In Batman #109, James Tynion IV and Jorge Jimenez keep up the deliberate pace towards the Future State status quo. The full introduction of the Gardner and prolonged segments with Ghost-Maker and Harley Quinn give the story more diversity, but also seem to unnecessarily divert the focus from such an interesting main plot line. It can be hard to see how all the plots might come together, but if they do it should be incredibly exciting for readers.
Tynion IV diverts most of the attention from this issue into a side-story featuring the aforementioned Ghost-Maker and Harley Quinn, and it doesn’t really work. The segment itself runs a good bit too long, and it can be hard to reconcile their plot with the burgeoning threats of the Magistrate and Scarecrow.
It’s a shame, too, because this segment does address one of the series’ biggest flaws to date: the lack of development and characterization for Ghost-Maker in the main title. Here, Tynion jumps headlong into his character, and makes considerable progress in helping the reader understand the character’s motivation and personality. It’ll be up to the reader whether each of these aspects work for them, though, especially as some of the characterization seems to stem from generalizations about mental health which aren’t nuanced or thought-provoking.
Additionally, Tynion IV sprouts a full debut of The Gardener here and it only works somewhat. The character is introduced, and readers can understand who they are and what they’re doing, but it just isn’t very exciting. After the couple of teases the character has had, it’s surprising to find her so lacking in energy.
Aside from this, readers do get some worthwhile development regarding the continued plans of the Magistrate. It seems as if this story is picking up a bit quicker than readers might have expected, but it’s exciting to see the story play out. Saint works pretty effectively as an evil-businessman type, and the continued introduction of Peacemaker 001 helps further develop his character.
It is odd though, in a story and even a larger status quo that so intently criticizes the endless violence and obscene destruction in Gotham City seemingly as a metatextual look at readers’ event fatigue, that they would go back to the well with that. It seems out of place and uninspired. It also seems to be the book, not just the villain, trying to prove the point that Batman actually might be bad at his job.
Reassuringly though, Tynion IV never quite loses his touch on Bruce’s or any other character’s voice. Despite some creative choices that don’t necessarily work, the quality of writing is still exactly where it has been for the most of the series, which is to say everything is still enjoyable to read throughout.
Similarly, Jimenez is producing at the same level of consistency. His work is maybe the best of any artist in Infinite Frontier, but it’s best when the focus is on Batman himself. Here, where most the focus is on Harley and Ghost-Maker, some of Jimenez’s style-isms are much more prevalent, which can make the enjoyment of his art much more up to the specific reader.
The quality never dips, though. Harley Quinn specifically is incredibly expressive, whether in her facial expressions, but especially in her body language. This carries over to most other characters, but consciously changes with the Gardener. She’s portrayed much more austerely, without much dramatic emotion, and it’s hard not to wonder whether this doesn’t contribute to her lackluster debut.
The biggest shine in this issue is reserved for Peacemaker 001. He makes an imposing appearance, which acts as a strong teaser for next issue’s conflict and why readers should come back.
Tynion IV and Jimenez have stumbled here more than they have throughout most of this series. It’s not a bad issue by any means, but there are some questionable creative decisions. It isn’t the same type of book that will guarantee readers come back again and again, but it also seems unlikely to convince anyone to jump off.
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