Overview: In Batman #138, Dick Grayson and Tim Drake set out to stop Batman, while Vandal Savage reveals his ultimate goal.
Title: Batman #138
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Cover: Jorge Jimenez and Tomey Morey
Variant Covers: Gabriele Dell’otto, Kia Asamiya, and Frank Cho
Release Date: October 3, 2023
Please Note: This comic book review may contain spoilers
Batman #138 opens with Vandal Savage recounting his origin from a mysterious meteorite, tying it to the same source that gave birth to the Lazarus pits that Ra’s Al Ghul relies on.
n Gotham City, Red Hood (Jason Todd) falls out of a hospital bed. Batman (Bruce Wayne) tells Jason that he used the machine that created Zur-en-Arrh to implant a “failsafe” in Jason as well. Batman takes off his mask and tells Jason that he loves him, that he gave him a new identity and place in Metropolis. Jason says that Bruce has always been controlling, but this is new, different somehow.
An intruder alert warning interrupts Bruce and Jason’s conversation.
Across town, Nightwing (Dick Grayson) checks in with Oracle (Barbara Gordon). They discuss the possibility of Batman actually abducting Red Hood, of having to stop Batman to save him from a Zur-en-Arrh personality that has run rampant. Nightwing ducks into an old apartment complex Bruce secretly bought long ago. It was one belonging to his parents when Thomas Wayne was in med school. It’s the secret “heart” of Batman, and Nightwing enters its secret layer as he mulls over how he needs to stop Batman, but Batman has made him who he is.
Before Nightwing can infiltrate the secret lair, Robin (Damian Wayne) leaps to action, sparring with Nightwing. He’s sided with his dad, he doesn’t want Nightwing interfering. The next few panels showcase series favorite Jorge Jimenez’s frenetic, well-structured action panels that have been missing from the series for a while now. Though brief, the battle between Dick and Damian is close, emotional, and visceral.
Barbara puts out a call to Tim Drake, who joins the fray, saving Nightwing. Drake takes Damian out of the picture, literally, so Nightwing can enter the secret lair.
Across town, Catwoman (Selina Kyle), Eiko, and Dario are discussing finding Red Hood. Before they can put a plan into action, Marquise drops in and pleads with Selina to talk to Batman. Per Marquise, only Catwoman can stop The Batman.
At the apartment, Nightwing makes his way to the Batbox, preparing to shut it down. He remembers when Batman first introduced him to it, making him swear an oath as Robin to use it only for good. Just then, Batman arrives. He never expected such betrayal from Nightwing. A message from The Riddler (Edward Nygma) comes in, and it’s enough to set Nightwing off.
The original dynamic duo fight. In classic Jimenez style, it’s intense, fluid, and full of emotion. In a series like Gotham War, it’s definitely a highlight to the event, as Batman’s madness consumes him more with each issue. Of course, with Chip Zdarsky writing this series for several issues now, the Zur en Arrh seed is one that has been planted for a long time now, in both the main Batman title and the backup stories.
Out in the streets, Tim Drake takes down Damian by electrocuting him, then handcuffing the young Robin. Nightwing and Batman fall to the streets, trading blow after painful blow. Tim steps in, telling Nightwing to complete his mission. While Batman battles Tim, Tim reminds him of why he became Robin in the first place — because Batman was going into too dark of a place and needed a Robin to pull him out.
This moment is the most emotional moment of the Gotham War event thus far, it’s the lynchpin to the series, juggling all of the moving pieces into something emotional and tangible for readers to grapple onto. Zdarsky and Jimenez are a formative team, making a compelling case for an event that, up until now, bordered on the nonsensical.
In the apartment, Nightwing disconnects the Batbox, then learns the horrors of what Batman did to Jason Todd. He leaps back out to the streets and beats Bruce bloody. Tim stops Nightwing, which gives Batman the reprieve he needs to rope both of his former Robins up. Batman leaps to the rooftops, listening to the Zur en Arrh voice telling him that he doesn’t need his Bat-family any longer, that he’ll be free to just be Batman soon.
As sirens approach, Nightwing and Robin cut themselves free. Damian shows up, lamenting that Batman left him behind. Tim and Damian hug.
Elsewhere, Marquise tracks down Jason, who is on the verge of madness. She frees Jason, then cuts a deal with him. Marquise will offer Jason immortality if he joins her, as she is really Scandal Savage, daughter of Vandal Savage. When Jason reveals that he’s weak and infected with something, Scandal leaves him, saying that she needs warriors.
Elsewhere, Batman undergoes an identity crisis of sorts. He laments that he can’t stop loving, that he can’t be Batman. Catwoman shows up, finally, and the two will have another talk — next issue.
In an epilogue, Vandal Savage reveals that he’s come to Gotham City to collect fragments of power that reside here, ones that were hidden by Ra’s al Ghul long ago. But now Ra’s is dead, and Savage can take as he pleases, with his own League of Shadows assembled, unknowingly, by Catwoman.
As Gotham War comes to a close, this whole plot comes full circle, revealing that Catwoman has inadvertently been training an army for the Savages. It’s silly and makes little sense, but one could easily assume that Catwoman is, somewhat, aware and has her own game to play. Perhaps she knows of these “fragments of power” and intends to steal them all for herself?
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with an advanced copy of Batman #138 for review purposes. You can find this comic and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue digitally on Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title through Things From Another World.