2020 started with a brand new era for the Batman series with James Tynion took over as the main writer for the series. Tynion teamed up with legendary Batman artist Tony Daniel to begin this new era that picked up with Batman still dealing with the ramifications from Tom King’s final story on his run, “City of Bane.” Things aren’t going easy for Batman as some of the greatest assassins in the DC Universe have shown up in Gotham City to come after him. Why they have shown up in Gotham City and how it relates to what Joker is doing in the background is anyone’s guess. Let’s find out if we can clear that up with Batman #87.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Guillem March
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Somewhere in Gotham City Riddler (who looks like he is nothing but skin and bones after using military-grade mind-enhancing amphetamines to stay up for three straight months) contacts Penguin. Riddler tells Penguin that Deathstroke, Cheshire, Merlyn, Gunsmith and Mr. Teeth have all shown up in Gotham City after taking up the most expensive open contract on the market.
Penguin states he already knows about this and he has already been cleaning up his inner circle in preparation. Riddler fears that someone named “The Designer” is coming to start a war in order to collect something they are owed. Penguin says they can try if they like.
Over at One Police Plaza the police find Deathstroke, Cheshire, Merlyn, Gunsmith and Mr. Teeth tied up with their weapons on the ground. Commissioner Harvey Bullock tells the other GCPD cops to arrest the assassins.
Nearby, Batman contacts Catwoman about what she has found. Catwoman tells Batman that she found something strange about someone trying to replace the Wayne Enterprise rebuild project and sends the information over to Lucius Fox to analyze.
Catwoman then expresses concern over how this play for the Wayne rebuild project and five assassins showing up in the city are happening at the same time. Catwoman tells Batman to be careful as someone else may have designs of their own for Gotham City.
Batman then goes to meet Commissioner Bullock, who is not a fan of his new role since he knows he is a just holding the seat for someone else. Commissioner Bullock does not show signs of positivity as he goes into how he thinks Deathstroke is likely to kill him before a permanent GCPD Commissioner is found.
Batman asks if Deathstroke and the others have been securely taken to The Black Block. Commissioner Bullock says they have. When he is about to ask who is responsible for all this Batman disappears.
Over at the Black Block, Batman shows up while thinking of how he created the prison in order to have a place to securely imprison high-level criminals.
Batman goes to talk with Deathstroke to try to discover who is responsible for the contract on him. Deathstroke says he is not going to talk about what he knows and that Batman shouldn’t waste his time with asking the others since he is the only one that knows the full details of what The Designer’s plans are. Batman says he will find out who hired him by dismantling Deathstroke’s bank accounts. Deathstroke reveals that would do nothing since he isn’t being paid monetarily.
As Batman is walking away he suddenly suspects something. He orders Commissioner Bullock to open Cheshire’s cell. Batman touches Cheshire’s face and finds out that she has been replaced with a body double using clay.
Batman quickly runs out to look for Cheshire. He has Lucius (who had to be woken up since he is not used to the late hours) to track down Cheshire for him. Lucius quickly finds Cheshire and recommends Batman use the Bat-Shot to get to her.
When Batman is able to get a visual on Cheshire from his Batjet he launches himself out using the Bat-Shot (what looks to be a motorize luge). Batman is able to drive through traffic and catches up to Cheshire on her bike.
Seeing Batman behind her Cheshire jumps off her bike and on top of Batman. She immediately using the poison in her nails to stab Batman in the neck. Cheshire mocks Batman, asking him for his last words. Batman tells Cheshire to brace herself. Cheshire turns around and is hit by a truck driver, with Batman using the fact that the Bat-Shot is so low to the ground he drives under the truck.
Batman gets off the Bat-Shot and tells a heavily injured Cheshire that he had cures for her poison in his suit ready for if she was able to pierce his Batsuit. Cheshire reveals that her job was just to keep Batman busy since not all the players for the game they are playing have been revealed.
Back at the Black Block, Deathstroke talks to Commissioner Bullock about how much he appreciates those that value precision and starts counting down. When he finishes the countdown Deathstroke, Merlyn, Gunsmith and Mr. Teeth all open and they quickly take down the GCPD guards.
Deathstroke tells the others that they need to do things quickly as they only have 90 seconds to get out of Black Block. Deathstroke reveals the person who hired them said to keep Commissioner Bullock and the others alive as they all have a role in their greater plan.
Penguin suddenly comes over the intercom system. Penguin tells Deathstroke that he and his employer stole something for him. Since that happened Penguin is going to take actions that will give him the advantage.
Penguin is then shown to be in the security room of the Black Block. End of issue.
The Good: Batman #87 is a step in the right direction after a solid start for James Tynion’s run on this series. Across the board Tynion had a better handling of all the character he is using for “Their Dark Designs” arc. But while the improvements for the portrayal of the majority of those who appear in Batman #87 there is a major problem with the full execution of the villains story.
Much like the previous issue, where Batman #87 excels is with how Tynion puts over the fact that Batman is now putting even more on his shoulders in the post-City of Bane world. Through all of Batman’s dialogue Tynion nails the fact that there is something off about how Bruce Wayne is handling things. There is a level of concern in all of Batman’s dialogue and inner monologue that wasn’t there before. This gives more weight to how things did change through the course of King’s run beyond personal relationships.
