Batman takes on the Scarecrow while Gotham adapts to the changes brought about by Master Wyze in Batman #106 (opens in new tab). Artists Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey deliver a visually exciting issue as James Tynion IV sets up the various players in Gotham's shifting landscape. And a backup story by Joshua Williamson and Gleb Melnikov sees Damian Wayne face a choice about which of his parents he intends to follow.
Written by James Tynion IV and Joshua Williamson
Art by Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey, and Gleb Melnikov
Letters by Clayton Cowles and Troy Peteri
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
'The Cowardly Lot' begins in media res, with Bruce Wayne in the clutches of the Scarecrow. The visuals jump immediately off the page, with Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey creating an ethereal look for Scarecrow. His dimensions are elongated, and there's a bit of layering in the artwork itself, as if he's a digitized image rather than actually in the room with Bruce. Adding to the eeriness is Clayton Cowles' lettering, which uses a drop shadow effect to match Scarecrow's look here. But the lettering goes beyond just a cool look. Bruce is captured and disoriented, and as his inner monologue continues, this specialized lettering appears in the captions, letting readers share in the confusion. Are these thoughts Bruce's or Scarecrow's?(opens in new tab)
The artwork is doing a lot of the lifting here. The story is largely set-up, with Batman hunting down various criminals while Mayor Nakano meets with Simon Saint to discuss new avenues of militarized defense for Gotham to pursue. But Jimenez's intricate linework and dynamic poses make for an electrifying read. When Batman chases down criminals on motorcycles, the vehicles race right at the reader, and the motion blur effects and Morey's use of bright neon colors to contrast the shadows give the book a neo-noir vibe that helps sell the idea of Gotham being on the precipice. Either it lives up to the shining lights, or it implodes into radioactive chaos.
This point-of-no-return applies to Batman here as well. Tynion has left Batman without Alfred or the mansion and the Batcave, instead relying on the bare minimum, and forcing Bruce to take risks for efficiency's sake, noting to Oracle, "I would have [taken the airbags out of the Batmobile] if that would have made the car any faster." Tynion understands that Batman's at his strongest when his back is against the ropes and it shows in the way that he sets up the story for the rest of the arc.
The backup story by Joshua Williamson and Gleb Melnikov takes readers to the fictional nation of Markovia, where Talia al Ghul receives a surprise visit from her son, Damian Wayne. Williamson's dialogue establishes the cold relationship between Wayne and his mother, and when the reunion is interrupted, Melnikov does a good job of contrasting the brutally efficient Talia with her son, whose time in Gotham has dulled his killer instinct. Unfortunately, the cliffhanger ending is disappointingly predictable, ending the issue on a dud of a story beat.
With both stories getting started at the same time, Batman #106 works as a jumping-on point for anyone looking to get into the current era of the Dark Knight. The eye-catching visuals certainly help with that. However, the focus on setup means that neither story delivers a truly memorable moment that makes you desperate for the next issue. This isn't a hollow read, but it's not yet a compelling one either.
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