The wait is finally over as the new ongoing creative team of Chip Zdarsky and Jorge Jiménez kick things off today in Batman #125. This is a new era — Zdarsky has made it clear he’s staying on the series for some time — and thus an exciting new direction for the character of Batman. And maybe Robin, too, given the cover of this issue. As first issues go, this will entertain and get many on board.
This issue opens with a nightmare. Bruce Wayne wakes up to three different Jokers who have killed Batman’s greatest allies. Quickly, Zdarsky establishes Catwoman and Batman are no longer together and a new murderer is on the loose. Gotham City billionaires are being gruesomely murdered, but hey, thankfully Bruce Wayne is no longer a billionaire. It’s a good mystery to solve and it of course involves some of Batman’s biggest rogues. Expect to be surprised.
Outside of Catwoman, Zdarsky uses Tim Drake for the Robin sidekick as well as shows how he’s approaching this book a little differently. Bruce’s personality is a little more gung-ho, maybe because he’s not rich and in full control, and it’s nice to see the character is written a little differently. This is a Batman that’s a little grounded and he’s certainly not going to punch god.
This is a Batman who has nightmares, for starters. He’s in a dark, solitary place. It doesn’t help that Alfred is dead and Damian has run off and these elements establish Batman as a loner who does things on his own terms. In some respects, Batman is haunted by his past and reacts accordingly. That of course sets up a Batman who isn’t fully in control of his emotions or self. He’s also quite negative, saying things like “The city wants to die.” This is a Batman who is a bit morose and willing to fight till the end, but it’s a fight he knows is impossible. He’s downright nihilistic.
Jiménez’s art is a little grittier than we last saw it, which grounds things nicely. The stitching in Batman’s mask and the slightly more subdued colors by Tomeu Morey are just a few examples of the art bringing the book down to a street-level hero comic. Detailed backgrounds, vehicles, and costumes create a hyper sense of reality that elevates this book to one of the best looking. Jiménez is one of the best at adding textures to a scene, creating a world that isn’t flat or one-note, further creating a sense of realism.
The only funky thing about this issue is how it builds on character and the main conflict with Penguin and then drops us into an entirely different conflict. It’s likely going to be the focus in the next issue, but it’s a little jarring, as if Zdarsky got bored with his main plot and wanted to throw in another on top of it.
This issue also has a backup story by Zdarsky and Belén Ortega with colors by Luis Guerrero that directly builds off a key reveal in the main story. This is a Catwoman-centric tale and it takes from James Tynion IV’s run as well as sets up a fairly interesting mission for Catwoman. The art is a bit cartoony which suits the fun and fancy-free nature of Catwoman.
Batman #125 is a good start that’s stable in its approach to Bruce Wayne while also feeling a bit different. Under Zdarsky and the incredible talents of Jiménez, Batman is in great hands and is moving in a direction that feels different while honoring the past. It should satisfy fans of the last decade in Batman comics while tantalizing them with new characterizations and a Batman that’s darker in mind.
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