Batman may be DC's most iconic and recognizable character, but he's also one of the most complex and for many, therein lies the problem. In recent years several very talented writers (and artists) have taken on the Dark Knight across various Batman title runs, but while they all possessed strengths, they also all fell short when it came to nuances. There's either too much emotion or not enough, an over-reliance on random new supporting characters, and even a little too much "recalibrating," as it were, depending on who is behind the issue. Somewhere along the way, Batman—and Bruce Wayne—have gotten muddied to a mess of abstracts without the grit and heart that made the character iconic. Now, with Batman #125, Chip Zdarsky is taking his turn with the title and if this first issue is any indication, Zdarsky is delivering a Batman that is both fantastically complex and richly nuanced all while dialing up the grit, action, and tension in a fashion that more than delivers on expectations.
The issue kicks off in Bruce's mind – specifically his nightmares. It's a fascinating choice, and a fitting one. Not only does this allow for Zdarsky to offer some significant insight into how Bruce Wayne operates when he reveals that Bruce only dreams when he wills himself to (and even then, it's for a purpose), but it also allows for him to orient the reader to where Bruce is in terms of time and relationships, thanks to a phone call with Selina. Once the reader is grounded and on the same page as Bruce, things kick into full gear in the real plot: someone is murdering Gotham's wealthy elite.
I have read a lot of Batman comics. I have rarely read a take on Batman that flows the way this issue does and that is extremely high praise. Across the pages of Batman #125, Zdarsky not only keeps us centered with Batman (and his dynamic with Bruce Wayne), but he pushes forward a plot that the reader can feel in their chest – particularly when there are two shocking twists back-to-back that cut to the core of who both Bruce Wayne and Batman are as individuals. This is made even better when one realizes that Zdarsky is also, simultaneously, calling back to more "historical" elements of the Batman character. The result is possibly the most authentic approach to the character in years.
But while Zdarsky's writing and story are impeccable, it doesn't function alone. Jorge Jimenez brings absolutely incredible visuals to Batman #125. His style is the right mix of raw and refined, which suits both the character and the story very well. There's also a bit of noir-like realism, particularly in facial expressions that add a completely separate emotional level. Alone, it's fascinating. Paired with Zdarsky's story? It's next level – and that's before you consider Tomeu Morey's expert use of color.
Of course, while the primary Batman story is an absolute revelation, Zdarsky doesn't stop there. The issue's backup story features Catwoman and it connects to the Batman story in a genuinely interesting way which creates a nice sense of continuity, but also feels like it has a completely different tone. The art there, from Belen Ortega with colors by Luis Guerrero, is also simply fantastic and, like the writing has a good bit of punch to it; it just lands differently than the main story, ultimately giving the reader quite literally a little bit of everything in the best way possible.
While first issues of new runs are usually pretty promising, Batman #125 comes out of the gate operating at such high levels that it genuinely feels like the only direction is to keep going up. Between the incredible art and a rich understanding and appreciation for DC's most iconic character, this comic book, this issue specifically, is exactly what Batman is meant to be; it's about damn time.
Published by DC Comics
On July 5, 2022
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Jorge Jimenez, Belen Ortega
Colors by Tomeu Morey, Luis Guerrero1comments
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Cover by Jorge Jimenez