“The Gotham War: Battle Lines”
Writer: Tini Howard & Chip Zdarsky
Artists: Mike Hawthorne
Color Artists: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Inks: Adriano Di Benedetto
Review by Max Byrne
Gotham War: Battle Lines kicks off a two-month saga that’s set to rock Gotham City to its very core. This crossover event from the brains of Tini Howard and Chip Zdarsky promises to be something very special.
Judging by this kickoff issue, that promise is certainly going to be fulfilled as this extra-paged offering does a superb job of clearing up after the events of “Knight Terrors“, setting the stage for what’s to come over the next couple of months and ending with a potential powder keg situation that will light the fuse for all-out war.
The Gotham War: Battle Lines
The collaboration between Zdarsky and Howard is a masterstroke, as it gives equal billing and page space to their respective charges, Batman and Catwoman. Their motivations are both presented in a non-biased way, with the pros and cons of each side being debated via a parley session that’s laced with tension. Catwoman’s vision of a Gotham City devoid of violent, senseless crime has taken hold during Batman’s enforced absence and the benefits are there for all to see. Batman being Batman, however, can never be on board with allowing certain crimes to slide unpunished. Prepare for fireworks!
This is a Dark Knight who’s not at the top of his game, though. He’s been mentally and physically stretched to breaking point by the events of the past few months, and he consistently questions himself throughout this issue. Is he too old? Is his mission still relevant? Can he trust his family of crimefighters? Based on the new allegiances formed in this issue, probably not!
Most chilling of all though is the spectre of Zur-En-Arrh. Surely the clock is ticking on when this persona will become the dominant part of his psyche and unleash something terrifying into an already desperate situation. I personally cannot wait for this to happen as the untold carnage that will ensue could have huge ramifications.
The ethical debate on offer here is an interesting one. How far is too far? Can crimes against the ultra-wealthy simply be written off if the needy and vulnerable are left untouched? It’s an intriguing concept that I guess has no right or wrong answer; it’s all a matter of interpretation. This ties into my earlier comments about both principal players being in the right at the same time.
The art in this issue is stunning. Mike Hawthorne has rapidly become one of my favorite artists currently active in the business and his work here is top-level throughout. I particularly enjoy his figure work, as the characters that he portrays always look great within a panel. Heroes look like perfect specimens without being over the top. I also think Hawthorne manages to portray rage in a way that few others can. Not through physical acts of violence, but through verbal outbursts. When a character blows up, they almost leap off the page through their angered expressions. Simply excellent storytelling.
Gotham War: Battle Lines is a superb aperitif for the forthcoming saga. With so many pieces to move into place on the board, Howard and Zdarsky have really hit the ground running. The eternally complicated love story between Bruce and Selina is about to hit a new obstacle that could irrecoverably damage their relationship. Strap in for an explosive run, which will continue next week in Batman #137.
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment