There’s no denying Chip Zdarsky’s version of Batman is darker in mood and tone. The dude is downright morose, and that’s even more apparent with Batman #126 out today. He’s also out of sorts as far as being prepared for anything, as Failsafe proves. Can this Batman gain the advantage and get control, or is the narrative suggesting control is inherently impossible? These are questions that may run through your mind.
You’ll also be thinking about how cool Jorge Jimnez’s art is as Failsafe pushes Batman and his Bat-family more than ever. The action picks up nearly from the start as Failsafe beats Batman handily in seconds and surprises him too. Soon Robin, Batgirl, and more of Batman’s friends show up and are handily beaten. Jimenez does a fantastic job capturing the speed of this robot and the unrelenting violence it enacts on these characters. It’s honestly unnerving seeing how badly they’re beaten.
Enough can’t be said about Jimenez’s use of textures, too. Paired with the colors by Tomeu Morey, and this world looks closer to real life than most comics. Depth of field is added by these textures which bring the book to life and lift elements up.
Their role in this issue is exciting due to the well-drawn art, but also how Zdarsky frames them through a key caption. At the start, Batman is brooding through captions, reflecting on how they enact justice and bring good to the world more than he could have ever dreamed – because he has no dreams. It’s a dark angle on the Bat-family idea showing how Batman appreciates what they do but feels separated from their abilities on some scale due to his bleak mood and outlook.
This is further cemented when later in the issue, Batman says via caption, “I’ve softened. Surrounded myself with children.” That’s cold, even for Batman.
It’s a decidedly different take on the character who has in recent years warmed to being a father figure and aiding the younger heroes any way he can. Once you reach the cliffhanger, you see Zdarsky seems to be separating Batman from the other heroes to isolate the character further. Considering his mental state on the final page, that’s going to be exciting to watch unfold as the series continues.
It’s through these captions and subtle hints at Batman’s psyche that the issue works. Much of the plot involves Failsafe–a villain we barely know–beating up the heroes. It’s not very complex, but thanks to the subtle character work, you feel satisfied by the end.
There’s also a backup, continuing Catwoman’s mission to help the Executor with Penguin’s will. She’s trying to find Penguin’s children, but they seem to be dying off. There’s a noir aspect that the story takes, creating a sense of mystery and defeat at every turn. Written by Zdarsky with art by Belén Ortega, the story flows nicely and draws you in. The story has a bright look thanks to Luis Guerrero’s colors, making it a little less noir though it matches the cartoony art style by Ortega. Throw in an interesting wrinkle that Penguin isn’t giving anything to his kids’ mothers, and you have an intriguing mission for Catwoman to see through.
For years Batman as a series has taken on different identities and even felt like an ensemble, but Batman #126 builds on the solo feel from last issue. It’s funny to write that with most of Batman’s Bat-family showing up, but the captions don’t lie as Bruce Wayne is wrestling with dark thoughts and a growing need for isolation. Given the cliffhanger, Batman is on a darker path that’s exciting to see unfold.
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