Batman may be a story of the world’s greatest hero — a man whose only superpower is brain — but when that power gets him in deep trouble, that means it gets everyone in trouble. Batman #128 doesn’t just show us that it’s bad. It shows us how bad.
Chip Zdarsky,Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey, Leonardo Romero, Jordie Bellaire, and Clayton Cowles continue the story of how Batman’s greatest enemy may just be himself.
The Justice League is in Gotham, and they may be the city’s only hope against Failsafe. Unfortunately, an unstoppable killing machine designed to stop Batman has to be ready for every weapon at Batman’s disposal, and that includes the League. The Dark Knight may be completely without hope this time.
I’ve pointed out Zdarsky has been playing the hits so far in this run. This issue has some obvious parallels to probably the most well-known Batman story to happen outside of Batman — JLA: Tower of Babel. But this isn’t a Tower of Babel redux. This is a story of Batman’s hubris in a very unconventional way.
Naturally, having made plans to take out his Justice League colleagues, Batman would create such a failsafe for himself. In his hubris, Bruce Wayne wouldn’t turn to Clark, Diana, J’onn or Ollie (especially not Ollie). He would think that the only person he could trust to take himself down if he were to go rogue would be himself. It’s a smart storytelling choice that informs this entire issue. Yes, once again, we see a Batman story about how he should bring others in rather than wall them out. The results of his actions and the downfall that follows — that’s there this story shines.
Jimenez and Morey continue their absolutely stunning work in the lead story. Jimenez uses a style that’s a little more wild and sketchy, which here evokes Batman’s desperation as his world crumbles. It makes Failsafe’s takedown of the League feel more brutal, as we see Ollie and Dinah at their most vulnerable in a difficult situation, or J’onn trying to be his best human self while barely being able to hold it together. Morey makes the neon and moonlight of Gotham cast a glow over Gotham that adds to the League’s desperate fight. Ollie and Clark both are colored perfectly, with Green Arrow sticking to the shadows while Superman is bathed in light.
Romero and Bellaire come in to do a back-up that’s appropriately retro for the origin of Zur-En-Arrh. Romero does a great job of showing this by evoking Dick Sprang, but modernizes it with inset panels that hint at Bruce falling apart. Bellaire uses a spectrum of color that calls back to the fifties and sixties, but is just modern enough to feel unsettling in just the right moments.
Batman has beaten himself in this issue. It’s got me bought in fully on this run now. I just hope that he can save himself.
Batman #128 is available now from DC Comics.
The run takes a turn with this issue, pointing towards a fascinating future for this run for the Dark Knight.