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Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #184 by Drew Barth

A Chip in the Ice

I don’t remember the last time I picked up a Batman comic. I’ve grabbed Batman comics in the past—typically some one-offs, a few issues of Batman: Black and WhiteBatman & RobinBatman Inc., etc. But never the mainline Batman series. The New52 and Rebirth relaunches didn’t intrigue me. The jumping-on points seemed to come and go. New creative teams came and went. And yet I somehow ended up with Batman #125 by Chip Zdarsky, Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles the other week.

A not insignificant portion of Batman ending up in my pull-list is due to the chipper himself, Chip Zdarsky. I’d been familiar with his work from Sex Criminals and Howard the Duck, in the pre-troubles era, but as much of his work recently came from Marvel, I had kept my distance. I’d seen the accolades for Daredevil, but I somehow stayed away. And then this new jumping-on point for Batman was announced with Zdarsky as the writer and Cowles on letters and my interest was piqued. But it was seeing those previews for this new arc and them going hard on the Danny DeVito-era Penguin look that ultimately convinced me to take a glance.

In this new arc, we have Penguin proxy-murdering the wealthy elite of Gotham for shunning him and framing Batman for his murder as a final act before an unnamed illness finally does him in. For a crime and detective story, that’s a good hook. But where this excels is how it uses the medium to its fullest extent. From its first page being a foreshadowing for the final page to the cliffhang nature of the page turns to the staccato panels of Bruce Wayne walking around a party while Robin deals with a deadly gas just below, there’s so much on the pages to keep someone completely engrossed. It’s a longer first issue, but it’s the kind where your eyes almost wash across the page and absorb just enough of it at a time to be surprised at what happens later. It’s the kind of thing a team like Zdarsky, Jimenez, Morey, and Cowles can do that feels like an invisible line guiding you along without ever coming across as pushy. In comics, it’s a delicate act, but every aspect of this issue of Batman accomplishes it flawlessly.

I think I need to keep adding Batman to my pull-list. I don’t know how I’ve avoided it for so long, but DC finally got me to do it. While there’s no concrete formula for success in a jumping-on comic, this is as close to what that success can look like. I’m drawn in a way that I just haven’t been for Batman for the entire time I’ve read comics, and yet I’m gushing about it now. 

Get excited. Get vengeance. 

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.