Catwoman being the one to point out how Batman is not acting like he normally does helps to further that narrative. Given all that the two have been through there is no one that knows Batman better than Catwoman. Even through their witty banter we see how Catwoman notices the little things, such as the way Batman is talking to her, that is a warning sign that things aren’t going smoothly on his end. It’s all a great way to keep emphasizing the importance of Batman and Catwoman’s relationship.
On a further fallout from recent events, Batman creating a new prison holding cell for supervillains called The Black Block is understandable. We saw how badly places like Arkham Asylum have worked in properly imprisoning with Bane using it to convert all of Batman’s villains into his soldiers. Given how Batman talked about the Black Block facility it’ll be interesting to see how he responds with how easily it seemed Deathstroke and the others escaped.
Speaking of Deathstroke, Tynion does a great job writing the character as an assassin that only cares about the score. Adding in the fact that Deathstroke is not being paid with money was a nice touch to show the reader that there is more going on than even Batman realizes. This adds an additional layer to whoever this Designer character is as they clearly are after more than just monetary or political gain. Deathstroke being the one to communicate that helps to push him back into serving an important role down the line even after Batman defeated him in the previous issue.
What I found most interesting in all this is the fact that Batman found a body double that used clay for the Cheshire fake. This seems to indicate that Clayface or a related character may be involved with whoever The Designer is. That would not be surprising to find out given how Tynion has had an affinity for writing Clayface thanks to his run in Detective Comics not to long ago. During that run Clayface was an integral part to Tynion’s stories. With the small time jump between the present and when City of Bane happened there is a lot of room for Tynion to potentially explain this.
Furthermore, bringing Riddler and Penguin into play as secondary players in the power struggle with Gotham City was an interesting wrinkle. It furthers the fact that there is a large power vacuum right now with Gotham City being taken back by Batman and Catwoman after Bane had the villains take over. Riddler and Penguin, particularly the latter, not just sitting back to let things return to the status quo is a reminder that City of Bane did have ramifications throughout the city. In portraying Penguin in this way Tynion is able to use what came before him to elevate Batman’s villains as he develops his own story.
With all that said the part of Batman #87 that stood out the most was the continuing relationship between Bruce Wayne and Lucius Fox. Tynion has made the right choice not to drive the fact that Lucius is not Alfred into the ground. Everything about how Lucius is able to support Bruce’s adventures as Batman all falls in line with the character. There is a distinct difference with how Bruce and Lucius interact as the banter between them has a different energy from when Alfred filled this support role.
Also, by slowly developing the chemistry between Bruce and Lucius we are being given time to get comfortable in the new status quo. This helps giving a foundation for future Batman stories to build on as Lucius brings a different skill set to the table. Throughout their interaction in Batman #87 Tynion plants seeds for how he will deal with things on a more personal level. Which will be important for when Bruce and Lucius interact in person, something we’ve yet to see in this arc.
Guillem March does a great job stepping and taking over the main art duties from Tony Daniels without skipping a beat in terms of the style for “Their Dark Designs” to stay consistent. While matching Daniels’ style March adds in his own flare to the action throughout Batman #87. He nails the tone of how Tynion is taking things in a darker direction as Batman, Deathstroke, Penguin and the mysterious “Designer” all have plans for Gotham City.
Credit for the consistency in the artwork must also go to Tomeu Morey’s coloring. Morey’s coloring plays an important role in making sure the tone that Daniels previously established continues into what March brings to the table as an artist.
The Bad: For all the things that Tynion gets right in Batman #87 the story does end up stumbling when it comes to how it puts the current DC Universe continuity. There are various choices in terms of where characters are that does not line up where many readers will remember the characters being the last time they appeared. We open up with a big example of that as the Riddler’s appearance in no way matches how we last saw him in City of Bane.
Even when there is an editor’s note added in to try to explain why Riddler appears like this there isn’t much context given. All we are led to believe is that Riddler has gone crazy. Which goes against how the character has been established over the last decade. There is just too much missing in the way of context to make the state we find Riddler make sense.
The same goes with the way Tynion tackles the fact that James Gordon has been turned into one Batman Who Laughs Infected characters. Tynion avoiding bringing up this as the reason why Harvey Bullock has taken over as the new temporary Commissioner of the GCPD was a missed opportunity. Tynion could’ve added weight to Bullock’s current mentality by feeling like he is missing not only his boss but someone who has been a friend. It would’ve been something that added to why the character is in an even more negative place when talking about his current role and the assassins in Gotham City.
By only slightly touching on what is going on across the DC Universe there are likely a lot of readers that will be loss because of all this. There are way to many things going on that it should not be expected that everyone is reading things like Hell Arisen, Superman, Year of the Villain one shots and other such comics. That is a lot to be invested in to keep up with. But now that Tynion has gone in on using these parts of the DCU’s current continuity he will hopefully do more to given context for readers that are only reading Batman.
Overall: Batman #87 was a solid continuation to how James Tynion kicked off his run on this series. There are a lot of great plot elements that Tynion develops around Batman’s current plans for Gotham City and how villains like Deathstroke and Penguin are responding. Unfortunately there were a few slip ups when it comes to how the DC Universe’s current continuity was applied that hurt Batman #87’s momentum. Improving this aspect of the storytelling will be a major help in ensuring the “Their Dark Designs” arc establishing a strong foundation for the rest of Tynion’s run on Batman.
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