Though I have had my problems with “Their Dark Designs” things started to turn around with Batman #92. While not solving all the problems this storyline has had James Tynion focused much more of the strengths of this story around the mysterious Designer. Things escalated further with Punchline making her presence known to both Harley Quinn and Catwoman during the events in Batman #92. Now with Batman, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn being kept busy by all these villains how will Gotham City end up surviving “Their Dark Designs”? Let’s find out with Batman #93.
Writer: James Tynion
Artists: Guillem March and Javier Fernandez
Colorists: Tomeu Morey and David Baron
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: Inside Wayne Mansion Batman wonders what Designer’s plans for how all this would go down. Designer turns it around and asks Batman how he thought his original plan would go.
Batman goes over how Deathstroke and the other assassins would kill the Mayor of Gotham City, leading to Penguin assuming power. From there Riddler would use his tech skills to lock down the city so that he could control the GCPD, killing Commissioner Gordon and others who stood in his way.
At the same time, Catwoman would hacking skills to steal all the Wayne Family money and distribute it as she liked while becoming the richest woman in Gotham City. Then the Joker would end up killing the Dynamic Duo, leaving Gotham City to be ruled by the Designer.
Designer compliments Batman on figuring it out and wonders if Batman is enough to save the day. Batman states he has evolved since Designer created his original master plan. Batman and Designer proceed to take out swords to begin their duel.
Elsewhere Catwoman is hacking her way through different accounts while talking to the Dealmaker about the Underbrokerage, which the underworld uses to steal from where the world’s elite hides their least-regulated money. Catwoman figures out how to get around everything as she states the Wayne Foundation is a front to hold the Wayne Family fortune outside all regulatory bodies.
Catwoman goes on to state that if this money was stolen Bruce Wayne would have to reveal to the world all the money he has been hiding and what he has been doing with it. She states she memorized the codes to get into that account and tells Dealmaker to make her a billionaire.
In another room, Harley Quinn and Punchline continue their fight. During the fight, Punchline reveals the reason she hates Harley Quinn is that Harley tried got the closest to Joker and tried to water him down. She states she wants Joker just the way he is. Punchline goes on to say that Joker is showing everyone they are the real clowns of society and Harley wasted her chance to be by Joker’s side.
When Harley Quinn hears Punchline state that Joker things she is the funniest person he knows Harley says that Joker also said that about Batman. Harley Quinn then fires a gun at Punchline. Punchline dodges the gunfire and is able to get behind Harley Quinn, cutting her neck in the process.
As Harley Quinn tries to stop the bleeding from her neck Punchline knocks her down. Punchline then orders Joker’s gang to toss Harley Quinn into the sewers.
Back inside Wayne Manor, Designer mocks Batman over the fact he is still missing a piece to the plan. Batman states he already knows Designer was not replacing the blueprints for the Tricorner Yards, instead he wanted to see how Bruce was funding the Wayne Rebuild project through various accounts.
Batman then tells Designer he underestimated Gotham City and the Joker most of all. Batman reveals he knows that Joker wanted to kill everyone but Batman and that miscalculation costed Designer back in the day.
Batman then is able to pin Designer down and takes off his mask to reveal a rotting corpse underneath, having already figured out he wasn’t fighting the true Designer. Batman then asks Joker what he is down. Out of the mouth of Designer’s corpse, Joker is heard laughing.
Talking through Designer’s corpse from a bar, Joker that this whole plan was about breaking Catwoman, who would then break Batman. Joker says that he will need Batman off the table for the next step in his plan.
Deathstroke then regains consciousness and stabs Batman in the leg with his sword to complete his contract with Joker. Deathstroke then talks to Lucius Fox through Batman’s communicator about getting some medics to heal Batman’s wounds.
Deathstroke then tells Joker that he expects full payment for this. Joker says the payment is already being transferred to Deathstroke’s account. Joker then suggests Deathstroke leave Gotham City as things are about to get dangerous.
Elsewhere Catwoman finishes breaking into the Wayne Family offshore accounts. As Catwoman states what she wants now that her work is done Dealmaker reveals that her account is already empty.
Punchline suddenly appears and knocks Catwoman out. Punchline then thanks Catwoman for her role in making the next phase of Joker’s plan possible.
At a bar, Punchline informs Joker that she completed her mission and that he is now worth over one hundred billion dollars. Hearing this, Joker begins to laugh louder and louder. End of issue.
