Two issues into Infinite Frontier, and James Tynion IV and Jorge Jimenez have Batman humming. From building an interesting, modern Bat-universe, to redefining a classic villain and working towards the inevitable reality of Future State, this book is doing everything right. Batman #107 is a testament to the clear vision this team approaches this world with, and their iron-clad grip on what makes a good Batman story.
Batman: Scared Straight
Tynion IV is bringing an originality and creativity to the Batman universe that hasn’t been seen since Grant Morrison, and Chuck Dixon before that. That’s not necessarily to say the works are comparable, but that readers have the distinct pleasure of coming into each issue of this series knowing they haven’t read it before.
This is evident in the exciting supporting cast of original characters, and classics in new roles. Having Mayor Nakano and Commissioner Renee Montoya in place of the series, traditional city officials breathe an entirely new life into Gotham, and recontextualizes the traditional relationship between Batman and the GCPD.
Really, that’s what Tynion IV excels at in this series. Throughout the book, he consistently and inevitably finds ways to make old things new again in exciting ways. And, while he’s far from the first person to do some of this, Tynion IV has the distinct advantage of readers knowing at least for a while this has a clear direction which won’t simply be thrown out to bring back Commissioner Gordon and Alfred on a whim.
Outside of this, there’s a clear intention to play on real world fears which works perfectly here. The choice to actualize Gotham’s endless cycle of super-villain violence in a plot lets the story take a step into the real world, where readers can begin to empathize with citizens of the city better. It’s in this that Tynion IV finds a rather inspired use of Scarecrow.
Because there are now real fears in this book, Crane is playing on something distinct and tangible, which has a much stronger ability to connect with readers as opposed to the typical fear toxin.
This is again supported by Jimenez’s incredible redesign of the character, as well as depiction throughout. Whether it’s in his more prominent scenes in the book’s flash forward, or he’s acting as a harbinger of things to come in the background of the present, there’s a genuine sense that he is in control in a way he’s never felt before.
This design work is really where Jimenez brings a degree of modernity and freshness to Batman. Not just in Scarecrow, but throughout Tynion IV’s new characters like the Unsanity Collective, or the newly debuted Gardner. Each is distinct to this era of the character and provides a sense of memorability to the book.
It’s also with these new characters, and this attempt at freshness, that can drag the book in places. While almost everything, new and old, begs the reader to come back and see what happens in the next issue, there are things that aren’t quite working the way they should be yet.
The Unsanity Collective specifically still feel like B-tier villains who don’t possess enough originality or depth to endear themselves to large swaths of readers. This clearly seems to be coming in the next issue so it can’t be seen as too much of a flaw, but it’s enough to be noted.
It should be reiterated, though, just how good Jimenez is. Everything in the book feels like it’s in DC’s premier superhero title. Every other page could be a poster. It’s the use of lighting and the dynamic action. It’s the strong character models and the charismatic posing.
The book feels cinematic in all the right places, with Jimenez framing exciting pieces of action like an experienced director, while still utilizing the varying panel sizes to his advantage. At times he uses it to create a sense of freedom, and in others it contracts in fear. There’s rarely a page which doesn’t feel intimately and deliberately thought out.
Tynion IV and Jiminez give readers every reason to come back to this series for Batman #108. The story is developing in interesting ways, the characters are becoming more interesting, and there’s the promise of finally exploring the Unsanity Collective in a classic Batman way. There are growing pains for sure, but nothing that should keep readers away from this book.
Ghost Maker: Tynion IV and Ricardo Lopez Ortiz create a quick and exciting backup to help develop new supporting character Ghost-Maker. It’s a weird backup, as in its short time it does a little bit of everything. Tynion IV and Ortiz develop interesting and likable new antagonists for Ghost-Maker, establish an adventurous setting, invoke an informative history, etc, but the one thing it doesn’t quite succeed in is making Ghost-Maker himself interesting.
That’s not to say he isn’t given more character here than in the main book — he is, but it rarely rises above cliches. They’re fun cliches for sure, but cliches nonetheless.
It’s a backup which is a hair away from perfectly doing what it was supposed to do.
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