To save Gotham City, Catwoman will have to commit the greatest heist in the city's history! But hot on her trail are the Penguin, the Riddler, a horde of assassins, and the master criminal called the Designer! And the most dangerous person standing in her way is the man she's trying to save: Batman. And what complications will his arise from his new sidekick, Harley Quinn?
Last issue we were treated to the flashback sequence that sparked the Designer’s current agenda. With this issue, the most important sequence sees The Joker recount the sequence from an altered point of view. Every few years, there seems to be a deliberate effort to escalate The Joker’s actions– to rectify any “sympathy for the devil” tendencies that arise in the fanbase (and they do… over and over and over again). In the wake of the blockbuster The Joker motion picture, that time seems to have arisen again and James Tynion IV just happened to be on call to remind the fanbase how terrible the character truly is. The sense of impending doom with “The Joker War” on the horizon– a story that seems to have been dwarfed by the speculation craze surrounding Punchline– has never felt more real than in this issue.
Another two weeks, another shake up in art team. Welcome to the managere, Rafael Albuquerque. The art is strong throughout but the noticable shifts in the stylistic flourishes continues to be jarring. I had hoped that by now, perhaps the sudden shifts would become so commonplace as to be naturalized but I’m sad to report that has yet to become the case. None of these artists turn in bad art here but none seem to be turning in their best work either, adding to my growing concern regarding bi-monthly books (more on that over in the Justice League #43 review). The time crunches involved seem to be dragging all involved down and that is criminal given the strength of the artists and the story.
Beyond The Joker sequence, the issue features some interesting development for this new era (short-lived as it may end up) Bat-Family. Harley, a character I’m just not that into, actually serves a crucial role in this arc, providing a grounding influence for Bruce (via Selina dominantly). In the absence of Alfred, Harley seems to be the character slotted for the reminder that Bruce is without powers– a humbling force. Deathstroke, by contrast, suffers in this role given the events of the “Batman vs Deathstroke” story arc written by Priest in Deathstroke. Much of the nuance built into the Slade/Bruce dynamic in that arc is largely ignored, a sticking point for fans of Slade but likely no issue for Batman purists. Still, the story remains engaging with solid dialogue and character work punctuated by a sense of future terror.
Batman #91(Tynion, Albuquerque, Pagulayan, Jimenez) inches us closer to "The Joker War" as the team pivots The Joker towards a deeper darkness.
Batman #91: “I want to be the Devil”
Writing - 9/10
Storyline - 8.5/10
Art - 8/10
Color - 9/10
Cover Art - 8.5/10
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