The Good: Batman #93 finally answered a lot of questions for why certain events in “Their Dark Designs” went down the way they did. Were those answers satisfying? Not exactly but James Tynion was able to improve certain weaker aspects of this story.
Shifting “Their Dark Designs” to be a giant prelude for “Joker War” was the best thing Tynion could’ve done at this point. There were a lot of things that were very questionable the deeper we got into “Their Dark Designs.” But by revealing that Joker was actually the one pulling all the strings since Tynion started his run with Batman #86 was the right move. In a way, it explained why Designer never came across as a credible threat no matter how against a wall Batman was up to this issue.
What made this entire shift work was how overconfident Batman, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn were. Tynion put over how these three characters thought they figured out both Designer and Joker’s plan. But in having that overconfidence Batman, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn all placed themselves in position for Joker and Punchline to defeat them.
Batman believing he figured out Designer’s plan during their sword fight highlighted how Joker was able to soundly defeat him. Batman was correct in the fact that Joker never wanted to kill him. What the Joker wants more than anything is to see Batman suffer and live in the chaos he creates. And it is to Joker’s credit that he was able to create a plan the preyed on Batman’s own overconfidence as a detective and fighter to defeat him. When you see Deathstroke rise up and stab Batman you immediately knew how the Dark Knight knew nothing about what was truly going on.
Making things even more intriguing was how Joker does not hide the fact he knows who Batman is. Everything Joker did in “Their Dark Designs” from having the showdown with Designer at Wayne Mansion to using Catwoman’s hacking skills to Deathstroke’s role, it all points to knowing Bruce Wayne is Batman. Joker not hiding that fact makes him an even more terrifying villain.
Making Joker possibly more dangerous is the fact that he is not going to be keeping Bruce’s secret to himself. Deathstroke calling Batman out about getting Lucius Fox to get him medical help teases that Joker will be telling whoever he wants that Bruce is Batman. That makes things going into “Joker War” even more dangerous than originally thought.
Tynion also did an impressive job with the information about Punchline’s origin that we were given while not giving everything away. There is enough information in Batman #93 to understand what is motivating Punchline in comparison to Harley Quinn. Having Punchline be at a point of deifying Joker as a God of Chaos that Harley Quinn tried to bring down to her level made it easy to understand where she is coming from. Not only does it give insight into who Punchline is but also makes the rivalry with Harley Quinn have a deeper personal weight behind it.
Giving us these details about Punchline helped to shine a greater spotlight on where Harley Quinn is at this point. Harley Quinn is no longer turning a blind eye to who Joker truly is. Drawing the line in the sand through this confrontation with Punchline, Tynion is able to create greater interest in the role Harley Quinn will have as one of the main characters in the upcoming “Joker War.”
The story around Catwoman and how she willingly hacked into the offshore Wayne Family accounts Bruce had does create a sub-plot for her character going into “Joker War.” The way Catwoman acted throughout this interaction with Dealmaker it seemed that she had a lot more planned than what she was saying out loud. Even though Punchline and Joker were able to use her for their own plans it does seem like Catwoman, possibly along with Batman, are working their own angle even though they don’t have all the info going into “Joker War.”
Guillem March and Javier Fernandez did a good job with their respective pages in this issue. March handled a good amount of the pages and delivered those scenes involving Batman, Designer, Harley Quinn, and Punchline. With how dialogue-heavy they were March was able to elevate the back-and-forth between characters with how he drew characters expression and positioned them in each panel. Fernandez was also able to deliver solid artwork by making the Catwoman scenes match the grimy setting of the sewers she was in.
The Bad: Where Batman #93 does not work completely is how long it took us to get to this point in “Their Dark Designs.” After eight parts there is a recycled feel to a lot character beats, with Batman in particular. That all falls on the length of this storyline. Possibly having this arc be an issue or two shorter would’ve given a greater impact to the Joker reveal and other things that happened in this issue.
Also, while March and Fernandez are individual great artists their styles do not complement each other. You can tell when the artist switch happens. That is especially clear when they each are given Joker scenes to draw. Their versions of Joker are clearly different, making it look like there are two different Jokers in this issue. That sort of takes you out of the scene as the styles are obviously different.
Overall: Batman #93 turns an average storyline in “Their Dark Designs” into a strong prelude for the upcoming “Joker War” event. The revelation with how Joker and Punchline manipulated everything to prepare Gotham City for their plans elevated the entire story. James Tynion set things up to be even more intriguing as Batman, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn must now overcome all the odds they have been placed against going into “Joker War.” This set-up creates greater excitement for the future of this series.
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