The post-Dark Crisis On Infinite Earths’ direction took some time to get going. The opening to “The Bat-Man Of Gotham” and “The Toy Box” stories was slower than expected but started picking up heavily in the previous issue of Batman. Chip Zdarsky has used the momentum created by the opening chapters to get you bought into what type of Multiverse story he is telling with both Bruce Wayne and Tim Drake. Now with the stories put over what is coming next for the current Dynamic Duo dealing with their own Multiverse stories? Let’s find out with Batman #134.
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artists: Mike Hawthorne (The Bat-Man Of Gotham); Miguel Mendonca (The Toy Box)
Inker: Adriano Di Benedetto (The Bat-Man Of Gotham)
Colorists: Tomeu Morey (The Bat-Man Of Gotham); Roman Stevens (The Toy Box)
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Underground after finding Lex Luthor, Barry Allen, and others locked up and experimented on Batman runs into Red Mask (Darwin Halliday)
Halliday reveals that due to a lab accident, he witnessed all the experiences of other versions of himself from the Multiverse that were all Joker. After revealing all his current Multiverse experiments to ultimately become Joker, Halliday releases “Crane Brain” toxin throughout Gotham City in order to fully tap into the Multiversal Energy he has brought together. He then traps Batman and runs away.
Batman is able to escape but he is confronted by Ghost-Breaker (this universe’s Venomized version of Ghost-Maker). Batman uses his knowledge of Ghost-Maker to fight Ghost-Breaker to a standstill.
Suddenly prisoners captured by Red Mask rush at Batman who include a version of Superman. Batman rolls his eyes and yells out to Superman “I WALK AS A MAN BUT I AM YOUR NIGHTMARE” which causes Superman to fly off scared.
As Batman rushes to stop the “Crane Brain” gas thousands are already infected and going crazy in Gotham City.
Batman is able to eventually stop the gas but Ghost-Breaker cuts off his right hand in the process.
When Crimson (this universe’s Venomized Punchline) tells this to Red Mask, Halliday decides to release his army of Leatherwings (this universe’s version of Man-Bat) who are strapped with “Crane Brain” tanks. End of the main story.
Batman #134 solved the one thing that was still holding “The Bat-Man Of Gotham” storyline back and that was the story’s lead villain: Red Mask. Even as Bruce Wayne’s arc got more interesting Red Mask has been coming across as a generic villain up to this point. Now Chip Zdarsky has solved that and elevated the entire storyline in the process.
Red Mask’s Darwin Halliday being this universe’s Joker wasn’t surprising. Nor was the revelation of him experiencing the life of the Multiverse versions of himself that became Joker. After seeing so many different versions of Joker, including the Batman Who Laughs, this type of Multiverse swerve isn’t huge. What did make the revelation around Darwin Halliday is how Zdarsky went about showcasing the character. Adding in how Darwin Halliday was experimenting on not only people from his universe but those he kidnapped from other universes, including Superman, Barry Allen, and Lex Luthor, took things to another level.
What made it better for getting over Darwin Halliday as a villain was how he reveled in the evil he was committing. Darwin Halliday was unapologetic in how bad of a person he was. Not only that but he was doing it all to only benefit himself and himself alone. There are no shades of grey with Darwin Halliday as Red Mask and it was quite refreshing. This made how everything was thrown at Batman stronger as you continue to hope our hero stops Red Mask.
Specifically having Red Mask’s universe version of Ghost-Maker and Superman confront Batman was a great choice. With Superman, we saw how Batman used all his knowledge of Clark Kent to scare off his best friend. It was a great moment of just Bruce getting into full Batman mode. Mike Hawthorne did an excellent job at showing Batman utilizing the Undertaker rolling his eyes to the back of his head to add to the fear Batman was exuding against Superman.
On the Ghost-Maker front, having his Ghost-Breaker was a great boss-level threat that Batman had to constantly fight off. Zdarsky and Hawthorne did a good job at showing how Batman could only fight Ghost-Breaker back but not knock him down. This worked with how even when Batman was successful in shutting down the “Crane Brain” gas tanks he paid the price of getting his right hand getting cut off.
With Batman now severely injured Red Mask revealing he had the Leatherwings as a backup plan to spread the “Crane Brain” gas was a strong hook ending. This sets up Jewel and Selina Kyle to take a bigger role in the story. We saw that established with how they were the only ones standing up to defend Gotham City. It’ll be interesting to see if other heroes, possibly ones Red Mask imprisoned, also appear to help Batman out.
Speaking of help, the backup story continued to build up Tim Drake’s journey to find and save Bruce Wayne in a strong way. Zdarsky does a great job of highlighting how Tim is motivated to save his mentor. Not only that but we also see that Tim is aware that he can’t leave Gotham City as is.
Little decisions like having Superman pose as Batman to make the criminals believe the Dark Knight is a great move. This shows how while Tim and the others are confident in their abilities and skills they know what Batman signifies in Gotham City. By having Superman help in a Batman costume for a quick appearance Tim is able to buy himself time to go on this Multiverse journey to save Bruce.
Zdarsky also applied Tim’s current status quo well with how the side mission ended up with him meeting an alternate version of his mom. Since this was another universe we saw Tim open up to his mom in a different way. It was very heartwarming to see Tim have this open conversation with his mom. You can see how much it meant to Tim to have this moment as this Multiverse journey was his one shot to get this.
This was also a good utilization of the method of traveling through the Multiverse that Zdarsky and Miguel Mendonca employed. Having it be through Tim’s thoughts was handled well. Mendoca’s art shined in these moments as you can tell Tim’s mind was everywhere. By meeting his mom Tim was able to get a new focus to narrow in on finding Bruce. This paid off with how when Tim went into the Bleed again that he was narrowing his focus on his Bruce Wayne and we saw that through the flashes of different versions of Batman.
Chip Zdarsky and Mike Hawthorne elevated “The Bat-Man Of Gotham” story to a new level by putting Red Mask over as the bad guy you love to hate. Learning about Red Mask’s motivation and ties to Batman put the main story on another level. Then when you add the heartwarming developments in the Tim Drake backup story by Zdarsky and Miguel Mendonca Batman #134 was a big win.
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10