Review: Batman #138 – “The Gotham War” – Part Four

“The Gotham War” – Chapter Four
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Color Artist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Review by Max Byrne

Batman #138 certainly packs a punch, both in a literal and metaphorical sense. To quote the legendary AC/DC, “If you want blood, you’ve got it”. In this issue, there are multiple doses of violence that are visceral and brutal, but it’s the emotional weight behind the blows that really serves to up the ante in terms of what is really at stake beyond being the physical victor.

Throughout the “Gotham War” saga to date, there’s been a real sense of impending doom. With this issue, that tension’s dialed up to a new level. Whilst the bond between Batman and his numerous protegees is beyond question, Chip Zdarsky presents events that make this reader wonder if the lines that are being crossed are pushing the characters past the point of no return. The strongest of ties can be broken by extreme acts and I feel that we are now getting into that territory.

What Batman does to Jason Todd, whilst having a degree of altruistic intention, is a reprehensible act in my opinion. The Dark Knight normally deals in black and white, but this feels like a huge jump into morally grey waters. Yes, there’s a rhyme and reason to it but the act itself is pretty terrible, to say the least. Slightly fascist in its execution, it remains to be seen whether this will affect Jason permanently or if there’s more to Batman’s actions than meets the eye.

The physical battles involving Batman, Nightwing, Tim Drake, and Damian are a treat to witness. Whilst a traditional good vs. evil fight is always the ideal in terms of comic book storytelling, I have always enjoyed seeing physical conflicts between characters that are all inherently good and can also put forward an argument for being right. To see four supreme combatants in full flow, holding very little back is heady stuff. Jorge Jimenez infuses the action with a sense of stakes through his knack for making each blow look like it could be lethal. You feel each bone-crunching strike… and then some.

We also get to see more regarding Vandal Savage’s involvement in the situation, including a scandalous identity reveal of a character that certainly changes the game. Whether this new player on the board will ultimately lead a reuniting of the Bat Family in the name of a common enemy is uncertain, but it does add a layer of intrigue to the proceedings.

Conclusion

Batman #138 tightens the screws on Batman. It leaves him in a place where his allies are non-existent, his methods have become truly questionable and his mental health is spiraling further downwards. Whilst there is a lingering chance at the end for Bruce and Selina to re-align their philosophies, events are due to take a darker turn before they can get better.

To be continued in Catwoman #58…

Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment


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