Full Spoilers Below
With this historic issue of the title (900th issue!), we’re treated to a multitude of stories that all serve to advance the plot in both this title and the Bat-line as a whole. Four of the stories in this oversized issue are written by John Layman (Chew), with the fifth story written by up-and-coming writer James Tynion IV (Talon, The Eighth Seal).
The first of Layman’s stories in this issue continues directly from the cliffhanger in the last issue, in which we see Ogilvy/Emperor Penguin coerce Zzasz into killing his next victim with a special knife coated with contagious Man-bat serum. Zzasz follows through with his mission unleashing the Man-bat airborne pathogen on Gotham City, with only Batman to prevent it from spreading. Why only Batman you ask? Oh, that’s right, his family doesn’t trust him anymore after the events of the epic “Death of the Family.” I love seeing continuity among the line, so it was great to see Layman follow up on these events and show that nobody is speaking to Bruce; Dick even leaves town in the midst of the attack to handle his own business. I also enjoyed the way this story concluded, with Dr. Langstrom (creator of the Man-bat serum) sacrificing himself to save Gotham, turning himself into a Man-bat in the process. It really made me feel connected to Langstrom as a character, and it shows that sometimes Gotham’s citizens can be as heroic as their resident vigilantes. Hopefully we see more from Langstrom down the line.
Layman’s other stories in the issue focused on tangential events to the Man-bat swarm of Gotham’s 900 block. One of them focuses on Langstrom’s wife, becoming a Man-bat herself to be reunited with her husband again. Another focuses on GCPD cops’ reactions to working in a city with a prolific vigilante like Batman. This story brings back Officer Strode from Tynion’s backup in issue #12 of the series, which you may remember as the one featuring the creepy talking Joker-face, and it was great to see her still sticking to her guns (being a “Bat-lover”) despite the adversity from her fellow officers. Last but not least, Layman presents us with a story about Emperor Penguin’s henchmen and their actions during the Man-bat attack. This story revealed that the Man-bats were simply a distraction for his henchmen to steal millions of dollars and for Ogilvy himself to make a mysterious trip to S.T.A.R. Labs. Not only that, but we get to see the original Penguin begin his strike back against Ogilvy, and I know Layman will not disappoint in providing the epic confrontation between them that is sure to come.
Tynion’s backup was one of my favorite parts of the issue for several reasons. The most superficial reason is simply that Bane is my favorite of Batman’s rogues, so seeing him in any capacity is enough to get me excited. But throw in the fact that this story served as a prologue to an upcoming arc in Talon, a book I am enjoying immensely, then that’s just bonus points. I also would like to point out the genius plot point Tynion implicated in with this story: the Court of Owls has been helping Bruce takedown his villains all these years simply because they don’t want them damaging the city either! If Bruce or Calvin does eventually succeed in shutting down the court for good, Batman may not be as effective as he once was, and that would lead to some excellent story potential.
Finally, I would be remiss to not mention the stellar art in this issue, especially that of Jason Fabok. The way he draws the musculature of heroes and incorporates shadows into the scene has quickly enabled him to become a favorite artist of mine.
With all that gushing fanboy excitement said, it should be obvious how much I enjoyed the issue. But if not, I’ll quantify my love of it for you.
– DC Gent