Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Batman #136 Review

Written by: Chip Zdarsky
Art by: Belén Ortega
Colors by: Tomeu Morey
Letters by: Clayton Cowles
Cover art by: Jorge Jiménez
Cover price: $4.99
Release date: June 6, 2023

Batman #136 finds Batman acclimating to life in Gotham after his return from an alternate dimension, minus one hand. As he struggles to portray an image of stability and strength, Bruce's doubts about who controls his mind create cracks that slowly but surely widen.
Is It Good? 

File Batman #136 under the "Is it real or isn't it?" category of storytelling. Chip Zdarsky delivers a not-so-gently used back to Gotham, where character developments and unfinished business are waiting to be dealt with, but Batman's biggest problem may be the one that's been inside him the whole time.

Fine, fine. Enough with the cryptic descriptions. Zur-En-Arrh isn't going back into his mind box without a fight, so this issue starts as a rather pedestrian attempt to get Batman settled back into a regular Gotham routine, but it becomes clear that Zur is messing with Bruce to gain control.

On the one hand, it's a net positive to see Zdarsky go back to clean up the myriad of "messes" that started since taking over the title (e.g Failsafe, the Cobblepot twins, Penguin, etc.), so right away, you can see a multitude of story arcs just waiting to hatch. On the other hand, mind attacks are a tricky storytelling trope, so the obligatory number of forthcoming illusions, delusions, red herrings, bait-and-switches, and other confusions of reality can become very frustrating very quickly if not done right. So far, Zdarsky has carried this series well (not perfectly), so we shall see.

As a bonus, it's good to see Batman's hand hasn't magically reappeared after his trip through the multiverse. Status quo changes breathe life into a character, so sticking with the change is another net positive. Unless, the missing hand and everything that came before it turns out to be a long delusion from Zur.

What about the story? Zdarsky blends an even mixture of action, emotional moments (particularly when Batman's supporting cast expresses concern for him), and plot setup into what appears to be coming next. The pacing is good, the dialog/narration is excellent, and the issue holds your attention.

How's the art? Well, this is Belén Ortega's first crack at Batman on Zdarsky's run, and the results are... impressive. In fairness, Ortega's pencils/inks are elevated by Tomeu Morey's miraculous coloring work, but I'm not shy to say Ortega gives Chechhetto and a few other lauded names a run for their money. If DC can swing it, keep Ortega on this title as long as you can.

About The Reviewer: Gabriel Hernandez is the Publisher & EIC of ComicalOpinions.com, a comics review site dedicated to indie, small, and mid-sized publishers.

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Bits and Pieces:

Batman #136 gets the one-handed Batman settled back into life in Gotham as he discovers who's who and what's what since Failsafe banished him to an alternate universe. Zdarrsky's plot movement, pacing, and dialog are top-tier, and Ortega's first crack at art on Zdarsky's Batman is impressive.


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