The Failsafe arc that Chip Zdarsky and Jorge Jimenez have started their run on Batman with has been captivating from the beginning. There are a lot of elements in this story arc that have callbacks to a lot of work from previous creative teams that I have really appreciated. Now with Failsafe having taken over Gotham City and created his own version of the Future State timeline for the city we really don’t know where things will go next. All we know is that Batman has a lot of catching up to do after being out of commission for two weeks in DC Universe time. How will Batman respond to what Failsafe has done? Let’s find out with Batman #129.
Writer: Chip Zdarsky (Failsafe and I Am A Gun)
Artists: Jorge Jimenez (Failsafe); Leonardo Romero (I Am A Gun)
Colorists: Tomeu Morey (Failsafe); Jordie Bellaire (I Am A Gun)
After taking over Gotham City Failsafe allows crime to run unopposed throughout the city.
In Atlantis, Aquaman informs Batman how Failsafe has traps all over Gotham City that have defeated all Justice League members that have tried to go after Failsafe.
Batman reveals that Failsafe was created to activate if he ever went too far and that Alfred Pennyworth would always reset Failsafe in case of false alarms activating the android in the past. Hearing this Aquaman calls out Batman for placing Atlantis in direct danger since Failsafe knows that is where Batman would be.
Elsewhere, Failsafe has captured most of the Batman Family and is using Oracle to keep track of everything going on in Gotham City including any superhero who may try to enter the city.
Back in Atlantis Aquaman rallies his army to defend Atlantis and Batman from Failsafe.
When Aquaman is alone to prepare Failsafe strikes and quickly captures Aquaman. Failsafe gets Aquaman to take him to where Batman was but when they go there Batman is gone.
Up on the Watchtower located on the Moon Batman is making preparations knowing Failsafe will soon arrive. Batman’s hunch is correct as Failsafe waste no time in attacking the Watchtower.
Batman is able to use the time he had to hit Failsafe with a shot from a laser gun made out of New Genesis technology. Failsafe quickly recovers and goes all out attacking Batman. Batman is able to dodge the attacks long enough to lead Failsafe into the Watchtower teleporter location.
Batman then activates the teleported having reversed it ahead of time and this turns into Failsafe being teleported to the Hall of Justice where Failsafe falls for the traps it set for Batman.
Back in space, Batman tries to summon a Javelin to get him but they are all inoperable. Because of this Batman is left floating in space only able to await his cold death to happen. End of issue.
This entire Failsafe story arc is a great example of how you carry the momentum moving forward with each passing issue. Batman #129 exemplifies that with how you can escalate a story by further building the main villain, in this case, Failsafe, as an unstoppable threat even if we end up in the same spot we were before.
The key to the success of Batman #129 is the sense of despair you feel throughout this issue. Even when Nightwing tries to keep things positive with his line about Batman still being alive it does make anything better. That is because in the situation that the Batman Family, Gotham City, and Justice League are in there is no stopping Failsafe. Everything they could’ve tried has not worked and we’ve seen that in previous issues.
Using the previous two issues where we saw Failsafe defeat the Batman Family and members of the Justice League was enough to put over how dangerous Failsafe is. Chip Zdarsky used the work he and Jorge Jimenez to explain within the context of the story why the Justice League isn’t doing more. The simple fact is they can’t because every attempt has led to failure. Even if we didn’t see those attempts we saw it enough in the previous issues from how Failsafe defeated Superman, Black Canary, Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, and the Batman Family that this was the reality of the situation.
Because of how Failsafe accomplished this using every single strategy Batman set into place to defeat all the heroes and villains in the DCU we see a side of Bruce Wayne we don’t normally. And that is a version of Bruce that does feel defeated. Everything that Aquaman tells him about this entire situation being Bruce’s fault is true. In Bruce’s own paranoia to be prepared for everything, including putting contingencies in place to defeat himself, he has no defense for what he did.
Zdarsky does a great job making things even more personal with how Bruce mentions that Alfred Pennyworth secretly was the one who made sure Failsafe never activated due to a false alarm whenever it did occur in the past. This is such a great use of events that have happened in the Batman comics to amplify the importance of what is going on. It also further points out how Bruce’s own paranoia is his greatest weakness is made worse when those he trusts like Alfred aren’t around to keep things in check.
Adding another layer to everything Failsafe is doing is the fact that it is not killing any of the heroes that try to stop it. The fact that Failsafe was built to still keep with Batman’s code of not killing is an interesting wrinkle in the story. Especially considering that the programming does not mean Failsafe will continue Batman’s mission, as we see that it lets Gotham City fall into a completely chaotic state in order to lure Bruce out of hiding. This fact actually makes Failsafe even more dangerous as Bruce points out that because of this programming the android has to hold back from using what it would consider deadly force.
All of this built nicely into the battle between Batman and Failsafe inside the Watchtower. For the first time in this entire story arc, Batman was finally able to stay at least one step ahead of Failsafe. Jimenez’s artwork especially stood out in this as he got over how Batman was barely able to survive not being hit by Failsafe’s assault. Even if we didn’t see it you could tell from how Batman was moving that he was sweating from just being able to try to dodge Failsafe’s attacks.
This led well into how while Batman’s plan did work it was only to a certain degree. In his rush to figure out a way to defend himself against Failsafe he clearly made a mistake so the power surge he created left him with his rescue plan after floating in space did not work as planned.
Along with the main Failsafe storyline we also got a continuation of the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh origin story with the second part of “I Am A Gun.” Once again Zdarsky is doing a good job at using this backup to tell a story that modernizes the concept of Batman of Zur-En-Arrh creation to fit in the context of not just the Failsafe storyline but Grant Morrison’s Batman RIP story. Batman of Zur-En-Arrh is put over as another voice deep inside Bruce’s mind in an almost devil-on-your-shoulder way
Leonardo Romero and Jordie Bellaire’s artwork for the “I Am A Gun” backup is what really makes this Batman of Zur-En-Arrh origin story work. The artwork has such an old-school classic look to it without feeling old. The designs fit with what you would expect from reading a Batman comic when the original Batman of Zur-En-Arrh story was told. At the same time, it has many modern touches that make the artwork work well in how it is modernizing a classic Batman story to fit with the current continuity.
Batman #129 is fantastic from start to finish. Both the Failsafe main story and Batman of Zur-En-Arrh origin backup are expertly crafted by Chip Zdarsky, Jorge Jimenez, Leonardo Romero, and company. You are left on the edge of your seat with the desire to want to read what happens next right away.
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10