The Designer is forcing Batman’s hand, taking over his city, and using his enemies against him. He is a master at strategy and has forced Batman to react rather than take the upper hand. In a lot of ways, James Tynion IV has made the Designer into a Jigsaw type character. He never shows his cards, is always a few steps ahead, and he’s seriously screwing over Batman’s day. In this issue, Batman must fight Deathstroke who now works for the Designer, Catwoman and Harley must fight off the Designer’s latest trap, and a bit more about Joker is revealed.
Before digging into this issue I recommend not reading the preview summary. It gives away a plot point only revealed at the end which is also yet to be explored in issue #91. It’s not a huge blow since this is a good action-adventure romp cutting between multiple scenes to keep your attention up and ramp up the intrigue. The issue opens with a quieter scene with the Joker, which in itself is a tense sort of thing since Joker isn’t usually so calm. This part of the book lays some groundwork for Joker’s hidden plan and likely is part of the “Joker War” story coming in a few weeks. This sets the tone well for the heavy action that fills out the rest of the book.
If you need an escape from it all this is a good book for it. Batman fights Deathstroke on his jet hovering over Gotham, Harley is hilariously annoying Catwoman, and there are small details to keep track of that keep you guessing about the mystery behind the Designer’s plans. It continues to be highly entertaining to see Catwoman and Batman fight on the same side, the mix up of Harley as a hero, and the obvious concurrent plans between the Joker and the Designer mixing things up. All the while, Tynion has us questioning Batman as he’s questioning himself. Will he change from this? Maybe, maybe not, but he’s certainly thinking about how to be better.
The art is shared between Rafael Albuquerque, Jorge Jimenez, Carlo Pagulayan and from cover to cover it’s a good looking book. You can tell in subtle ways how the artist is different here or there, but the split between the three scenes makes the change less obvious. It’s interesting to see how each scene plays with movement. Joker’s scene is static and yet the angles move around him in such a way to add a sense that we’re secretly seeing him tell a story. Catwoman and Harley have panels placed behind them as if we’re racing to keep up. Then, with Batman’s scene, there’s a rush of speed as he plummets to the ground and races to catch up with Deathstroke.
Like any story involving a villain who somehow knows every step, there is certainly some convenient plotting going on. This is Batman though, and a fun action-adventure title at that, so it’s hard to dismiss it for something so conventional in a series like this. Overall this is a fun sixth chapter in the story arc that should keep our minds off the real world as it’s as entertaining as any Batman story you’ll read this year.