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Review – Batman #87 (DC Comics)

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  • Writing - 8/10
    8/10
  • Art - 8/10
    8/10
  • Overall - 8/10
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Batman #87

Writer: James Tynion IV
Pencils: Guillem March
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: DC Comics
Maturity Rating: T+
Release Date: January, 22nd 2019

Batman is in Hell. With his methods growing more draconian by the day, the Dark Knight appears to be slipping into the abyss. Will Batman find salvation or is his soul forever damned? 

Abandoning All Hope in Batman #87

In Batman #87, the loss of Alfred Pennyworth still weighs heavily on Bruce. Absent his longstanding moral compass, Batman’s foundations are beginning to slip. His methods are becoming increasingly draconian in nature, blurring the lines of “hero” and “villain” like never before. It’s dark, violent, and even appears to draw inspiration from Dante’s Divine Comedy. Let me explain:

Writing

Batman #87 (DC Comics) main cover by Tony S. Daniel
Batman #87 (DC Comics) main cover by Tony S. Daniel

The story begins with The World’s Greatest Detective devising a prison known as “The Black Block”: a nine-cell holding facility built to hold Gotham’s most dangerous rogues—those whom Batman no longer trusts to Arkham Asylum. “Hold” is the operative word. The cells of the prison completely encase their captives, rendering them immobile, save for the ability to speak and blink. They’re torture chambers operating under the guise of “the greater good”; a sadistic and stark departure from The Dark Knight’s status quo. 

“Nine secure holding cells for the truly dangerous…”

In Dante’s Divine Comedy (Inferno), Hell is imagined as having nine concentric circles. Each circle houses a specific sin or offense and has its own unique punishment for the damned. The Ninth and deepest circle of Hell is home to the Treacherous: the place Judas Iscariot, Cain, and Satan himself all call home. As punishment for their most heinous crimes, these unfortunate souls are frozen solid in a lake of ice, forever entombed and unable to move. Sound familiar yet? 

The parallels are hard to ignore. Tynion appears to be using Dante’s Inferno as a metaphor to express Batman’s state of being. Which is: “Batman is in Hell.” In the deepest recesses of Hell, in fact. All of his actions, in Batman’s mind, are justified; everything is a means to a greater end. If this is the case, then the question that still remains unanswered is will Batman be able to navigate his way out of damnation? Or has he lost his soul forever?

Art

After experiencing his palpable artistic skills first hand, I have to say that I’m a little embarrassed to admit I’m largely unfamiliar with the work of Guillem March. Upon further investigation, this comic book journeyman has enmeshed himself into the fabric of the DC Universe, offering a true return to form in Batman #87. March’s character archetypes are the ones we all know and love. Take, for example, the overly muscled Batman with his bright yellow utility belt. Or how about a zoomorphic Penguin complete with purple gloves and hat-accent? Without question, my favorite has to be “classic catsuit Catwoman”, a clear homage to Michelle Pfieffer in Batman Returns. 

My only qualm is that March’s art, at times, can be overly sexualized. I certainly wouldn’t call myself a feminist when it comes to comic books, but this is too much, even for me. Just look at the way Catwoman stands: her weight shifted to one side, hip cocked to the left; clearly done to accentuate her ass. The scenes with Cheshire are even worse. It actually looks like she’s “riding” Batman as they’re fighting; I’m not even going to mention her “costume” if you can call it that. 

Now, I’m not trying to preach, and I’m certainly not saying that sex in comic art doesn’t have its place. I’m merely arguing that for it not to be perceived as gratuitous, it has to be executed at the right time and in the right way. Presenting female characters in this manner is alienating and it diminishes the value that Batman’s female rogues bring to the table. Let sex be your tool, not your weapon.

The last thing I want to mention is just how perfectly Tomeu Morey‘s color palette paints the Gotham City skyline. The darkness of Tynion’s writing is conveyed even more deeply by the emotional fortitude of Morey’s scheme. This fusion of talented individuals working in tandem with one another, accentuating their individual strengths, is without a doubt the most enjoyable aspect of Batman as a whole. 

Conclusion

I found Batman #87 to be one of the most allegorical comic books I’ve ever read. The story has depth, layers, and above all else—sets an incredible pace. The direction that Tynion is taking Batman truly has me excited beyond my wildest dreams. So much still remains up in the air that I for one can’t wait to see how it all comes crashing down. We still don’t know how the greatest loss felt by Batman (next to his parents’ deaths) is going to play out. How much is it really affecting him? Judging by his increasingly malevolent behavior, my guess is that we’ve just begun to see the tip of the iceberg. How deep will Batman’s depravity go? Only time will tell. 


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Jordan Claes

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