Batman #91 Review: Too Much Design, Not Enough Execution

batman 91 header
(Photo: DC Comics)

James Tynion IV is well into his Batman run now and that means that we can start making out the grand design, as it were, for the hero's latest and possibly greatest challenge. Over the course of recent issues, readers have slowly seen a threat unlike any other unfurl: the Designer, a detailed, thorough, and diabolically intelligent villain has his own plans for Gotham and how to deal with the four villains who wronged him in the past: Joker, Riddler, Catwoman, and Penguin. With that dark history finally brought to light, Batman #91 is an issue poised to kick things to the next level. However, while the issue itself is sometimes intriguing, it never packs the punch it should.

Batman #91 centers around three narratives. The first is the Joker telling his version of the Designer's origin and current plan. On its face, that narrative is very enjoyable as it offers a slightly different take on the story Catwoman told about her fateful evening with the Designer years ago . This one teases at what the Joker's big master crime would have been, though it's framed that he alone figured out the Designer's real power play and thus killed him. It is absolutely something readers would expect from the Joker and Tynion does an incredible job of creating that story. The problem here is that the voice with which the Joker tells his tale is almost indistinguishable from Batman's internal monologue or Catwoman's, for all that it matters. The only real distinction letting readers know that the voice has shifted is the style of the lettering.

Moving to the second major narrative of the issue, we get Batman as he seeks to stop Deathstroke and confront the Designer. This aspect of the issue is par for the course in Tynion's run thus far. What elevates this part of the story, though, is the unexpected way Tynion creates a sense of urgency and anxiety with Batman. While many people criticized Tom King's more emotional Batman, we get notes of that same depth of character here in an entirely different scenario. Batman appears to still be very much in control while also playing right into the Designer's, well, design. There's a great deal of energy that Tynion has crafted in this moment of active vulnerability that may be a series highlight so far.

batman 91 joker
(Photo: DC Comics)

The third narrative returns to Catwoman and, while it is interesting and necessary to the thrust of the story, it is the weakest entry. It lays out that Catwoman is planning to defeat the Designer by beating him with what was once her own plan and that should end up delivering an interesting story in future issues. However, while the story itself was simply okay compared to the other components of the issue, the art is some of the best in the run to date with each "story" feeling visually distinctive, a requirement given the players involved.

Ultimately, Batman #91 falls into the space that most of Tynion's work on the title has inhabited thus far in that the best thing to be said about it is: It's not bad. There's a lot to enjoy—that very specific vulnerability of Batman in particular is a real gem—but there's also enough to leave readers wanting more because something is lacking, not exciting. The result is a decent enough read with the ever-present promise that things are about to get better. Here's to hoping that's a promise kept sometime soon.

Published by DC Comics

On March 18, 2020

Written by James Tynion IV

Art by Rafael Albuquerque, Jorge Jimenez, Carlo Pagulayan, and Danny Miki

Colors by Tomeu Morey

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Letters by Clayton Cowles

Cover by Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey