designs. They both obscure their identities, with billowing capes. Their fight scenes show a different side to the comic, with Ward also able to present speed, movement and martial arts amid the horror on display.
The colors are both majestic and horrifying. Hours could be spent studying the way the shades merge and repel one another. The nature of how the colors are applied means that every page has to be individual, never to be replicated. The Gotham Below is covered in a fog of green and blue that can threaten to submerge characters within it. But with each other character comes a different set of colors.
A nightmarish version of Firely leads to oddly beautiful presentations of fire and ice. Red is one of the most cutting shades within the comic, pulsating throughout. There are numerous times when illusions of veins wrap around the page. The lettering is just as adaptable due to the presence of one of the most creative letters in the business. The SFX is part of the page instead of on top of it, and the word balloons are always inventive.
Batman: City of Madness #3 concludes a journey of disturbing discovery. Ward has delivered a masterclass by bringing the iconic and unnerving style to the world of Batman. But if the city of Gotham could be considered too grounded, Ward created his own city underneath to compensate. That is the great positive about comic characters such as Batman. Ideas can easily be imprinted around him. Creators can use him and his universe to explore and experiment with styles and stories. This comic has been like walking through a twisted art exhibition, and it feels like an extensive experience. You feel like a different person once you leave.
Batman: City of Madness #3
Batman: City of Madness #3 concludes a journey of disturbing discovery. Ward has delivered a masterclass by bringing the iconic and unnerving style to the world of Batman.