After a wild trip through the Multiverse Bruce Wayne is back in the prime DC Universe. Given his recent direction we don’t know how long Bruce will stay in his universe. But upon his return Bruce will have a lot to catch up on as a lot has gone on during his absence. Especially considering he had no time to catch up with the state of Gotham City and the DC Universe post-Dark Crisis On Infinite Earths. What surprise await Bruce Wayne? Let’s find out with Batman #136.
Writers: Chip Zdarsky (“Dusk To Dawn” and “The Plans Below” )
Artists: Belen Ortega (Dusk To Dawn); Jorge Corona (The Plans Below)
Colorists: Tomeu Morey (Dusk To Dawn); Ivan Plascencia (The Plans Below)
Letterer: Clayton Cowles (“Dusk To Dawn” and “The Plans Below” )
After getting check on for residual effects of Multiverse Energy by Mr. Terrific, Bruce Wayne is updated about Selina Kyle jailbreak from Tim Drake.
Trying to regain focus before going on patrol as Batman, Bruce has a confrontation with Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, who tells Bruce he needs him because Batman can’t be weak.
After an hour of this Bruce breaks out of his trance and goes out on patrol.
Batman goes to confront Addison and Aiden Cobblepot (Penguin’s twin children) to make sure they know to fear him. Batman is surprised when Aiden is able to overpower him in their fight. Batman is forced to use the strength of his robotic hand to break Aiden’s arm.
Having delivered his message Batman then finds Selina Kyle, who was using a disguise to get around the city.
Finding a private spot Bruce and Selina talk about the secrets they keep from each other, including Bruce’s trip to another universe and the existence of Batman of Zur-En-Arrh.
Afterwards Bruce is tipped of that someone broke into Wayne Manor.
Rushing to check it out Bruce is surprised to find Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, Jason Todd, Cassandra Cain, Duke Thomas, and Damian Wayne cooking breakfast food. When Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon arrive they reveal they tipped off the sensors to on purpose get Bruce to come for a family dinner.
When sitting down and trying to enjoy his time with the Batman Family he hallucinates everyone covered in flames. End of issue.
Chip Zdarksy and Belen Ortega waste no time in getting across the long-term character arc Bruce Wayne will be on during Dawn Of DC. Batman #136 utilizes both the Failsafe and Bat-Man Of Gotham storylines to begin telling what is next for Bruce. What is next for Bruce is going to test him both physically and mentally.
While not directly tying into one another it is good to see the running theme for Bruce Wayne in both Batman and Detective Comics is dealing with him passing his prime. He is neither in prime form where he could push through all kinds of pain, or an old man like in Kingdom Come and Dark Knight Returns. Bruce is now dealing with being an aging hero who is slowing down for many reasons. And not all of them are age related.
This is where Zdarsky and Ortega excel as storytellers together. Throughout Batman #136 we see how Bruce can’t just get back into being Batman like he normally has in the past. He has gone through three massive events back-to-back with Dark Crisis On Infinite Earths, Failsafe and Bat-Man Of Gotham. When you combine how he was pushed in those three stories along with him getting older recovering is not so simple. Both the dialogue and artwork get across how Bruce was reacting to everything he experienced in Batman #136.
We see a great example of that with Batman’s confronting the Penguin Twins. Batman went back to business as usual expecting he would easily get the Penguin Twins fear him. Even when that did not happen, and Aiden Cobblepot started fighting him Batman was still confident this would be easy. That made the reality check he had when Aiden overpowered something that placed another spotlight on him not being in his prime.
The moment that Batman uses his robot hand is reminiscent of the opening scene for Batman Beyond. While it wasn’t the extreme of Batman forced to use the threat of a gun to his advantage it hit in a similar manner. Especially considering what he had been through before this fight you could see in that moment Bruce realizing his approach to being Batman has to evolve.
All of this made the return of Batman of Zur-En-Arrh have even greater significance. Even though Bruce is human, Batman has always been positioned in a similar God-like manner that Superman, Wonder Woman, and the rest of the Big Seven are presented. Batman of Zur-En-Arrh pushes that narrative as he reveals part of his presence is to emphasize to Bruce that Batman cannot show weakness. This twist in what Batman of Zur-En-Arrh represents within Bruce’s mind is a great hook. Now Zdarsky has this element that he can further explore what Batman represents.
Because of what Batman of Zur-En-Arrh I made how often we saw Bruce in his costume without wearing the cowl stand out even more. This creative decision gave more emotional weight to what Bruce is going internally. It comes out in different ways through the interactions we see him have with Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, Selina Kyle, and the Batman Family.
The interaction with Batman of Zur-En-Arrh was contrasted with the scene between Bruce and Selina Kyle. Since getting secretly married Bruce and Selina have been living their own lives. And we see how the last year’s worth of events in their lives as Batman and Catwoman, respectively, has impacted their relationship. Even if its only been a few months since they saw each other their experience has brought to the forefront the secrets they keep from each other. That all boils over here as the secret keeping is going to become an even bigger deal if they do plan to continue to trying be in each other lives.
With all that Bruce goes through it was great to see that Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, Jason Todd, Cassandra Cain, Duke Thomas, and Damian Wayne are active about being their for him. The last few years we’ve seen the Batman Family more united than ever and tricking Bruce to have dinner with them was a reminder of this. For everything they have been through Bruce has a family he has built that won’t just simply let him live a solitary life. We saw that with how Tim did not give up searching for him through the Multiverse and now with this brinner they hosted.
It made Bruce hallucinating the Batman Family catching on fire even more heartbreaking. Bruce is clearly not mentally well. And as we saw throughout Batman #136 it is not easy for Bruce to admit anything about what is going on with his mental and physical state. This creates even more interest in seeing how Zdarsky will handle Bruce’s relationship with his family and others in Gotham in and out of being Batman.
The back-up story by Zdarsky and artist Jorge Corona involving the period when Bruce allowed the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh to take control was well done. It complimented the scene with Batman Zur-En-Arrh that we got in the main story. We got to see yet another example of how this perfectionist side of Batman is what many visualize Batman to be if he took off his limiters.
Batman #136 does a fantastic job utilizing everything Bruce Wayne has been through the last year to get into what Bruce Wayne’s Dawn Of DC status quo will be. Whether it’s age, mental health, or strain from all the big event battles he’s been through, Bruce is of the same as he was before. This creates an ominous cloud around the direction of Batman as he is tested in unknown ways. That all creates even greater intrigue to find out what Chip Zdarsky and company have planned next.
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