If you’ve been reading DC Comics over the past few years, Joshua Williamson is a name you’re sure to recognize. It seems he has his writing hand in just about everything across the DC Universe. That is especially true with the Bat-family, including the amazing Robin series and Deathstroke Inc. So, it came as no surprise when DC announced Williamson was taking over Batman with Jorge Molina and Mikel Janín on art, Tomeu Morey on colors, and recent Batman mainstay Clayton Cowles handling lettering duty.
Before we get into how well the team delivers, a little story is needed, so we know what is happening. Having recently survived Fear State, Batman #118 introduces a jumping-on point for newcomers as the Bat takes his fight out of Gotham. What makes him leave his beloved (albeit violent) city? The recent news of the heinous crimes of some Batman Inc. members, and the newly created villain, Abyss. What mysteries will he uncover, and who is the new Batman Inc. benefactor? Only time and reading will tell because otherwise, I’d be giving spoilers!
As stated, Williamson has had his hand in a lot of DC Comics cookie jars recently, that said, I hadn’t read much of his work until recently. Crazy, huh? But, something that stands out in his work is how he pays respect to the others before him, all while trying to pave his own way forward. This can be seen in Batman #118 with his usage of Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc. team (who haven’t been used too much recently), and David Finch’s Batman Inc. suit which the new ones inspired by. Yet, as this new run follows Tynion and team’s multi-year run, he doesn’t just throw those recent plots away. Instead, he helps wrap it up neatly in a fantastic send-off. Part of this send-off encompasses a villain-themed billionaires ball.
With Batman leaving Gotham this issue, a villain-themed Ball with all his classic villains as his last Gotham crime clean-up is a smart ending note. Plus, Williamson hits multiple beats phenomenally here. On one page, he shows his ability to write a smart, detective-style Batman, as he surveys the crowd explaining why he doesn’t need technology to tell who is a real villain. However, that isn’t the only scene Williamson writes a great detective Batman, but the other comes much later, in a more spoiler-centric moment. It’s easy to say, Williamson enjoys the detective side of Batman. Back to the Ball and in what is one of the best moments in it; a kid in attendance asks for Batman’s autograph, in the costume of a recently created Tynion and Jorge Jiménez villain. One I particularly like a lot. So to say my heart swelled at how cute this moment was would be an understatement.
It’s hard to pick a moment to revolve around, as Batman #118 is filled with scenes that are phenomenal, not just for one individual element, but because of how the team behind this new issue works so well together. In an early scene involving fireworks, all of the creative team comes together to make an amazing sequence of events. While fireworks are blasting in the background, Cowles showcases their loudness with BOOM-BOOSH, while Morey paints the sky and figures with the colors of the explosions. But, the highlight here is how the team presents Batman and his legend.
One of the best things about Batman is his legend and how he can scare the crap out of criminals without doing anything. There are many older comics where he just stalks his prey, doesn’t say anything, and they are so scared that they give themselves up. This happens to great effect in Batman #118 as Molina hides Batman behind a flash of firework that scares the living hell out of the criminals. Then the following page we are treated to a terror-inducing Batman in front of fireworks. Between Morey’s bright, gorgeous neon lights that flood Gotham, the eye-catching fireworks, and the way that he colors scenes in shadow are just magnificently beautiful. Couple that with Molina’s use of different perspectives, hiding Batman, and the final reveal, and you have a great sequence of events. Yet we’d be nowhere without Cowles lettering.
Cowles has worked on Batman for a while now, and it shows how great knowledge of the series he has. In the fireworks scene alone his sound effects lettering helps really sell the moment. During the BOOM-BOOSH of fireworks, he changes the BOOSH to be more see-through, yet bigger to help emphasize the loudness of that moment specifically compared to the BOOM. Not only that, but when he uses SMASH later on he breaks the letters up while making them shaky, giving the effect more oomph that helps sell how hard they are hitting.
The art transitions from Molina to Janín around the time Batman leaves Gotham, which is a great point for them to switch. The pair’s art is akin to each other, yeah there are differences, but whoever made the decision to have Molina and Janín work together did great, as their art really melds with one another. That said, Janín also does wonders with the limited action scenes given, breathing fresh invigorating life into them. Not only does the fight scene work well, but Janín is able to greatly showcase a brooding Batman even when there is light around. Janín’s work on his few pages is so great it’s hard to tell that there were two artists employed as the duo work so well together.
Although there is a lot to love, there is one plot point that feels too coincidental – Batman finding out about the Batman Inc. members’ crimes. The manner that occurs feels too out of place when you have a character that literally keeps a “how to defeat my best friends” list. Why wouldn’t he be keeping tabs on the Batman Inc. crew? This is addressed, by it doesn’t feel honest to his character. Nonetheless, weirder (much weirder) has happened to Batman and comics in general.
From a new reader perspective, Batman #118 does great in bringing the reader up to date with what has recently transpired, while paving a way forward that is both exciting and intriguing to watch unfold. However, Williamson doesn’t just throw away the previous team’s effort, instead, he wraps everything up with the other characters and plots in an organic way. Batman’s not much for goodbyes, and Williamson displays this with how he simply disappears. One great thing that will scratch the itch all varying fans of Batman have, is the team’s ability to combine Batman’s action and detective side. Not only that, but if you are a long-time reader, Williamson sprinkles in a lot that these fans would love, but he doesn’t do it in a way that will belittle newer readers. All in all Batman #118 is a great start to this new creative team’s first arc that any fan is sure to enjoy for a multitude of reasons.
Memorable Quote: “How hard is it to get out of all that leather?” – Partygoer to Batman. I mean, I’ve always wondered that myself!