Review: Batman #133
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artists: Mike Hawthorne, Adriano Di Benedetto, Miguel Mendonca
Colours: Tomeu Morey, Roman Stevens
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Batman #133: Everyone goes insane eventually. And then they belong to the terrifying Red Mask! But Gotham City has a new savior. He strikes from the shadows, exhumes the dead, and is known only as…the Batman. And in our backup story, Tim Drake’s search for Batman continues as he and Superman, Jon Kent, team up to stop the terror of the Toyman!
There is much that I enjoyed in Chip Zdarsky’s Batman #133, but my absolute favourite part is Bruce’s interaction with the Alfred Pennyworth of this parallel Earth. With Alfred having died in the main DCU, we only get to occasionally Bruce interact with him in flashbacks, hallucinations, or dreams. But this time, Bruce is interacting with a real live Alfred. It may not be the Alfred we know, but he appears to be the same character at heart.
Bruce tells this world’s Alfred,
…I’m from another universe. And the Alfred Pennyworth of my universe… was a kind man who stood up to evil. I’m here to do just that… I’ll do everything in my power to make things right… because an Alfred Pennyworth raised me.”
Something that is sometimes overlooked by many Batman writers is that Alfred was just as much of a father figure to Bruce as Thomas Wayne – if not more. It’s great to see that Zdarsky understands this crucial piece of the Batman mythos. And I like that Bruce gets the chance to express his love and appreciation to Alfred for this upbringing, even if it’s not his Alfred.
Another interesting facet of this story is seeing Bruce re-establishing himself as Batman, but without the benefit of Wayne Industries’ resources. It was somewhat teased that we would see Bruce operate without these resources in the wake of The Joker War. However, his career as Batman seems to have gone mostly unaffected, other than a change of residence.
But now we see that Bruce has had to cobble together a somewhat makeshift costume and weapons. Hawthorne and Di Benedetto have done a great job designing a lower tech Batsuit – possible too good. It looks good enough that it must have been somewhat expensive for Bruce to make. Not millions, but it must have cost at least several hundred at least. How did Bruce manage to accomplish this?
Bruce does make an interesting discovery. As far as this world is concerned, their Bruce Wayne was killed years ago. But Bruce discovers that the Bruce Wayne that died is from yet another parallel Earth. This raises some important questions. What universe is this Bruce Wayne from? And what happened to this world’s Bruce? Is he still on this Earth or on another, or is he also dead? Zdarsky has given Bruce quite the intriguing and off-beat mystery to solve.
Bruce’s encounters with the Riddler and Judge Dent show that Batman doesn’t need his fancy gadgets to be Batman. They’re tools that he makes uses of, but Bruce is every bit the badass as ever, even without them. And this world’s villains don’t stand a chance against him.
Batman #133’s backup story continues Tim Drake’s quest to find and bring Bruce back to the main DCU Earth. To this end, he has tracked down Toyman, who created the weapon that sent Bruce to another universe.
Toyman has fled to yet another universe, and Tim aims to bring him back to help figure out where in the Multiverse, Bruce was sent. Importantly, Tim also makes a point of bringing all the victims Toyman abducted to this parallel Earth. Tim’s ultimate aim is to get Bruce back, but helping others takes priority. Just as Bruce learned this from Alfred, Tim learned it from Bruce.
I am a bit confused about one thing in the backup story. Tim wears an outfit designed for multiversal travel. It’s quite a striking design from Miguel Mendonca, but it looks nothing like a Robin costume in either design or colours. But Toyman recognizes him immediately on sight as being a Robin. I don’t see how he possibly could have done so.
The only hint of his Robin costume is his mask, which is barely visible under the shaded glass of the helmet’s faceplate. It’s conceivable, if unlikely, that a Batman villain might be familiar enough with Robin to recognize him. But Toyman is a Superman villain. If the story called for Toyman to recognize Tim as a Robin, then the uniform should have somehow marked him as Robin, like the R-symbol or the distinctive red/green/yellow colour scheme.
However, this is a minor issue, and doesn’t really detract from the story. So, I can easily overlook it.
Zdarsky’s “The Bat-Man of Gotham City” is proving to be a very thought-provoking storyline. It’s an intriguing examination of how Bruce would fare in a very different version of Gotham. But, Zdarsky shows us that Bruce is up to the challenge. Because being Batman is Bruce’s destiny, regardless of which version of Gotham City he may find himself in.