Batman Sees the Dark Design Come to Fruition
The ultimate plan for Batman’s Rogues has gone terrifyingly well. As Batman dealt with the assassins hired to take down people in Gotham, the Designer had set all the pieces up for it to improve his empire. Batman, tired of this, takes on the villain of yesteryear in a climactic swordfight. After disarming him, Bruce deduces the truth: The Designer is dead, and he had been fighting his corpse. The real mastermind behind this was the Joker all along. The clown prince orders Deathstroke to wound Batman as his new sidekick, Punchline, transfers Wayne’s money to him. How will Batman survive?
**Some Spoilers Below**
We open up with a flashback to Bruce’s past during Batman training. After leaving Ducard(Ras’ Al Ghul’s alias), Bruce seeks out a man named Cassander Wycliffe Baker, formerly the world’s greatest detective. The old detective stepped away from the world view after his last encounter with his enemy, The Designer, went wrong. Baker reveals he deduced who Bruce was and promises him to teach him how to lose. Meanwhile, back in the present, Batman is recovering from his battle with the corpse of the Designer and Deathstroke. Lucius finds him and gives him a rundown of what the Joker has done: Left Bruce penniless, on the run, and with no allies.
This issue was definitely a slow one, but not one without merit. After the several battles we had over the course of the arc, it’s nice to have the last issue show off the aftermath. Obviously, it’s not the victory we hoped, but it sets up the coming Joker War story damn near perfectly. While there are Batman losses that make it seem all hope is lost in the past, this one feels like the stakes haven’t been higher. It’s clear the next six issues will be monumental, to say the least.
The problem with this issue sadly is the pacing. While it’s nice to get these slower issues, especially since we had so much gone on so far, it’s just a lot of standing around and talking. We get a brief shoot out, but it comes and goes so quickly that I passed over it the first time. Even the opening, while interesting and will definitely come back in coming issues, feels drawn out. I get why this issue had to be like this: The coming war is going to be tough for Batman. It doesn’t mean we can’t have a little more flair in the issue.
Guillem March and Rafael Alberquerque provide an overall fantastic looking final issue for the arc. Batman looks incredible, while Joker has never been more terrifying. The emotions that the team can show off throughout makes this issue worth at least one read through. The colorwork of David Baron is able to take the illustrations to the next level by providing colors that convey a sense of dread that is coming over Gotham. The best-looking page, the art team makes, is definitely the final image of Batman looking over Gotham with menacing red clouds looming overhead as lightning strikes. This team does fantastic work, and I need more.
This honestly serves as a good bridging epilogue between Their Dark Designs and Joker War. It’s a bit slower for my tastes, but there is enough here to set the stage for the next Batman epic. The art team does a fantastic job establishing a tone as Bruce’s world crashes around him. The next issue begins the Joker War, and this reviewer can’t wait to see how Gotham changes, for better or worse.