After a long hiatus, Batman 92 hit the shelves on June 9th and it seems like all the pieces are coming together as Batman prepares to face off with the Designer. Writer James Tynion IV comes out of the gate swinging in from the get-go with this suspenseful issue. Artist Guillem March continues to pencil this arc using his hyper-detailed art style. This issue is also the first appearance of Punchline, Joker’s new partner.
Without getting too into the respective stories, James Tynion IV’s storytelling seems to stagnate with this issue. That being said, two stories are told throughout the issue, the first being Batman and Deathstroke hunting down the riddler as he terrorizes Gotham City and the other being Harley Quinn and Catwoman facing off against Punchline.
A majority of Batman’s story is rushed and loses the sense of urgency that it should have. When written well, the Riddler alone is a captivating foe for both Batman and readers. Add in an unlikely alliance with Deathstroke and you’d think this issue would be a slam dunk. Unfortunately, Riddler’s riddlers seem too easy to solve, and his importance is diminished due to his cowardly actions. Additionally, Deatthstoke doesn’t do much of anything except make snarky comments to Batman. Perhaps Tynion intended for this issue to be more powerful in theory, but it comes off as trivial and filler.
With the impending Joker-War, much of this issue feels unimportant and poor utilization of time that could be dedicated to a new exciting Batman villain. To preview this new story, the entire other half of the story featuring Selina and Harley prepares readers for the war while also introducing Punchline. In spite of the drab writing in the prior story, Tynion does a solid job writing Harley Quinn. She’s every bit as jumpy and chaotic as one would expect, while also reminding readers she’s not an easy foe to take down.
Between these two stories, March rotates between two different art styles. During the Batman and Deathstroke, he uses a rather unappealing yet highly detail-oriented style. Although rough on the eyes, March ensures every inch of each panel is vivid in style. During Catwoman and Harley’s story, however, March uses a very cartoony and bright art style that hyper-sexualized Harley and Selina. It’s very disappointing because the two are reduced down to busty clueless women in some panels, rather than the fierce anti-heroes they truly are. Moreover, much of the art in the story is either very dark and wrinkly or bubbly and sexualized.
Overall, Batman 92 is a weak story with such a mixed style of art that it becomes hard to remember what the plot is. Hopefully, Joker-War is the payoff it appears to be, because sacrificing the importance of a new powerful villain like The Designer for another Joker story is a gamble.