“The Gotham War – Scorched Earth”
Writers: Chip Zdarsky & Tini Howard
Artists: Mike Hawthorne & Nikola Čižmešija
Color Artist: Arif Prianto
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Review by Max Byrne
Batman/Catwoman: The Gotham War – Scorched Earth brings the Gotham War arc to a thunderous close. Always engrossing, often explosive and containing more than a generous helping of genuine emotion, it has been a real highlight of DC’s 2023 output.
With the arc packing in so much incendiary content, the finale was going to have to be big… it’s safe to say that Chip Zdarsky and Tini Howard have delivered in spades here. Events move forward at a rate of knots, with no room for a breather. I found this to be a spot on decision, as the urgency and desperation of the situation facing our heroes is made a lot more tangible this way.
As Batman has seemingly alienated everyone in his inner circle through his questionable tactics and actions, the question posed here is can divisions be repaired, or at least set aside for long enough to serve the greater good.
The ties that bind us are often strong and without wishing to spoil much of the content on offer here, we see the benefit of working in unison. Indeed, seeing the various incarnations of Robin from down the years work together against a who’s who of Gotham villains delivers quite the thrill. With the emphasis on teamwork, this reader found it a real treat to see them all bringing their skill sets to the table, dovetailing perfectly. I’m a sucker for superhero team ups, so I was certainly well served with this issue!
What also ups the ante here is that the stakes are way higher than normal. Vandal Savage’s masterplan is revealed, meaning Batman is fighting not just for the fate of Gotham City, but for that of the entire Eastern seaboard! The price of immortality is extremely high these days. This is the cue for some pulse pounding, frantic action where only an act of selfless sacrifice (or not?) can save the day.
The bait and switch of a character seemingly meeting their maker is a hand played not once, but twice during this issue. Does it feel a little overplayed? No, as each one serves its purpose in a way that avoids feeling cliché. Take my word for it, it works very well.
As always, Mike Hawthorne delivers the goods with stellar artwork. I love the fact that Hawthorne can draw bombastic action but can also provide moments of introspection and intimacy with equal aplomb. It would be a wise decision on the part of DC Comics if they gave Hawthorne a really extended run on any of their flagship titles, as his work is so easy on the eyes. I would love to see showcased more and more.
As for the ending, no spoilers here but the landscape has changed massively. The fate of certain characters is left up in the air, the Bat-Family may just have a new leader, and Batman’s alter ego might not be a closely guarded secret for much longer…
Batman/Catwoman: The Gotham War – Scorched Earth is a worthy final instalment to a gripping saga. It wraps up the conflict in a satisfying manner but also leaves several new threads dangling for future stories. Things will never be the same again for the Caped Crusader; his personal relationships are damaged, perhaps forever, and a certain alternate persona is still bubbling under the surface.
Here’s to the next chapter….
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment