James Tynion concluded his run on Batman with his final story, “Fear State,” changing the landscape of Gotham City as the Magistrate that was shown to take over in Future State is no more. In the ashes of the downfall of the Magistrate the new Arkham Tower has risen from the ruins Arkham Asylum. Now with that in place a new era is about to begin for the Batman franchise as Joshua Williamson is taking over as the writer for the main Batman series. Tynion certainly left Williamson with a lot of room to take Batman to the next level. And given the work Williamson on Flash and Robin I have no doubt he is going to deliver big with whatever plans he has for Batman. Let’s see how it all begins with Batman #118.
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artists: Jorge Molina and Mikel Janin
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: With the Magistrate gone all of the people in the Gotham City celebrate surviving Fear State by partying in the streets, clubs, and at home like it is New Year’s Eve.
Some criminals try to take advantage of this by breaking into business but are immediately stopped when they spot Batman standing on a rooftop nearby. The criminals immediately run to nearby cops begging to be arrested instead of Batman coming after them.
Oracle calls Batman to recommend taking the night off after everything that happened in Gotham City and what he’s been doing with the Justice League. Just as it looks like Barbara is going to convince Bruce to do as she is recommending a new crime is being reported at the Billionaires Club party. Seeing what the party is about Oracle can tell that Batman will not like the theme of the Billionaires Club party.
At the Billionaires Club, Batman finds that the theme is a cosplay party with everyone dressing up as one of his villains. Batman is able to quickly assess the criminals using this theme to do something.
Firefly suddenly flies in and his gang that he had invade by dressing up as Joker, Riddler, Two-Face, and Mr. Freeze all hold up the rich people. Someone dressed as Killer Croc knocks out Two-Face. Firefly burns the Killer Croc costume off to reveal it was Batman in disguise. Batman proceeds to quickly knock out Firefly and his gang.
A young girl dressed as Punchline then asks for Batman’s autograph.
As the cops arrest Firefly and his gang Oracle mentions to Batman that pictures from the fight were erased before getting on social media and the press are being led to believe it was just a show that was part of the party.
Batman admits that he is not used to seeing Gotham City celebrating. Oracle wonders what Batman did whenever he finished a big case. Batman remembers various instances where he spent time with Commissioner James Gordon, Robin, Catwoman, Superman, and Alfred Pennyworth.
Barbara tells Bruce to join her and Dick Grayson for breakfast, which Nightwing agrees Bruce should do. Just as he thinks about doing so Bruce says he is going to go dark for the next 48 hours.
When asked why Batman stays silent as he notices a Gotham Globe blimp reporting that Batman Inc. members Man-Of-Bats, El Gaucho, Bat-Man Of China, The Dark Ranger, and The Hood have all been arrested for murder.
Batman then flies to Badhnisia. Then as Bruce Wayne he goes to the crime scene acting as a tourist.
Detective Cayha gets to the crime scene at the same time and goes inside the building alone. Detective Cayha notices a black substance on the ground but before she can touch it Batman shows up out of nowhere.
Batman asks about who Batman Inc. killed. Detective Cayha reveals their name is Abyss, a criminal that has terrorized Badhnisia for a while. She goes on to say Batman Inc came to Badhnisia to save the day. Detective Cayha wonders if Batman is there to prove Batman Inc. are innocent.
Taking a look at the damage from the crime scene Batman is able to recreate the fight between Batman Inc and Abyss in his mind. He comes to the conclusion Batman Inc. did kill Abyss. Batman then admits that while he teamed up with Man-Of-Bats, El Gaucho, Bat-Man Of China, The Dark Ranger, and The Hood since their Club of Heroes days he has stopped keeping track of them for a while.
Detective Cayha brings up Bruce Wayne funding Batman Inc. Batman reveals that Bruce does not currently fund Batman Inc.
Suddenly Lex Luthor shows up revealing that he has picked up the slack from Bruce Wayne and funding Batman Inc. For that reason Lex is there to protect his investment. End of issue.
