Batman #146 features a thrilling story about what kind of hero Gotham City needs, accompanied by beautiful art that helps to deliver yet another entry in Chip Zdarsky and Jorge Jimenez's Batman run.

Review: BATMAN #146 — Fighting The Machine

Batman #146 is another chapter in Chip Zdarsky and Jorge Jimenez’s run that provides more insight into the machinations of Zur-En-Arhh, as well as those of a new player with ties to Bruce, Dr. Captio. Zdarsky, Jimenez, colorist Tomeu Morey, and letterer Clayton Cowles get to work showing a Gotham protected by Zur-En-Arhh in the main story, while artist Michele Bandini and colorist Alex Sinclair work together with Zdarsky and Cowles to provide some much needed exposition in the backup story that kicks the issue off.

The backup starts with Dr. Captio, a character from Zdarsky and Carmine Di Giandomenico’s own Batman: The Knight, telling a story of how Joker had already known about the Failsafe body. The doctor explains how he’s used Joker, and how that has led Bruce to where he is now.

Returning to the main story, Bruce is locked in Blackgate while Zur is out in Gotham, protecting the city with Damian Wayne. The Batfamily is suspicious of Zur, even calling Superman, Wonder Woman, and The Flash in order to form a plan against him. After the arrival of Punchline in the prison, Batman attempts to break out, while Superman has a talk with Zur.

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Zdarsky takes on writing both of this issue’s stories and has them flow together seamlessly. Where the backup ends, the main story begins without skipping a beat. The first part of the issue is told from the perspective of Dr. Daniel Captio, an academic that Bruce Wayne requested the help of on his initial journey to become Batman. Zdarsky calls back to his own work with this, and uses his previous story as a crutch to help set up Captio’s involvement in this one. The explanations for Captio’s influence are well thought out, with Zdarsky respecting his own continuity, as well as the work of previous writers. He uses some of what Grant Morrison did with Zur-En-Arhh, as well as Scott Snyder’s famous Joker stories in order to really layer this setup. Coming back to the character of Captio was smart, with his dedicated issue in Batman: The Knight easily explaining his actions here. He’s woven into the story in a clever way that’s sure to leave the reader eager to see what his endgame is.

The Joker infiltrating the Batcave
The Joker Infiltrating the Batcave

Bruce’s journey in the prison is the most intriguing part of the issue. His breakout is a spectacle to behold and provides some moments of Batman at his best. In this portion of the issue, he instills fear in the hearts of those looking to stop him, while also acting as a symbol for the people of Gotham, reassuring them and showing them that they should never give up. Zdarsky has a great voice for the character that doubles down on the idea that Batman is just as much a symbol of hope as he is a hardened purveyor of fear.

The events occurring outside of the prison are somewhat less interesting, with an unsettling aspect being the involvement of Damian Wayne. Having him in a story where Batman has been replaced makes sense, but it leaves you to wonder if him going on with Zur is a betrayal in the making, or if the character is fooled by Zur’s façade, masquerading as Bruce. The rest of the family doesn’t seem as easily convinced, however. All these pieces in play instills the confidence that he can bring it all together and stick the landing on it.


The issue features two artists, with Jorge Jimenez covering the bulk of it, and Michele Bandini drawing the opening story. Bandini sets the tone for the entire issue, taking the reader through some of Joker’s most famous moments. As this portion of the issue is mostly told through text boxes, Bandini had freedom in his art, instead of to follow a speaking character. Every page drawn expands on Zdarsky’s words in a way that tells us more with less. Text can be mostly absent on the page, but Bandini still gets the point of the story across visually through these gorgeous pieces. A memorable page is one where Bandini draws Batman and Joker as one person who’s cut down the middle. Joker’s haunting grin contrasts Batman’s frustrated scowl, and it really sinks in just how much power these two have based on that page alone. That, and each panel excellently matches what’s being narrated to us in its own striking way.

The Joker meets a worried Penguin
The Joker meets a worried Penguin

Jorge Jimenez proves time and time again to be one of the best Batman artists DC has. Every panel is incredibly detailed, with the force of Batman’s actions and blows made apparent. Not only that, but he captures the insane faces of Joker and Punchline eerily well. He cements the atmosphere of the story with each panel, making the reader feel as though all hope is lost, while also giving us something to fight for. This is especially felt in a panel with a determined Bruce Wayne jumping off the side of a tower in order to take back what’s his. Jimenez also makes the Failsafe robot housing Zur’s consciousness looks sleek and unnatural. The proportions of the robot are unsettling and gives off a sinister feeling from the slender machine.


Alex Sinclair colors Bandini’s work, and he immediately makes his presence known by tinting each panel in the opening page a specific color that fits the tone of each referenced story. In Joker’s late night meeting with Cobblepot, you can catch the green and purple of Joker’s suit that’s mostly covered by shadow. It’s eerie, and we feel the same fear and confusion as Penguin does in that moment because of it. This really amplifies the presence of a character that you otherwise can’t see very well. Fast forward a few pages, and you have Sinclair coloring an explosion that beautifully lights Batman and a white, pink, and green clad Joker. Everything stands out.

Tomeu Morey is responsible for coloring Jimenez’s art, and he also uses lighting to his advantage. The spotlights from Failsafe’s Batwing cover the streets on one page, making each character affected by it lighter to match that. Later in the issue, during the prison break scene, he also does a great job of differentiating each character there, making them recognizable. Zur himself is covered in this purple tint that shades the rest of his otherwise black and grey robotic body well. In a late night talk with Superman that happens in the issue, Zur is in the shadows, harder to see, while Superman is perfectly visible, lights shining in the sky behind him. This would be normal for a regular Batman and Superman meeting, but with it not being Bruce, you can see the bat-like figure in a darker light than he otherwise would be.


Clayton Cowles letters the issue, and he gives each character their own personality in the textboxes and speech bubbles. For Captio, he just has a uniform box with a grey line down the side of it that really makes the reader feel as though there’s more than meets the eye with him. Batman’s internal monologue boxes look torn and flakey, signifying that his mind isn’t fully his own, and that he’s not safe there. What’s really impressive are Zur’s speech bubbles. They’re these purple, emotionless, robotic boxes with stiff letters. The box itself makes the words seem staticky, and that adds to Zur’s personality that everyone on this issue has worked so hard to define.


Batman #146 provides a deeper look into the mind of Zur-En-Arhh as well as Captio, with an interesting ending for Bruce as well. The state of affairs of Gotham and the characters in it are left in an interesting spot with a battle against Zur feeling imminent. If things keep going the way they are, Zur-En-Arrh could prove to be a bigger threat than anyone could’ve guessed.

Mohamed Malla
Mohamed Malla
I have a strong passion for comics, and I have since I was a kid. I read absolutely anything I can possibly get my hands on, and I love that I can. I'm currently studying screenwriting, as I adore film and television as well.
Batman #146 features a thrilling story about what kind of hero Gotham City needs, accompanied by beautiful art that helps to deliver yet another entry in Chip Zdarsky and Jorge Jimenez's Batman run. Review: BATMAN #146 — Fighting The Machine