Monday, November 6, 2023

Batman #139 Review


Written by: Chip Zdarsky
Art by: Jorge Jimenez
Colors by: Tomeu Morey
Letters by: Clayton Cowles
Cover art by: Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey
Cover price: $4.99
Release date: November 7, 2023

Batman #139 finds Batman settling into a life without the Batfamily as he resumes his hunt for the Joker. But who is Joker hunting?
Is Batman #139 Good?

Now that the disastrous Gotham War is in the rearview mirror, Chip Zdarksy has a chance to redeem his tenure on Batman with a slightly new status quo and a new arc that borrows pieces from the past in Batman #139. Does this issue mark a return to solid, quality Batman storytelling? Ehh, maybe, kinda, sorta, not entirely, but somewhat.

When last we left Batman, He endured the painful events of the Gotham War, and we suffered right along with him. Now, Batman is back in the brownstone without the Batfamily as his support system. All he has are his gadgets, his new hand, and his mission - find the Joker and put him away for good.

When Batman traces a series of murders that have a distinctly Riddler-esque tone and feel, Batman follows the trail to a wealthy toy heiress's mansion where tableaus of Bruce's training mentors are waiting, including the recent arrival of Lucie Chesson from Paris. Batman fights his way through a gauntlet of trap doors and henchmen in doll costumes to eventually find the Joker waiting, but the Joker is more interested in confronting the man inside the Batman - Zur-En-Ahrrh.

Watch our Batman #139 Video Review

In all, this is a weird issue. Zdarsky gets back to the gritty, grim storytelling that worked so well at the beginning of the run with Failsafe, but oddities abound. Why is Joker leading Batman down a convoluted trail with puzzles and ambiguous clues you would expect from the Riddler? What does a toy heiress (and her now-deceased grandson) have to do with anything? How does the Joker know about Zur-En-Arrh? If Batman could find Joker so easily, why couldn't Jason? Where is Jason Todd in all of this, and why isn't Zdarsky addressing Jason's "defilement" at Batman's hands? Where was Failsafe during Gotham War since Batman is back to his routine in Gotham?

Zdarsky has the stones of Gotham War and Failsafe hanging around this title's neck, but he isn't doing anything to relieve those burdens. Consequently, the mistakes of this series sit in the middle of every story like a giant elephant everyone politely ignores but can't help noticing.

In fairness, Zdarsky has the right tone and feel for a proper street-level Batman in this issue, the kind of feel we were hoping to see Zdarsky bring in from his time on Daredevil. But it remains to be seen if Zdarsky can undo the tangled knots of bad plots and misguided events to let the heart of better stories push through the taint.

What's great about Batman #139? Zdarsky hits the right tone and atmosphere for a hard-hitting, street-level Batman on the hunt for a killer. As a bonus, an all-out fight between Joker and Zur-En-Arrh is an intriguing idea.

What's not so great about Batman #139? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the ghosts of Gotham War keep popping up in little bits of dialog, narration, and editor's notes. The smartest thing DC could do is pretend the Gotham War never happened, but the more Zdarsky keeps referencing the event, the bigger distraction it becomes. Also, Joker is painted as a deadly threat, but his modus operandi feels too much like Riddler.

How's the art? Glorious. Jorge Jimenez is absolutely the right choice for the series, and the results speak for themselves. Batman is a formidable force in the shadows, and every panel drips with dramatic intensity.

Backup Story

Chip Zdarsky also penned the backup story where we learn the fate of Vandal Savage after the Gotham War. Yes, Vandal is alive and at full strength, but he weakens when he tries to leave Gotham, presumably as a result of his connection to the Lazarus meteor.

Vandal's appearance in Gotham War came out of left field and practically exemplifies the word "contrived." This short is reasonably well done, but it appears to be nothing more than a setup to show Vandal's new status quo and his place in some forthcoming arc.

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

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Bits and Pieces:

Batman #139 gets back to basics as a focused Batman (sans support from the Batfamily) resumes his mission to hunt down the Joker. But for Joker's antics looking too much like the Riddler, this is a gritty, taut crime thriller with gorgeous art. Unfortunately, the story is mildly tainted by too many connections to the Gotham War and the lack of follow-up concerning Jason Todd or Failsafe.


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