Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by DC
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
It took a few issues but the work is finally measuring up to James Tynion IV’s reputation. As we inch closer to “Joker War,” Tynion’s ability to create some stakes is on full display. That’s due in large part to his wonderful artistic collaborator here, Jorge Jimenez - a man whose art really makes you wonder why they didn’t just start with this issue. No drawn out introduction of the Designer. No time ((seemingly) wasted time with new flunkies. Tynion is starting to find a rhythm here and it’s hard not to tap your foot to the beat.
Now, I can already hear folks complaining that this is essentially an issue focused on a large flashback where very little actively happens and Selina Kyle essentially just spills exposition all over the page. That is not wrong. Retroactive continuity is a balancing act and a lot of readers are instantly skeptical.
Tynion does some good work here, though. Outside of the existence of the Designer earlier in continuity, he doesn’t change anything we already know about the characters that we are already familiar with. Hat goes a long way toward getting the audience to put a little faith in the facts of the story. But I can hear you protesting already. “But Pierce, Selina is an unreliable narrator! What if this is all part of the plot? What if she’s lying?” Well, isn’t that the fun of it? It’s kind of a win-win situation for Tynion because it's well-designed. She very well may be lying but if you take what she’s saying at face value and assume that based on her relationship with Bruce that she might be telling the truth, then the Designer looks like someone who can match wits with Batman. If you think she’s lying, then you also have to believe that Bruce doesn’t think she’s lying and so while he may be headed for a trap, the Designer can match wits with Batman! That’s some smart design by Tynion.
Meanwhile the art in this book is absolutely gorgeous. I don’t mean to take anything away from Tynion’s earlier collaborators on his Batman run but Jorge Jimenez draws pretty close to a model version of these characters. There is a strength and sadness to his Batman. There is a confidence and sensuality to his Catwoman. His work with Riddler, Penguin and Harley really brings those characters to life. While his Joker transforms over the course of the issue from a character that is more playfully devilish to something that reeks of pure anarchic evil. He even sells me a little bit more on the Designer’s get-up, though I think it still looks like that guy got dressed in the dark. Despite working through a flashback, there’s a lot of energy to the pages and he’s not worried about staying so rigid in his proportions that his figures look like statues. We already knew Jimenez was right for the DCU with his work on Justice League. Now we know he’s right for Gotham.
Batman #90 is a breath of fresh air for a run that feels like it’s been dawdling to this point, formulaically biding its time while holding back on the meat of the story. And maybe that’s by design (no pun intended) to ensure that we get multiple issues of Jimenez in a row. But you could just as well skip the issues leading to this point and have no problem jumping in Tynion still hasn’t tapped into the heart that I think is the signature of his work but he’s managed to remind us that he’s no slouch when it comes to the design of a story. Jimenez’ art makes this one go down particularly easy. Suddenly, “Joker War” feels less like it’ll be a punchline (pun intended this time, sorry) to a middling run and more like something we should anticipate when this arc concludes.