THIS WEEK: With Batman #125, the flagship Batman comic gets a new writer with Chip Zdarsky coming aboard and a (sort of) reset. Plus, the Dark Crisis summer event continues with a part II that hits like a punch to the face (in a good way), Poison Ivy #2 continues to be excellent, and more.
Note: This piece contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdicts.
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Jorge Jimenez, with a back-up by Belén Ortega
Colorist: Tomeu Morey, with a back-up by Luis Guerrero
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
This week’s Batman #125 says it right on the cover: A New Era Begins!, and that’s exactly what this book delivers. In fact, this comic actually feels like the cleanest jumping on point for the main Batman comic (arguably DC Comics’ flagship book, certainly in terms of sales) since the Rebirth Era new Batman #1 all the way back in 2016. Sure, James Tynion IV took over the book with Batman #86 back in 2020, starting an excellent (if a bit brief run), but Tynion had been kicking around Gotham ideas for some time. Then there was a gap-spanning brief run of issues by Joshua Williamson, which did more to seed ideas for future books and other crossovers than to really give readers a natural spot to jump back into Batman.
Batman #125, though, makes it easier for lapsed readers as well as new Batman readers (although my brain struggles to imagine what a wholly new Batman reader looks like in 2022, given the Bat-heavy nature of DC’s current output). It’s definitely not a total reset. New writer Chip Zdarsky incorporates nods to a lot of current Bat-continuity. Alfred is still gone (RIP), and the opening scene has Bruce — who basically spent Batman (2016) #1 – Batman #85 romancing Catwoman — learning that Selina is seeing someone else (see recent issues of Catwoman for the deets). There’s also a reference to Tim Drake’s romantic life that fits nicely into wider Gotham continuity. Plus, Bruce Wayne’s diminished financial situation factors into our plot here, too.
Yet, all of this aside, Batman #125 in many ways feels like a relatively timeless Batman story. Our Big Bad the first issue is The Penguin, who even though he was born wealthy is trying to curry Gothamite’s favor by forcing other rich folks to give away their money. That’s a great concept that powers this as a standalone story. Batman and Robin (Tim Drake) must thwart Penguin’s attempt to attack a fancy Gotham ball (do they have one of those per week? really feels like it…). The creative team here does a great job with it too, swerving in some fantastic ways that make it feel both familiar and like something new.
And that’s all a great hook for new or lapse readers, an encapsulation of what good Batman comics can look like. But within that, the creative team is also clearly seeding material for a much longer run. Tim takes a serious injury that reminds Bruce of past mistakes, The Penguin sets Batman up to publicly look like a murderer, and — most interestingly — a failsafe device in the now-abandoned Batcave goes unchecked, unleashing…something, something new that I look forward to learning much more about. In this way, Batman #125 succeeds wildly at the tricky business of offering both comfort food Batman as well as novelty for long-time readers.
A wise editorial decision this book was to retain the art team that was most closely associated with the Tynion run on the book with Jorge Jimenez, who is colored here by Tomeu Morey (the unsung hero of 2010s and 2020s Batman) and lettered by Clayton Cowles (see also the last parenthetical). Jimenez has always had some truly striking aesthetic chops, but he has really continued to evolve as a storyteller as DC has put him on increasingly prominent series. There are several set pieces in this issue that are truly stunning, and might not have been with a lesser artist. Having Jimenez involved also does wonders for continuity between runs. It’s a great choice.
Overall, I really don’t see how Batman #125 could have done its job better. People will have their qualms (that’s comics, baby!), but I fully expect this one to be met with widespread praise mixed with anticipation for what’s to come.
- As I’ve probably written in this space in the past, I am an unapologetic fan of big (often silly) summer superhero events, and with Dark Crisis #2, that story continues to satisfy what I like about those things — characters slamming together, weighty artwork that makes everything feel BIGGER, and plenty of twists. This issue — from writer Joshua Williamson, artist Daniel Sampere, colorist Alejandro Sánchez, and letterer Tom Napolitano — could maybe be called fan service, and so if you’re inherently not into that, maybe steer clear. If, however, you find that sort of thing to be fun (as I do) strap in, because this is top-tier stuff. One thing I keep thinking about is that this is in some ways the first major event of the post-Dan DiDio editorial era at DC, so the doubling (tripling? quadrupling?) down on legacy heroes here feels fresh relative to the past decade or so, where it was very rare for these things not to focus on some combination of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Ultimately, it still remains to be seen what this story has to say past superhero fights, aren’t they cool?, but through two issues, things have been consistently fast-paced and fun, which sounds easy but there are a lot of summer event books that still miss that mark.
- The Joker #15 — the finale for that series — was as excellent as the rest of the book has been. This issue is written by James Tynion IV, with art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, inks by Cam Smith & Lorenzo Ruggiero, colors Arif Prianto, and letters by Tom Napolitano. And to me it’s the functional end to Tynion’s time leading the Batman comics, wrapping up a lot of the themes and ideas he played with during his time in Gotham. It does what most good runs do too, and doles out some plot points that can serve as beginnings for the next folks who work with these characters too, from The Joker getting free to James Gordon, Jr. returning to Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock going into private practice together. Good stuff, and I hope future creators make use of it all (obviously, The Joker won’t be shelved for long…).
- Finally, Poison Ivy #2 was also absolutely great. Written by G. Willow Wilson, with art by Marcio Takara, colors by Arif Prianto, and letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, this second chapter builds on the first to bolster the series’ case as the best DC Comics surprise so far this year. Most of the story here takes place in a single scene (it’s a bottle issue!), and I love that. Yet, within that, it still manages to speak to the bigger and broader plot interests of the story. I also really enjoy how this book isn’t black and white (hey! like life), striving for and obtaining an interesting level of nuance that’s hard to pull off in superhero comics, where creators and fans alike are often aggressively concerned with the lines between hero and villain. This is, simply put, a very smart superhero book.
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