James Tynion IV has had a mixed start to his run on Batman with “Their Dark Designs.” The story has had an equal amount of good and bad. Each issue has had the good and the bad of this storyline balance each other back. That balance hasn’t been the best for making the Designer the epic villain Tynion is trying to make him. While that is the case right now the ending of Batman #91 with the Designer and Riddler revealing they have teamed up was a strong step in the right direction for this series. Now will Tynion take that hook ending to give the final parts of “Their Dark Designs” a strong ending? Let’s find out with Batman #92.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Guillem March
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Commissioner Harvey Bullock shows up a hospital to arrest Penguin, who was taken there to have his wounds healed. Penguin reminds Commissioner Bullock that he is in the state he is in because the people the GCPD were supposed to have in custody, which his lawyer backs up. While this pisses off Commissioner Bullock his attention is taken away to what is going down in the city as one of the GCPD officers shows all the screens have turned green.
Throughout Gotham City the Riddler announces he has a game for everyone: a crossword with the entire city being the grid with correct letter guesses connecting the city blocks together. The Riddler goes on to state that once the crossword is fully solved Gotham City will open back up but Batman will have to act as their champion. He then reminds Batman that there is no cheating and bombs will go off with every wrong guess.
In the sewers Harley Quinn wonders why they aren’t using some sort of secret superhero tunnel to get to the bad guys. Catwoman says she isn’t feeling heroic at the moment and quickly changes the subject. Harley Quinn notices something in the sewer water that makes her think they found the bad guys.
Just then the mind controlled GCPD officers pop out of the sewer water. Catwoman and Harley Quinn begin fighting them all off.
Elsewhere Batman and Deathstroke fight through the wave of people that the Riddler has under mind control. Batman tells Deathstroke to go with him into the subway as Riddler continues to mock them. Batman gets frustrated and demands Riddler ask him the questions to the crossword.
After answering the first two questions Batman summons his Bat-Train. Riddler questions this move but Batman tells the villain to keep asking his crossword puzzle questions.
As Batman and Deathstroke travel using the Bat-Train the Riddler grows angrier and angrier as Batman is able to answer all his crossword puzzle questions. Seeing how Riddler is letting his anger get the best of him Batman actually smiles. Riddler then says he has another riddle.
Elsewhere, Catwoman and Harley Quinn continue to fight through the wave of mind controlled GCPD officers. Suddenly the Dealmaker working for the Designer opens a door for Catwoman and Harley Quinn after Catwoman reveals she has the account number for the Designer’s club ready.
Inside the secret facility the Doorman reveals that there is another party that has created a conflict of interest. Catwoman and Harley Quinn notice that Joker’s gang is in the facility. Catwoman questions how this isn’t sticking to their deal. The Dealmaker says he is always open to a plan that benefits everyone.
Punchline shows up and says that she is the one who will be ending things. Harley Quinn wonders if Punchline is one of her fans. Punchline says she is not and that she is going to be the one to rob the bank Catwoman was planning to rob first. Catwoman realizes that Punchline is Joker’s new girlfriend. Punchline says she is Joker’s partner.
Harley Quinn and Punchline proceed to go back-and-forth with snarky comments to each other. They then start fighting each other.
As that happens Catwoman captures the Dealmaker with her whip as he was attempting to escape the facility. Catwoman reveals she already knows that the Dealmaker’s true identity is that of Harlan Graves. She then threatens to reveal code to the safe to everyone in the facility and bring Batman down to deal with him. Frighten by this, Dealmaker promises to make Catwoman very rich.
Over at Riddler’s hideout the Riddler freaks out, calling Batman a cheater. Batman and Deathstroke suddenly appear at the hideout much to Batman’s shock. Batman says he knew from the beginning where Riddler was hiding out based on recognizing the room. Batman then knocks both Deathstroke and Riddler out with tranquilizer darts.
The Designer starts talking how Batman did a good job recognizing that Riddler was in Bruce Wayne’s office. The Designer then welcomes Batman, by calling him Bruce, and offers to talk before killing the Dark Knight. End of issue.
The Good: Picking up the pace, Batman #92 wasted very little time with other distractions. The story in this issue moved forward to set up pieces that will not only lead into how “Their Dark Designs” will end but also sets up the upcoming “Joker War.” In the process we get some intriguing meetings that set the stage for bigger things to come.
The main plot around the Designer was much better paced this time around. The Riddler acting like the mid-boss that sets up the final boss encounter Batman is going to have with the Designer worked out extremely well. Having the Riddler’s latest plot be a city-wide crossword puzzle work out well. This once again plays up how much Riddler loves playing games with Batman that he believes will show his superiority. This crossword puzzle game was further elevated by the crazed state of mind that Riddler was in as he clearly grew more insane with each correct response Batman gave.
