Bruce Wayne has not been having the easiest transition into the new direction for the DC Universe. First, there was the whole thing with Dark Crisis On Infinite Earths. Then Bruce and the Batman Family went from that directly into dealing with the Failsafe story. By the end of the conflict with Failsafe Bruce was once again taken off the table and somehow transported to another universe where Batman never existed. In Batman’s place Gotham City’s Police Department is being led by Judge Harvey Dent who has gone full Bane by taking the Venom drug. How will Bruce handle this new universe he finds himself in? And can he make it back to the main DC Universe? Let’s find out with Batman #132.
Writers: Chip Zdarsky
Artists: Mike Hawthorne (The Bat-Man Of Gotham); Miguel Mendonca (The Toy Box)
Inkers: Adriano Di Benedetto (The Bat-Man Of Gotham)
Colorists: Tomeu Morey (The Bat-Man Of Gotham); Roman Stevens (The Toy Box)
Letterers: Clayton Cowles
Throughout Gotham City, Bruce Wayne and Jewel (whose real name is Julia) work together to save as many people as the GCPD tries to unjustly arrest.
While back at their hideout Jewel reveals to Bruce that a gas called “Crane Brain” has been pumped through the city to make the GCPD reason to have people committed to Arkham. Hearing all this makes Bruce realize he needs to meet with the person who owns Halliday Industries.
Elsewhere Red Mask orders Judge Harvey Dent to bring him Bruce Wayne or else he will take away the Venom drug.
Sometime later, Bruce acts like a billionaire playboy to get into a gala to find Halliday but his plans get ruined by Selina Kyle.
Selina, a Venomized Punchline, and Killer Croc all proceed to attack Bruce. Eventually, Bruce gets shot out of the building.
Bruce is able to break his fall but is confronted by a GCPD officer. After defeating the GCPD officer Bruce collapses from all his injuries. Bruce realizes that he needs to become Batman again. End of issue.
Where the first issue of both current stories suffered from cohesive world building Batman #132 fixes just about every problem. The stories are able to flow at a much more natural pace than how they were initially presented in Batman #131. This improvement was especially apparent with the Tim Drake backup story.
The alternate universe that Bruce Wayne finds himself is much better presented in Batman #132. Chip Zdarsky and Mike Hawthorne fully get over how we are in a world where Gotham City is in a much darker spot than the one we know. The opening with Leslie Thompkins and Alfred Pennyworth, who are in a relationship in this universe, perfectly frames the state of this Gotham City. Even without having him say it Alfred has clearly been traumatized by his experiences in Gotham City, likely having to do with the deaths of the Wayne Family that includes this universe’s Bruce Wayne. Alfred’s fearful attitude is complimented by how Leslie is unwilling to turn away from helping others, even as other doctors have fled Gotham City. Zdarsky gets over the relationship quickly while providing the context of how Leslie is the rock of the relationship.
Carrying on that momentum is how Bruce Wayne and his new partner Jewel go about protecting all the people from all GCPD officers enhanced by Venom. The inner monologue by Bruce works to build out the world that this story is set in. Learning that it’s not just Judge Harvey Dent who is using the Venom drug makes Gotham City a much more dangerous place. This adds to how this is a Gotham City that truly lacks hope.
This in turn makes Jewel even more of a standout character. Much like Leslie Thompkins, no matter how bad things have gotten Jewel continues to be a person who still has hope and uses that to use all her skills to help others. Bruce recognizing how Jewel shows characteristics of both Jason Todd and Dick Grayson is a nice shoutout of how Jewel is someone Bruce sees a lot of potential in like all his other proteges.
To her credit, we see just how experienced Jewel is as it is thanks to her knowledge of things like the “Crane Brain” gas that helps push Bruce forward. Zdarsky was careful with how Jewel’s dialogue was written so she doesn’t come across as just a plot device. This goes back to how quickly Bruce and Jewel have been able to develop chemistry with each other that Jewel is a character that stands on her own.
Moving on from there into Bruce trying to find a way back to his universe by trying to talk to the richest person in Gotham City gave us the opportunity to see him return to his billionaire playboy act. What made this work so well is how Zdarsky and Hawthorne show Bruce is out of practice when it comes to undercover work, especially when acting as a playboy billionaire. This is something we haven’t seen Bruce do in years because he’s been in a relationship with Selina Kyle and spends more time than ever as Batman. Bruce getting caught right away by the Selina Kyle of this unknown universe pointed to how out of practice Bruce was in this aspect of his skills.
This also opened up the opportunity to explore more of how different this universe is as we have different versions of Selina Kyle, Punchline, Joker, and Killer Croc appear. Much like Judge Dent, Zdarsky and Hawthorne play up how these are versions of well-known characters in a world without Batman. The way they all appear is how you could see them end up without Batman around. It was particularly interesting to see how this universe’s Joker looked like a normal guy but still had Punchline around as his muscle. Changes like that add to how Bruce is unprepared for the unpredictable way this universe he is in turned out without a Batman.
Experiencing all of that made Bruce finally get motivated to return to being Batman a good way to push forward. He’s been trying to do things with just his wits but that is not enough. Especially in an unknown setting, Bruce needs to start acting more like Batman with being prepared for any situation. How Bruce goes about becoming Batman again will be interesting to see play out.
The one part of the main story that falls flat is the scene with Red Mask and Judge Dent. The scene just did not connect as intended. That is due to how Judge Dent came across as so weak. It doesn’t help that Red Mask was given generic villain dialogue. Red Mask being the Venom distributor makes the villain come across as one-dimensional. And in the process, all this scene accomplishes is burying Judge Dent as a major threat in this story.
The Tim Drake backup story by Zdarsky and Miguel Mendonca has vastly improved this time around. Zdarsky and Mendonca fix just about every issue with the first part of this story. In many ways, the first part now feels unnecessary as this second part gives us all the information we need about Tim Drake’s journey to find and save Bruce.
What was especially well done is that Zdarsky and Mendonca actually showed us what happened with Toy Man. Actually getting the context of how Jon Kent’s Superman stopped Toy Man and the villain committed suicide was a major missing piece to the story. It is what made Jon Kent’s role in the story come across as forced. And because of how well told this part of the story was put over it is surprising Jon didn’t appear in this issue now that we got context to how he ties into things.
That said, Zdarsky does a good job in quickly explaining how Tim used all the information he gather to bring in one of the experts of the Multiverse to help in Mr. Terrific. Mr. Terrific is exactly the character you expect Tim and others to turn to when it comes to things dealing with the Multiverse. This move goes to show how Tim is actually using his experience to actually turn to others for help rather than taking everything on himself, as he has done in the past.
In turning to others for help Zdarsky also puts over how Tim is more than just Robin. He has a whole personal life that weighs on his decisions as Robin. This was by far the best presentation of Tim’s relationship with Bernard since they got together. Their relationship was just a natural part of the story as Tim wanted to have a positive memory of what he is coming back for as he travels the Multiverse in search of Bruce.
Now as for the Multiverse story itself, this is something that Batman #132 doesn’t fully sell. Tim jumping from one universe to another could get old quickly. Hopefully, we don’t see this be stretched out for far too long as Bruce and Tim’s stories would get even better once they merge into one big story told in this series.
Batman #132 improves on both Bruce Wayne and Tim Drake stories that are happening simultaneously in a different universe. How Bruce goes about tackling being in an unknown universe made the Gotham City he finds himself in a more layered world. Similarly, we get a much better-told story of how Tim is going about saving Bruce which makes his story much more intriguing. Hopefully, the rest of the issues of this story can build on this positive momentum.
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10