Gotham War is finally over. In its wake Bruce Wayne is back to being a loner without the strong ties to the rest of the Batman Family he has had the last decade. That’s not good news for Bruce as he has been clearly dealing with a lot of mental health problems. That has all been made worse as the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh personality has broken through to talk directly to Bruce in a “devil on the shoulder” role. Which could be made worse by the Joker returning to make Batman’s life worse. Let’s see how things go with Batman #139.
Writer: Chip Zdarsky (Mind Bomb and The Savage Garden of Gotham)
Artist: Jorge Jimenez (Mind Bomb); Jorge Corona (The Savage Garden of Gotham)
Colorist: Tomeu Morey (Mind Bomb); Ivan Plascencia (The Savage Garden of Gotham)
Letterer: Clayton Cowles (Mind Bomb and The Savage Garden of Gotham)
“NEW STORY ARC BEGINS! BATMAN VS. THE JOKER, MORE BRUTAL THAN EVER! Following the cataclysmic events of “The Gotham War,” Batman finds himself completely isolated from his family, struggling to keep the rage of Zur in check. But he can’t stop, because he’s out there, haunting the city, taunting the Dark Knight: The Joker. And the new Batman is ready to stop him once and for all. “Mind Bomb” begins!” – DC Comics
No matter how poorly Gotham War turned out there is no denying that the fallout being Bruce Wayne being an isolated loner hero is an intriguing one. It’s a status quo that is certainly familiar. What makes it intriguing is that Chip Zdarsky is the one writing this version of Bruce Wayne. Zdarsky proved through his Daredevil run he knows how to write a compelling narrative around a well-connected hero who takes things on all himself. That is a fact Zdarsky, along with Jorge Jimenez, confirms we should have trust in executing well with Batman #139.
As with his work on Daredevil, what made Batman #139 a success was how Zdarsky respects what came before. It’s not just the work of his creative run on Batman thus far. It is also respect for what it has meant for Bruce Wayne over the last few years to embracing having strong family connections. This bond with the Batman Family being broken will have a major impact on Bruce. We see that with how much Bruce tries to convince himself he is comfortable being a loner vigilante again.
This is where Batman #139 is at its best. While Bruce is a veteran vigilante he is a different hero when operating completely alone. Whether he sees it or not the way he goes about being Batman leans much more into the dark fear aspect of the character. We see that in the opening with how the woman he saved from a mugging was as scared of Batman as she was of her mugger. There is this aura that Bruce exudes as Batman that is frightening.
While this makes dealing with normal criminals a breeze its completely different when dealing with his rogues gallery. Being narrow focused on dealing with the Joker showed this. Joker plays into Batman being darker and more brooding to manipulate him. Joker knew exactly the buttons to push to constantly surprise Batman. There was no mental or physical preparations this version of Batman could’ve made to be prepared.
Zdarsky leaning into how Joker constantly changes the way he represents chaos to reflect Batman’s form of order was incredible. Zdarsky tapped into the horror villain aspect of Joker. There were enough adjustments so this wasn’t simply the Joker we saw during Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run, that also leaned into horror. This was a Joker who will use unsettling Annabelle-like dolls and mannequins while also using grand theatrics of sitting on a throne.
What makes this presentation of Joker so intriguing is that he is fully using the fact he knows Batman is Bruce Wayne. Joker doesn’t care that Bruce the person is Batman. What he does care about is how he can use all of Bruce’s history, both shared and apart, to drive Batman crazy.
This feeds in well into the continued degradation of Bruce’s mental state. Joker’s actions in Batman #139 was the final trigger that the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh needed to take control of Bruce. For as much as he tried to block out Batman of Zur-En-Arrh Bruce is at a point that has become almost impossible. That leads into a strong hook ending where we see all the versions of Bruce has been taken over by Batman of Zur-En-Arrh.
All of the success Zdarsky reaches with Batman #139 is elevated by Jorge Jimenez phenomenal artwork. Jimenez does a great job at making adjustments to his style to reflect the version of Batman that Bruce is right now. Bruce carries himself with a darker edge both in his new secret identity and as Batman. It works well into how while Bruce may not see it his approach to being Batman has changed a bit. Jimenez also does a great job with this version of Joker. Joker has a new horror vibe to his character that does appear to be a continuation of how the character has been adapting since Joker War.
Keeping up the momentum from the main story of Batman #139, the Vandal Savage back-up story by Zdarsky and Jorge Corona did well to establish the character’s status quo post-Gotham War. During Gotham War, Vandal Savage unfortunately suffered with his presentation being that of a generic comic book villain. Zdarsky and Corona fix that by driving in the new connection Vandal has to Gotham City.
While Vandal accomplished his goal of maintaining his immortality that is now something tied to being in Gotham City. The farther he gets away from Gotham City the more he loses all his powers as an immortal and becomes a regular human being. This creates a scenario where Vandal has to make Gotham City his home. Which should lead into Vandal utilizing his ownership of Wayne Manor and the Batcave to his advantage.
Hopefully what this also leads to is Zdarsky following up on Bruce telling Dick Grayson he is leaving Gotham City’s protection to the Batman Family. This should provide the likes of Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, and Duke Thomas a chance at the spotlight as they take the responsibility of dealing with Vandal. If not that would be a waste of the ending of Gotham War.
Batman #139 gets the series back on track in the post-Gotham War world. Chip Zdarsky and Jorge Jimenez do an excellent job at examining Bruce Wayne’s character in and out of being Batman. That examination is elevated by the presentation of Joker to create a new chapter in the iconic rivalry. Add in a Vandal Savage back-up story that shows potential, Batman #139 is a great fresh start for the series.
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