The Good: With Gotham City coming out of a major game changing event with Fear State, Joshua Williamson chose the most optimal path to tap into the potential of the Batman franchise has in its current status quo. In the process Williamson is able to craft Batman #118 as the beginning of a story that will progress Bruce Wayne’s character in and out of the cowl.
Opening Batman #118 with the people of Gotham City doing something that neither Batman nor the reader has seen before seen: a Gotham City that filled with enough joy that people are celebrating. For the first time as a reader I did feel like I could related with Batman because it does feel completely strange to see Gotham City in this state. Even after big events its always back to business or things are getting worse for Gotham City. So exactly what Batman’s reaction to this state of Gotham City was something that felt like he was also speaking to the reader.
It all brings up how long Bruce Wayne has forced himself to always be on as Batman that it is tough to turn it off. Because it is not just about protecting Gotham City but also save the universe with the Justice League and other DCU heroes. This was an important point that Barbara Gordon as Oracle brought up because the truth is that because Bruce has taken on shouldering so many responsibilities as Batman that he can’t simply embrace the joy being felt in Gotham City.
This made the villain costume party stand out even more as a key scene for Batman. Because while Batman was able to defeat Firefly and his gang relatively quickly he didn’t take anything out of it. It was just another day of being Batman for him. But then when the little girl dressed as Punchline approached him you could see how foreign all of this light hearted celebration was for Batman. It felt like he had to turn his instincts off after having fought most of the villains people were dressing up as for the last year.
All of this further just shows how Batman really is most comfortable when working alone. Even though he has the Batman Family and Justice League, Bruce sees himself as a loner as Batman. You get that sense with how he constantly was trying to avoid accepting Barbara’s invite to hang out with her and Dick Grayson. Burying himself in his Batman work is all he knows to do right now. And you see that with how he went through in going through City of Bane, Joker War, and Fear State that he can’t do his own form of taking time for himself with others.
Which makes the Batman Inc. case with Man-Of-Bats, El Gaucho, Bat-Man Of China, The Dark Ranger, and The Hood being labeled murderers just another case for Batman to bury himself in. Of course he is concerned for his former allies and goes to see what is going on. At the same time, the importance of this case is just another way for Bruce to avoid the reality of the state of Gotham City after overcoming Fear State.
Bringing the Batman Inc concept back into play was a great move the Williamson. This was always a great concept that Morrison developed but went dormant during the New 52 and DC Rebirth era. Williamson did a good job quickly explaining that Batman Inc. never went away but wasn’t being funded by Bruce Wayne in recent years do to his own personal and financial troubles. It all quickly reestablished that continuity and moved the investigation forward at the same time.
Batman’s investigation leading to the conclusion that Man-Of-Bats, El Gaucho, Bat-Man Of China, The Dark Ranger, and The Hood did kill Abyss was a good hook into finding out more about this new villain. Given the detailed design for Abyss its clear they were introduced to make Batman Inc. the antagonists of the story. It all seems to easy of an open and shut case and Batman seems to know it with the black substance that was found at the scene.
Making things even more interesting was Lex Luthor not only appearing but revealing that he has been the one financing Batman Inc. since Bruce Wayne stopped. This was an unexpected development that has a lot of potential to further elevate the story. Given the history between Batman and Lex Luthor, especially if its established that Lex knows Bruce is Batman, there is a lot of potential roads this story can go from here.
Jorge Molina and Mikel Janin worked very well together as the art team for Batman #118. It was smart to split up the artwork duties so Molina handled the main story in Gotham City while Janin taking over with what felt like an epilogue with Batman’s initial investigation in Badhnisia. This helped get over the two different tones that Batman #118 was striking. Molina was able to do a great job balancing the excitement in which the people Gotham City was celebrating and how Batman wasn’t allowing himself to be part of the party. Then with Janin, the tone of the story shifted to be a murder mystery that the artwork did a good job capturing.
The Bad: Nothing.
Overall: Batman #118 is a great start to the Joshua Williamson era for the series. Williamson took everything that happened in Tynion’s run and moved Batman forward in an intriguing way. The ending with how Lex Luthor factors into the story is sure to bring in a lot of possibilities for this new story arc to go in. If you are looking to jump on a good starting point for Batman this issue does a good job of that.
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