Welcome to “Off The Shelf”, our comic book reviews of recent titles. These are designed to be brief reviews of current books and series that we think you should check out.
Today, Brian reviews Batman #108-- Written by James Tynion IV, art by Jorge Jimenez, and colors by Tomeu Morey
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Greetings Geek Friends! Welcome to another episode of Church of the Geek’s Off the Shelf, the weekly comic review. I am Brian Bennett, regular co-host of Church of the Geek.
Batman has been through a great deal recently, and thus, so has Gotham. There was Bane taking over the city. Then there were the Joker Wars. Then the bombing of Arkham Asylum, or A-Day as it is called by some where hundreds of inmates were killed. As if that hadn’t been bad enough, Bruce’s marriage to Selina is… well… put on hold… because she had been part of the movement to strip Bruce of his fortune and corporation, bringing him to live in a far more modest home than Wayne Manor. I mean… it’s still nice, but… it’s a big step down since there isn’t any more Batcave to speak of.
Then after the Interlude of Future State, we step into that aftermath. Batman #108 is the third installment of the arc “The Cowardly Lot” with the creative team of writer, James Tynion IV, art by Jorge Jimenez, and colors by Tomeu Morey.
There was a time, not all that long ago if I am being honest, that I was not reading any superhero comics, because I truly felt that the teacher from Ecclesiastes was right, there really was nothing new under the sun.
But it was actually this Batman title that brought me back in. Way back in those mid-50s issues where Bruce Wayne says he doesn’t believe in God. I felt obligated to read those. Tom King kept me there. He was writing some interesting things, even if his run got cut short and the story suffered. I almost dropped it then. But when Tynion started, I kept at it. I mean, I do claim Batman is my favorite superhero. I should at least read one Batman title, right?
Nonetheless since Future State ended, this particular story arc has been incredibly ambitious. There are a number of major characters, and how or if they are related is not real clear. We do see Batman, Oracle, and new comer Ghost-Maker, and even Harley Quinn, working to seek out the bad guys. On the villanous roster are a number of individuals or groups. There is Simon Saint, tech scion, head of Saint Industries. His desire is to bring about a crime fighting force called the Magistrate. If you read the Future State Batman titles, you will know that this force will mean trouble for those wearing masks.
Then there is also the Unsanity Collective, led by Master Wyze. It is finally in issue 108, we begin to understand that they are looking for a way to make society better for everyone. Miracle Molly is the mouthpiece in this issue as she talks with an undercover Batman.
Finally then is Dr. Jonathan Crane. Scarecrow. His involvement is not really a surprise given his prominence on each cover of the arc thus far. But we know what he brings. Fear. Fear is prominent in every aspect of this story. Fear of villains and vigilantes. Fear of the masses by the rich. Fear of the rich by the masses. Fear of who has control. Fear being wielded by the media as a means to drive a particular agenda.
All of these characters and groups start out in 106 as seemingly separate. LIttle by little, we begin to see how they come together. All of them seem to be circling around something, and it seems to be Batman. Each of these issues starts with Batman strapped down and under the influence of Scarecrow, making each issue a flashback as Batman works to keep out from under the full influence of the fear Scarecrow is instilling in him.
This issue is noteworthy then because of how we see the story starting to come together. It is as yet unclear how everything will come together. Thus far, then, it is well told. I hope Tynion et al might take their time and let everything come together just right so that the payoff is rich.
The fear that Scarecrow is cultivating has ratcheted up the tension in Gotham. And unlike the constant action in the earlier arcs, everything here is deliberate. Batman is being slow and methodical. He is the detective. He seeks out the Unsanity Collective, not to bring it down, but to understand. In issue 108, he doesn’t throw a punch. The action comes in the last eight pages with the continuing story of Ghost-Maker hunting down Madame Midas. Lots of action there.
But again Batman is without Wayne Enterprises and the fortune that gives him such fantastic equipment. However he does more meaningful work here. He is something more like I want from him. Not tearing through Gotham wreaking havoc. He does not want to trigger a wave of fear that might destroy Gotham.
This arc speaks plenty for us today. We have media who want to instill fear because fear sells. The rich stoke the fears of scarcity. Government want us to fear so they can sell us security. Most of the population just gets swept up right along with it.
For the past year in pandemic, we have dealt with responding to a pandemic and there are plenty who believe that caution is fear. They would prefer the punching, smashing Batman, rather than the one who slows down to understand. We have spent so much time trying to be careful and not let the world come apart.
In the opening page of this issue, Batman is being beset by the Scarecrow’s tricks. Batman reminds himself “Ground yourself in what you know is real. Let go of the fear.” Batman realizes that he can defeat the fear by keeping connected to what is real. And that groundedness is rooted in memory. Batman keeps recalling what has happened before. He does not want to live in a reality shaped by fear. We cannot live in a reality that has us fear the other. That has us fear a lack of jobs and livelihood. More often than not those fears do not have us act in our best interest.
Most of all, living in unfounded fear is not where God calls us. And this is not to say “Have faith in God and you will never fear again!” Far from it. But we remember who we are and whose we are. That is the memory to keep recalling in the midst of fear. We belong to God. Even as we move through fear, we are not alone. We keep God’s promises in mind so that we might act and help others in their fear. And they help us in ours.
I am fascinated by Batman #108. I hope the excellent set up has just as excellent a conclusion. I await the future issues without fear.
Geek be with you.