“Their Dark Designs” Part Two
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Guillem March
Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Mild Spoilers Ahead!
Review by Eric Lee
Batman #87 is more thrilling and funner than the previous chapter, but for me still treads in familiar territory.
Off the bat, Tynion has always been a serviceable writer and has never written anything outright awful. However, the majority of his stories don’t excite me much either. This issue still has a ways to go before it enthralls me, but it is headed on the right path. Tynion’s sophomoric issue improves on issue #86’s shortcomings and he does a good job on expanding on plot threads in more interesting ways, while also taking advantage of Batman’s concept of weaponizing Gotham City.
There is one particular standout scene that makes the comic feel the most thrilling: the Cheshire chase sequence. It is difficult to stage a fresh, new take on Batman chasing criminals, however, the innovative way Tynion integrates more of Gotham infrastructure into the sequence makes it a fun and different read.
Artist Guillem March’s work is one the main reasons why this issue appears more flashy. His choreography with the action scene is top-notch. He also breaks the conventional horizontal grid structure in favor of more dynamic slanted panels. That’s just one example of March’s willingness to play with traditional visual tropes. His angles are very extreme, which make the comic less flat. The characters’ anatomies are often warped a little to give an illusion of more power, or darkness, or sensuality. Anatomy-exaggeration is a tricky artistic technique, because it can easily look ugly. However, March has a strong command of it, making his pages skirt the line of being overly-grotesque. Overall, it creates a more visually-compelling comic.
Same Ol’, Same Ol’
Despite a flashier visual pallet and snappier writing style, the plot still feels too similar to other past Batman plots. There’s a mystery person trying to hijack Bruce Wayne’s city infrastructure project. I can think of at least two examples where this has occurred in the past. How Batman needs to stop five assassins is similar to the Arkham Origins video game too. Then there’s the “new” direction for older rogues, like the Riddler or Penguin, which have also been done to death a billion times.
Missed Storytelling Opportunities
There’s also that irksome problem that Tynion skips seemingly important plot developments to get to the meat of his story. Like, when did Harvey Bullock become the police commissioner? We know that Gordon turned evil, due to the Batman Who Laughs in the Batman/ Superman comic, but one would think that a writer would want to capitalize on seeing the police department’s reaction at seeing their beloved leader break bad. Or the inherent drama of choosing the new police commissioner could have been an interesting narrative. It makes Tynion’s Batman feel slightly disconnected from the larger narrative when it skips over these kinds of plot points.
Batman #87 is a step-up in visuals and scripting. However, I feel that Tynion still retreads past plots at the expense of different, more natural story developments. While the read is fun, the issue still feels dispensable.
Images courtesy of DC Entertainment