Speaking of Batman, Tynion did well to show how Batman is always prepared with how easily he was able correctly guess Riddler’s questions. It showed the reader that Batman was not going to waste time playing Riddler’s game like usual. He had to answer each question quickly so that he made sure Riddler was distracted by the correct answers. That gave Batman the opportunity to get to Riddler’s hideout without the villain figuring out what his real goal was in playing the game.
This made the revelation that Riddler and Designer were hiding out at the Wayne Mansion a stronger hook ending. Having the final showdown take place on Batman’s home turf properly sets up how prepared the Designer was up to this point, more so than any other issue in this storyline did. The setting of Wayne Mansion made the surprise that the Designer knows Bruce Wayne is Batman work well in context to how this entire storyline has played out. With the stage set we have enough questions about the Designer left for the final issue to answer and look forward how Batman overcomes the final boss of this story.
While helped set up the finale for the main story about the Designer part of “Their Dark Designs” what made things even more intriguing was Joker’s role in all this. Specifically with how Punchline made her big appearance as Joker’s partner in this issue. Punchline making her presence known to both Catwoman and Harley Quinn was very unexpected. Given that we have “Joker War” coming up I was expecting that storyline to be where we see Harley Quinn and Punchline’s first big meeting. But getting the first meeting out of the way in Batman #92 works well into showing that this is likely a sample for a bigger showdown during “Joker War” that fans should be excited for.
Punchline’s appearance also worked well to push Harley Quinn’s character to have more of her own storyline moving forward. Which is a very good thing as Harley Quinn has been playing the supporting player role up to this point in Tynion’s run. But now in meeting Punchline, Tynion has given Harley Quinn something personal to latch on to that she is directly aware of. How this story ends up setting up Harley Quinn’s future in the DC Universe will be interesting to see play out.
Not to be forgotten, Tynion did a good job keeping the reader’s attention on Catwoman’s role in “Their Dark Designs” as well. While Catwoman is doing her part to help Batman take down the Designer things are obviously personal for her. You can see how Catwoman is being more aggressive and secretive with the way she acted throughout Batman #92. She understands the role she played in unintentionally helping the Designer get to the point he has. Knowing that has made this story as personal to Catwoman as it has been, if not more so, for Batman.
Kicking off Batman #92 with Commissioner Harvey Bullock questioning Penguin and his role in what is going on in Gotham City right now was a nice change of pace. Tynion made sure we knew early on in “Their Dark Designs” that Detective Bullock has becoming the temporary GCPD Commissioner. The fact we haven’t seen that highlighted more has been surprising. As he showed in Batman #92, Bullock brings a different energy to being GCPD Commissioner in comparison to Jim Gordon. Hopefully we see more of this, especially with how tense the conversation between Commissioner Gordon and Penguin got.
Guillem March’s artwork was a bit rougher than usual, especially in the first half of Batman #92. But while not as good as previous outings, March still delivered when it counted with the second half of the issue. March’s artwork was particular at its best during the Catwoman and Harley Quinn segments of Batman #92. He got across the fun banter between Harley Quinn and Catwoman shared. He then added intensity when Harley Quinn and Punchline had their first big showdown.
The Bad: Once again, Tynion dropped the ball with how he used Deathstroke in Batman #92. As with how all the DC Universe assassins that Tynion has used in “Their Dark Designs” Deathstroke was nothing more than another body for March to draw. Deathstroke added absolutely nothing to Batman #92 other than just being the Dark Knight’s crutch. That is incredibly disappointing given how much of a badass Deathstroke is and how he should’ve been equally pissed that Designer played him with how things concluded in Batman #91. Deathstroke never got that chance as he was easily taken out by Batman yet again like if he was nothing more than a nameless grunt.
March’s artwork at times came across as rougher than normal. The page that particular stood out as not being the normal quality expected from March is when Batman and Deathstroke were inside the Bat-Train. That first page was drawn in a way that made it look like Batman was actually asleep rather than being someone who is answering the Riddler’s crossword puzzle questions. It through off the momentum of the story at that point.
Overall: Batman #92 is easily the best issue of “Their Dark Designs” storyline thus far. James Tynion did a great job writing the battle of the minds between Batman and Riddler, and how that ended up setting the stage for the final showdown with the Designer. Further elevating this issue was the first big meeting between Harley Quinn and Punchline. That meeting builds further anticipation for all the plans that Tynion has in store for Batman fans in the near future.
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