When Chip Zdarsky came to Batman earlier this year with Batman #125, it was very much a return of sorts. For the title itself, it was a return to a quality in storytelling that had largely been absent in previous extended runs bogged down by a focus on dismantling the iconic vigilante by throwing too many random new supporting characters at the story and losing sight of who Batman and Bruce Wayne are. It was also a return to form for Batman himself, clearing some of the abstracts that stood in the way of the character's grit and heart while also bringing into play a fallible "World's Greatest Detective" whose own creation gets in his way in what one can only describe as a spectacular success – save for Failsafe turning on its master. The story Zdarsky began with Batman #125 concludes in Batman #130 this week and while the characterization of Batman continues to be a richly nuanced and complex work of art, it's the mechanics of this story's resolution that don't quite land.
In general, Batman #130 hits the right notes. The issue explains how Batman makes it back to Earth after being stranded in space by Failsafe and beautifully illustrates how resourceful Batman can be while leaning into some of the character's more fantastical elements. However, even though it's something that makes sense functionally, in terms of actual execution it comes off bloated. There's too much explanation, too much illustration, and the actual execution of Batman's descent from the heavens almost too fantastical. That sequence is followed by what is presented as a Hail Mary of sorts in dealing with Failsafe, but while it should have a pulse pounding element to it—this is the ultimate showdown, after all—going into the fight the reader already knows Batman has lost. Zdarsky has created a villain in Failsafe that is unstoppable – almost to the point that one wants Failsafe to win just to be done with the affair. After all, this is comics. Even if Failsafe wins, Batman isn't going to stay in the loser's column for long.
It's with that in mind that the solution to the Failsafe problem feels phoned in. For all of the creative problem solving Batman has done and for all of the demonstration that Failsafe is a villain he cannot defeat, the idea that Batman would try a simple—in a sense—reprogramming seems weak. It seems defeatist, which is the exact opposite of what the narration suggests we are seeing from Batman, who is more dialed in than ever and sees the world, perhaps, more clearly than he ever has. It's a strange juxtaposition, particularly considering how the issue is structured as a play-by-play. To put it more simply, it doesn't line up well and it drags the reading experience down in what was already set to be a disappointing conclusion.
And yet, there's something interesting in killing Batman – even if there's no way he's actually dead. More than that, however, there's a lot to enjoy as Jorge Jimenez's style continues to be a true delight on Batman and the Arctic scenes are especially well done here. There's something fascinating about the openness of the art with the cluttered nature of the story that creates a balance in between and to a great extent helps save the issue by adding story and feeling where the words on the page fall short. But such is the nature of good artwork.
In the end, the "Failsafe" arc concludes almost predictably and while the quality of Batman #130 isn't quite to the high standards set by Batman #125, it's still an interesting issue that positions the story to progress in intriguing directions. Yet it's an unfortunately bloated and somewhat rushed conclusion that doesn't quite land and leaves the reader wanting more because they're just as tired as Batman is by the end.
Published by DC Comics
On December 6, 2022
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Jorge Jimenez
Colors by Tomeu Morey
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Cover by Jorge Jimenez