“Their Dark Designs” – Part Four
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artists: Carlo Pagulayan, Guillem March and Danny Miki
Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Mild Spoilers Ahead!
Review by Eric Lee
Batman #89 has inklings of a captivating plot, but is muddled with uninteresting action pieces and inconsistent art.
This issue is a noticeable improvement over James Tynion’s first couple of issues. This is probably due to the fact that the writer’s main plot is finally kicking in. The story is finally gaining some momentum and has a more defined sense of a looming threat. This new threat is called the Designer. While there’s not much revealed about the character yet, what’s most interesting are the villains’ reactions to him. Riddler seems to fear him. Joker is trying to escape him. Penguin is trying to destroy him.
Most intriguing of all is Catwoman’s fearful attitude. She is not scared for her own safety, but about what Batman may discover about her past. She’s apparently harboring a secret that could destroy her relationship with the Dark Knight. This is easily the most engaging plot point of the story arc so far. Readers can relate to the anxiety of keeping a secret from a loved one, as it’s human and engages us emotionally. However, one wishes that Tynion devoted more time building the drama of Catwoman’s secret and less time on the assassins story thread.
Yes, the assassins are primarily there for action scenes, but there’s no real question as to whether Batman will win against these guys. Readers already know that he’ll inevitably kick their butts. While it’s fine to see Batman and his associates easily defeat new characters, like Mr. Teeth or Gunsmith, it’s a problem when we see established villains, like Cheshire, beaten so decisively. This is the second issue where Cheshire gets whupped. Adding insult to injury, it happened off-panel this time. This blasé treatment of certain villains makes Tynion’s writing feel a little dismissive.
Different Artists = Too Many Cooks
The visual highlight of Batman #89 is seeing Guillem March’s art again. His art style gives a flair that is needed to differentiate Batman from other Bat-titles. It’s a small wonder as his art conveys so much, with its use of character acting and body language. The scene where Catwoman’s talking with Harley Quinn best demonstrates March’s skill. Seeing Harley’s casual sitting pose and Catwoman’s hunched, tired stance just exudes so much personality. If you took out the word balloons from the comic, you could still follow what’s happening. It’s a real visual treat.
Unfortunately, unlike previous issues, March didn’t illustrate the whole comic. In Batman #89 he’s joined by Carlo Pagulayan and Danny Miki. Both are fine artists, with a style close enough to March’s where a casual reader may not notice,but they just don’t have the same wild dynamism that March’s art shows. Also, it begs the question of why DC Comics’ flagship title can’t hold down a consistent art team? It smacks of an unprepared editorial team.
Overall, Tynion’s story arc is finally starting to kick into gear and more interesting developments are occurring. However, the more compelling Designer plot line is mired with the generic assassin’s storyline. What’s worse however, is the more intimate drama of Catwoman’s secret barely has space to make a dramatic impact.
For me Batman #89 reads like a mediocre, middle-of-the-road superhero piece. While there ‘s nothing egregious about it, it also fails to make a huge impression.
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment