There is no time to rest for the Batman Family as right after Knight Terrors they have all been thrusted in a war between Batman and Catwoman titled “Gotham War.” This latest crossover event for the Batman franchise will be taking place in the pages of Chip Zdarsky’s Batman and Tini Howard’s Catwoman series. The reason for this event is due to Selina Kyle taking it upon herself to clean up crime in Gotham City by teaching thugs to be high class thieves like herself. Based on what we learned in Batman/Catwoman: The Gotham War – Battle Lines #1 this plan has been successful in bringing down crime by 75% in Gotham City. Though the plan is successful Batman is not bought into a plan that is training individuals to be better criminals and is in direct opposition to what Selina Kyle is doing. With Batman and Catwoman at war can Gotham City survive? Let’s find out how this difference in opinions goes with Batman #137.
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Over a two night span Batman stops four of Catwoman’s graduates along with Fright, Scorpiana, and Vox (who Selina Kyle also trained). When Selina hears this from Marquise she makes a call to Red Hood.
The next day Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Stephanie Brown, Tim Drake, and Jason Todd talk and are in agreement to find a way to get Bruce off his “moral ledge.”
Elsewhere Two-Face, Scarecrow, Black Mask, Professor Pyg, Mad Hatter, Firefly, Mister Zsasz, and The Ventriloquist & Scarface make plans to take back control of Gotham City.
Batman is shown taking out Marquise and trainees at Selina Kyle’s facility. Red Hood quickly gets to the facility but is overpowered by Batman. Robin, Nightwing, Batgirls (Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain), and The Signal show up. Batman uses his knowledge of his proteges to stand his ground. As the battle goes on Nightwing is able to use his speed advantage to get a clean hit on Batman. Red Hood follows up by kicking Batman out of the building.
When Red Hood attempts to follow up Robin (Damian Wayne) shows up and helps Batman get out of the scene.
Elsewhere Catwoman and Lady Clayface successfully break Fright, Scorpiana, and Vox free. Selina then learns from Marquis about Batman’s attack on her facility.
The next day Bruce learns that someone bought Wayne Manor.
Bruce as Batman rushes off to the Batcave to secure it as he believes Selina bought Wayne Manor. Batman of Zur-En-Arrh speaks to Bruce about locking down Wayne Manor and the Batcave as they need it to fight back.
Suddenly Vandal Savage shows up in the Batcave, revealing he is the one who bought Wayne Manor and knows Batman is Bruce Wayne. End of issue.
The Gotham War: Battle Lines one-shot did a lot to try to make up for the lost time in order to sell this Batman and Catwoman-led crossover event. For the most part there was a lot of benefit to the doubt being given to the concept of this crossover. But now that we get into the second chapter of Gotham War it’s clear that the two month break caused by Knight Terrors is an anchor around the creative direction. And if Batman #137 is any indication that anchor will be to heavy of a lift and breaks the foundation.
A lot of the problems that Batman #137 runs into is how rushed the set-up for Gotham War is. That is most clear by the fact that Chip Zdarsky had to immediately rush Nightwing, Oracle, Tim Drake’s Robin, Batgirls, and Red Hood’s part of the story in order to create conflict. It seems as though Zdarsky, and by extension Tini Howard, fell in love with a story about Batman vs Batman Family that they wanted to get to that part of the story right away. It did not matter how they got there.
The worst part of it all is how out-of-character Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Stephanie Brown, Tim, and Duke Thomas sounded. Their zoom chat meeting came across as though they were actors forced to read a script just to move the plot. This did not sound like the characters we know. Especially with how their solution to “reason” with Batman turns out to be them simply cornering him in a way that it would end in no other way than a fight between them and Bruce.
Which gets down to a major fault in this story being that there are only two sides. The way Zdarsky and Howard are presenting things is that our heroes can either fall on Batman or Catwoman’s side. This is all ignoring all other storyline developments in the Batman Family titles. Specifically, one that comes to mind is Nightwing’s direction to successfully turn Bludhaven into a city of hope and place people wat to live through the work of the Alfred Pennyworth Foundation. The fact that this or any other option are ignored by the rest of the Batman Family make them look terribly.
It doesn’t help that the Batman Family is well aware of the extremes in Batman and Catwoman’s approaches. Even when acknowledging it they appear to not see other options. They are completely being treated as children forced to choose between the side of their divorced parents. Which in turn makes the entire foundation of Gotham War feel flimsy.
The only Batman Family members that makes sense in terms of side that they choose are Jason Todd and Damian Wayne. With Jason, Zdarsky at least spends time to develop his perspective of why he is siding with Selina right out of the gate. For Damian, while his relationship with his father hasn’t always been the best, he has shown loyalty to Bruce’s mission.
On a positive note, one aspect of this Gotham War story does a good job tackling is showing how Batman and Catwoman fighting is opening the door for the Rogues Gallery to do their own thing. While Selina Kyle’s plan was to weaken the forces at Gotham City’s villains’ disposal she missed a very important thing. That thing is that she is not actually dealing with the core of the problem being these villains. And as Batman’s Rogues Gallery has shown throughout the decades of history is that they evolve with the times.
The meeting between Two-Face, Scarecrow, Black Mask, Professor Pyg, Mad Hatter, Firefly, Mister Zsasz, and The Ventriloquist & Scarface is an example of that. Selina may think she is weaking these villains but what she may have done is actually make them be more creative and work together. While they all certainly have their egos that will no doubt make any alliance short-lived there is a lot of potential in seeing how they evolve their approach in response to Selina’s plan.
This also feeds into how the greatest weakness in Selina’s plan is that she appears to be overconfident in her plan. There isn’t contingencies in place for Batman taking down her facility or villains counter-attack. Selina can’t simply lean on how in two short months her plan successfully cut crime by 75%. We’ve seen this type of thing be short-lived. Selina will need to widen her vision of the impact her plan has or else she will not see these and other things that could completely break what she has built.
On another positive note, the sub-plot of Bruce continuing to feel his age and injuries as Batman is a fascinating one. The subtle ways this continues to be called back to is well done. Specifically we see this come up how while Batman knew how to counter Nightwing’s fighting style he was to slow to respond. This adds to why Bruce is likely more mentally susceptible to the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh temptations buried deep in his mind.
The wild card in all of this is Vandal Savage’s surprise appearance at the end of Batman #137. This is a twist that will be a wait and see. Vandal Savage certainly brings a his own credibility that can help recover this storyline. But with how things have gone with Gotham War so far the confidence this will help the story isn’t there.
For how rushed the entire storyline of Gotham War is Batman #137 was at least a great looking issue. Jorge Jimenez once again knocks it out of the park. Jimenez makes Gotham War look like a big event. When the Red Hood, Robin, Nightwing, Batgirls, and The Signal confront Batman it has a big fight feel. Even if it did not make sense with how out-of-character the creative decision was it at least looked like a cool fight.
Batman #137 spotlights all the problems with Gotham War as the Batman Family are portrayed out-of-character and the weaknesses on Batman and Catwoman’s sides are clear. There is just no hiding how rushed this event has been right out of the gate. The saving grace on the writing side of this rushed storyline is the potential roles Batman’s Rogues Gallery and a surprise DC Universe villain can play. That along with Jorge Jimenez incredible artwork save Batman #137 from being a complete loss.
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10