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'Batman' #138 is a nonstop and layered thrill
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‘Batman’ #138 is a nonstop and layered thrill

‘The Gotham War’ part 4 features Nightwing versus Batman while a villain rises.

“The Gotham War” reaches its fourth chapter this week with Batman #138, and it’s only heating up between Batman and his kiddos. That includes Nightwing and Tim Drake, who have figured out a way to cut Batman off from his resources. Following Catwoman #57, Batman #138 is a strong example of how heroes can become the villains in their series, and it works.

Batman #138 opens with Vandal Savage, who appeared in the last issue’s cliffhanger. At this point, Chip Zdarsky and Jorge Jiménez haven’t given us a single explanation for his inclusion in the story, as it heavily leaned toward Catwoman and Batman fighting over the idea of letting criminals commit crimes against the rich. Savage adds a compelling wrinkle to the story you may not have seen coming and adds a bit of canon-altering intrigue. Zdarsky has a big plan for him, and by the end, there may be a mutual enemy for the bat family and Catwoman to team against.

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Most of this issue features Nightwing and Batman fighting in a pulse-pounding sequence. It gets intense and brutal, and Jiménez is masterful in showing knock-out blow after knockout blow. Even though Dick is Bruce’s son, he doesn’t hold back, which feels wrong and borderline bad-guy behavior. More on that later, but Jiménez uses silhouette to enhance the death-dealing level blows Batman throws at Nightwing. Batman’s new mechanical hand is used well in this battle, showing he’s got superhuman strength, further making the battle more dangerous.

'Batman' #138 review

A variant cover to the issue.
Credit: DC Comics

This isn’t a one-on-one battle, though, as Zdarsky throws Tim Drake and Damian into the battle in logical ways. Tying Damian’s desire to be his father’s most loved son adds emotionality to the battle and a reasonable reason for his ability to fight his once-bat family.

If you’re wondering how hard the creative team hits the fact that Batman is breaking bad, Jason Todd is your ticket. The things Batman does in the name of “healing” are disturbed, which is where Batman of Zur-En-Arrh comes in. So far, Zur-En-Arrh has been more of a shadow that is influencing but not acting for Batman. This issue helps prove it’s far worse than we thought. Opportune moments where Batman smirks at the failure of Dick or bits of actions in Zur-En-Arrh’s voice hammer home Batman needs to be saved from himself. It’s a compelling development after Zdarsky and Jiménez opened with Failsafe, another form of Batman that had to be stopped.

There are also clever ideas interspersed in this issue. One is where a server and the symbolic connection to Bruce’s family are held. It’s ironic since Batman is fighting his children. Another key scene shows a kind of ritual Batman made Robin go through, which adds a spiritual nature to what they do. This adds to what we know about Batman and Robin and their code.

Zdarsky is also playing around with the idea of love from the perspective of a cold and calculated vigilante like Batman. The theme of love comes to a crescendo just as Catwoman comes face to face with Batman. At a higher level, this story has been about Batman thinking his care and self-sacrifice are forcing him to fight and hurt those he loves. When you think you’re doing the right thing and are as stubborn as Batman, it’ll take a war to wake you up.

In the grand scheme of Batman and in-canon developments, seeing how Zdarsky disassembles the character is getting exhilarating. It may be painful to see him fight his sidekicks, but it’s happening due to Bruce going solo and refusing help, which could lead to new and exciting stories. For a character over eighty years old, that’s a rare thing, and this is a series to keep an eye on.

'Batman' #138 is a nonstop and layered thrill
‘Batman’ #138 is a nonstop and layered thrill
Batman #138
In the grand scheme of Batman and in-canon developments, seeing how Zdarsky disassembles the character is getting exhilarating. It may be painful to see him fight his sidekicks, but it's happening due to Bruce going solo and refusing help, which could lead to new and exciting stories. For a character over eighty years old, that's a rare thing, and this is a series to keep an eye on.
Reader Rating1 Votes
8.9
The deeper story of Batman doing what he thinks best is fascinating
Surprise build up for Vandal Savage
Intense and thrilling action
Clever ways building up Batman lore and canon
Catwoman is pretty absent even if she appears twice
9.5
Great
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