Gotham War has been a major disappointment. The lack of momentum caused by the hiatus Knight Terrors forced on all DC Comics series has done no favors for Gotham War. Everything from the plot points to character decisions has been rushed. This has all felt like an Elseworld story because of the direction Chip Zdarsky, Tini Howard, and Matthew Rosenberg have gone. Its never too late to fix all the problems with Gotham War. Let’s see if Batman #138 turns things around for the quality of Gotham War.
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
“BATMAN/CATWOMAN: THE GOTHAM WAR PART 4! Batman is on the ropes as the Gotham War heats up following a shocking betrayal! It’s father versus son, teacher versus student in the knockout fourth chapter of this brutal war. But who is really pulling the strings in this explosive event? Thousands of years have led to this moment!” – DC Comics
Batman #138 is certainly a step up from the first three chapters of Gotham War. That is not saying much given the low standard the Batman and Catwoman crossover has established. But in reading Batman #138 it definitely feels as though there is only up from where we were. That doesn’t mean that chapter four of Gotham War fixes all the problems of this crossover. Those problems are still around but at least we have signs of improvement.
Where the sign of improvement comes from is how Chip Zdarsky further integrates Batman of Zur-En-Arrh. By making adjustments in the dialogue Zdarsky builds greater intrigue into the Batman side of things. Throughout Batman #138 we see how Bruce Wayne and Batman of Zur-En-Arrh are blending together. Neither one is in full control but they each have enough influence to create this new personality that’s a blend of Bruce Wayne and Batman of Zur-En-Arrh.
This fusion of the two personalities in Bruce’s mind creates much more intrigue into how he is shown interacting with the Batman Family. There is no simply blaming Batman of Zur-En-Arrh for Bruce’s actions against Jason Todd or Damian Wayne. This is all Bruce’s doing with the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh taking things to the extreme of how to fix things.
Because of how well Zdarsky wrote this version of Bruce it would’ve been better for Gotham War part four to avoid the Catwoman side of the plot. There was absolutely no need to position Nightwing, Robin, and Oracle as being part of Catwoman’s side. The three of them along with the rest of the Batman Family would’ve been better if they were more on neither side. Instead their motivation should’ve been simply stopping Batman as he has clearly gone to the extreme while making Catwoman realize the holes in her plan.
We see in Batman #138 why this position should’ve been the direction for the Batman Family. Playing into one reason for the creation of the Batman Family was to stop Bruce if he ever went to far is such an intriguing story. For all the characters in the DC Universe it is ultimately Batman’s proteges that can stop him. When Batman #138 focuses on this aspect rather than Nightwing and others siding with Catwoman the story is at its best. They are further able to emphasize how this fusion of Bruce Wayne and Batman of Zur-En-Arrh is dangerous.
And we see how this adjustment would’ve made the discovery of what Bruce did to Jason Todd by Nightwing more effective. This should’ve been the moment where Dick Grayson and Tim Drake called out Bruce for all his hypocrisy in dealing with crime and when one his proteges is perceived to break his rules. It would’ve added layers to the conflict that have not been brought up at all.
This would’ve also made Jason Todd’s emotional moment when he discovers what Bruce did more impactful. Bruce changing forcibly changing Jason’s personality fully puts him down the path of the villain. That is something that is not fully committed. Due to that it does feel things are held back because we can’t have Batman be the villain.
As for the Batman vs Nightwing and Robin fight itself, Zdarsky and Jorge Jimenez do deserve credit for no making this be Batman quickly defeating his proteges. Instead, we actually see Nightwing and Robin using Bruce’s current state of mind against him. That is what inevitably helped them make the fight an evenly matched one. That said, it was an odd thing that Zdarsky and Jimenez chose to make Nightwing and Robin look bad at the end by not having them have at least one Batarang or Wing Ding on hand. It was especially odd that it’s not like they ran out since they didn’t use any in the fight.
For all that goes on with Batman, what really helps Gotham War part four be the standout of the crossover is Vandal Savage’s role. The whole tie into Ra’s Al Ghul was unexpected but a welcome surprise. Here is where the story finally gets better as the friendly rivalry between Vandal Savage and Ra’s Al Ghul is something that instantly grabs your attention. Tying both characters in through the Lazarus Pit is an easy but effective development. Nothing more needs to be done to get over their history.
That set-up makes the fact this story is really happening because of Ra’s Al Ghul’s death much more intriguing. Now Vandal Savage is set up to be a long-term threat for the Batman franchise as whole. It all comes across as fresh for the franchise.
Though this development certainly makes Catwoman’s entire plan to stop crime look stupid. There were already clear problems with the tunnel vision Catwoman approached her plan with. But now that it has been revealed Vandal and Scandal Savage have used Catwoman to quickly train a new generation of League of Shadows assassins the weaknesses are all amplified. Catwoman now is nothing more than a tool for another Batman story rather than someone we should see as an equal.
This result once again highlights the rushed nature of Gotham War. Because we didn’t have much of a lead up it lessens the impact of these developments. All it does is treat this as a typical comic book shocking twist that you question why Catwoman wouldn’t see happening. Maybe it’ll be revealed Catwoman knew about Scandal Savage but four parts into Gotham War that is not a credibility that is had.
Batman #138 does not fix any of the problems with Gotham War. If anything chapter four further highlights all the problems with this crossover. The entire Batman Family conflict caused by Gotham War is just poorly executed. Though at least with the Vandal Savage and Batman of Zur-En-Arrh developments there are a few positives take aways from this chapter. That along with Jorge Jimenez great artwork saves Batman #138 from being another bust in the Gotham War crossover.
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10