James Tynion IV and Jorge Jimenez lay the groundwork for what is an exciting new era for the Caped Crusader in Batman #106. With all appearances being that this story will pay off threads from Doomsday Clock, Future State and Tynion IV’s earlier issues, DC seems to be committing to satisfying long term readers, with stories that reward their tenured fandom. But, as always with superhero comics, the road to something new goes through classic villains — in this case, the Scarecrow!
A whole new world
21 issues into Tynion IV’s run on Batman, and he’s leveraged story threads set up by Geoff Johns and Tom King to surround Bruce Wayne with a new and unique supporting cast that gives the book a fresher feeling than it’s had in a long time. In particular, the book benefits a lot from Alfred Pennyworth’s absence, as this has left room for other characters to flesh out their story and relationship with Wayne. Whether that’s Oracle acting as Wayne’s technical support, or Ghost-Maker serving as his Batcave companion and confidant, it’s evident that Batman’s operations have been rather dramatically changed.
Across town, newly-elected Mayor Nakano is confronted with the reality of Gotham’s worsening living conditions, and the question of how to govern amidst the city’s superhero chaos. Tynion IV makes sure to allow Nakano to dance in more of a moral gray area, rather than casting the anti-vigilante mayor as a villain. It’s a rather interesting response to fan criticisms that at a certain point, no one would actually live in Gotham with their level of crime and destruction.
It’s through these new elements, and the introduction of the Unsanity Collective, that readers are introduced to the most fleshed out Batman universe in years. Heroes, villains, politicians, police and anti-heroes all have unique things to do, give Tynion IV’s depiction of Wayne and Gotham a distinct feeling among recent Batman writers.
While all of this newness is exciting, it’s hard to avoid a feeling that this isn’t just going to end with all the toys simply being put back in the toy box. Only time will tell.
What readers can see right now though is Tynion IV and Jimenez’s terrifying new depiction of the Scarecrow. Hauntingly stalking the background of the story, Jonathan Crane acts as the spectre of terror to come in Saint Industries new plot. With a minimal role here, it’s a case of less is more as readers are left to speculate what his first moves will be.
Jimenez has no small hand in this new interpretation, as his updated Scarecrow design incorporates elements of the classic-scarecrow themed design, and the modern day horror aesthetic of Batman: Arkham Knight’s design. It also sports somewhat of a nordic, woodlands element, which might remind readers of Ari Aster’s Midsommar or Robert Eggers’ The VVitch. It’s a design and flair that make the Scarecrow truly feel like a big threat in a way he hasn’t in a while.
That’s something that I can say about Jimenez’s general interpretation of the work: everything feels big, like it must be seen, as if it is a definitive interpretation. These are the scenes and images that will become what comes up when you google “Batman”. In particular, a full page spread of Batman just after he’s taken down the bad guy should be remembered as a perfect representation of the character.
Other times, the art just simply makes the work more fun, whether it’s Harley’s disheveled demeanor when she isn’t able to make it to a crime fast enough to help, or Batman and Ghost-Maker’s burgeoning friendship. It’s works like these that inspire the desire to be like superheroes. Even the most self-assuredly mature reader might find themselves daydreaming about their very own Batmobile.
It’s a collection of art that objectively lifts up that work. The only time even Jimenez struggles to get something over is the fact that Ghost-Maker just doesn’t have a distinct personality. Tynion IV writes him as a generic superhero friend, and to this point that’s all he’s amounted to being. It’s not an issue that makes the work any less enjoyable, but it’s worrisome that the issue might compound as his character becomes more central to the ongoing narrative.
Readers must appreciate Batman’s new direction defined by a commitment to new stories, built on the shoulders of long-term storytelling. While not every kink is rolled out, Tynion IV and Jimenez are putting in the work to be a defining creative team.
Robin: In a preview story to Joshua Williamson and Gleb Melnikov’s new Robin series launching in April, Damian Wayne returns to his first mentor in an effort to regain his legacy. It’s an initial opening that makes readers wonder if DC is throwing the baby out with the bathwater in regards to Wayne’s character development over the last decade, however, Williamson is able to turn Wayne’s intentions on their heads and create an interesting situation for his development. It isn’t a sure thing, and there’s still some fear that Wayne’s development is on the chopping block, but it’s an interesting first step.
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