Overview: In Batman #140, Batman must stop Zur-En-Arrh before Zur-En-Arrh kills the Joker once and for all.
Title: Batman #140
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Jorge Jimenez & Jorge Corona
Colorist: Tomeu Morey & Ivan Plascencia
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Cover: Jorge Jimenez
Variant Cover: Frank Cho, Sabine Rich, Francesco Mattina, Tirso Cons, Dan Mora & Otto Schmidt
Release Date: December 5, 2023
Please Note: This comic book review may contain spoilers
The Joker, garbed in a white suit not unlike The Dark Knight Returns, stands before Batman, wiping blood off his face. The Clown Prince of Crime has waited for this moment, when the real Batman, the one behind the “put-on voice” shows his face. The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh shouts at Joker, who flees, mocking the Caped Crusader all the while. In Bruce Wayne’s mind, Bruce is confronted by a council of Zur-En-Arrh’s. It’s revealed that when he hopped through the multiverse during Batman #135 the “Zur-En-Arrh” personalities of every other Batman he encountered were invited to join his Zur-En-Arrh. Together, the “Zurs” are building an army of themselves, as it’s the proper way to defend Gotham City.
If this opener sounds nutty, it most definitely is. Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey do an excellent job on art, and all of the Zur-En-Arrh variants look very pretty. However, the conceit of this is… interesting? It’s weird to think that apparently Batman infected and controlled by his own backup personality isn’t enough, that the creative team has to go the extra mile to have a bunch of Zur-En-Arrh personalities inhabiting his head a la Being John Malkovich.
Outside of Bruce’s mind, Batman pursues Joker through a bunch of traps and out onto the streets of Gotham. The Batman that confronts Joker wants to end it once and for all. Inside Bruce’s mind, Bruce asks Zur-En-Arrh what the endgame is.
“No more distractions. No more “Bruce Wayne,” an animated Batman of Zur-En-Arrh says. Bruce and his inter-dimensional bad selves duke it out.
Meanwhile, The Gray Shadow (Lucie Chesson), Batman’s former mentor, watches as this unrestricted Batman pummels Joker, threatening to snap the Clown Prince of Crime’s neck. Joker joy-buzzes Batman’s face to break free, scrambling off and cackling all the while. Internally, Bruce still battles with his inner selves, taking note that all of these Zur-En-Arrh’s aren’t real, they’re just fragments.
Before Batman can run after the Joker, Lucie Chesson stops him. She appeals to Bruce, asking what’s happened to him. Zur-En-Arrh rebuffs her. Internally, Bruce fights back, and Batman collapses into Lucie’s arms. He tells her that he’s trapped in his own mind, and she assures him that the Bruce she knew always found a way.
It’s an attempt at a tender moment, and the art is handled well, with a teary-eyed Lucie looking down upon a weary Bruce. With the maelstrom of events, from the Joker plot the the inner fisticuffs, that tenderness is lost in the melee. Lucie lifts Bruce back to his feet, and Zur-En-Arrh resumes control, leaping off to pursue the Joker.
Inside his own mind, it seems Bruce is on the verge of losing, but after hearing Lucie’s pep talk, he creates a maze. This issue rushes toward its pinnacle, while Batman is pursued by Zur-En-Arrhs in his memory palace, externally, Zur-En-Arrh pounces on the Joker.
The art is fantastic here, a truly dazzling parallel to what is going on inside and outside of Bruce’s mind. Batman lifts the Joker, and Bruce sneak attacks different incarnations of Zur-En-Arrh within his mind maze.
Batman deals a back-breaker blow a la Bane to Joker, then goes in for the final kill. Bruce takes out all of the Zur-En-Arrh’s save for one meant to be the darker half of Batman from The Dark Knight Returns. Bruce overcomes his counterparts and awakens in a medical bed in his hideout. He thinks he’s won, but it turns out that Zur-En-Arrh found a new host, something called “Project Terminus” that looks a lot like Failsafe from Chip Zdarsky’s first arc.
The only apt word to describe this second-part to “Mind Bomb” is exhaustion. Since taking over the title, Chip Zdarsky has been bringing Batman beyond his breaking point, first by having him blasted into another dimension by Failsafe, then through a gauntlet of an otherworldly adventure that saw him flying through the multiverse, a “war” with Catwoman, and now, finally, a seemingly penultimate battle with himself. Except it probably won’t be the penultimate battle, as every arc prior to this feels like the be-all end-all, and somehow, Batman gets dragged further and further into the dark, horrible recesses of his own mind.
Thus far, Chip Zdarsky has struggled to oscillate between wild and zany antics and moments of heart. When Batman was still connected with the Bat-family, there were characters like Robin (Tim Drake) for Batman to bounce emotions off of and be grounded by. Since the fallout of “The Gotham War,” this last vestige has been removed, and Batman’s left to his own inner monologue, one wherein a singular voice apparently wasn’t good enough, so now fans need to see Zur-En-Arrh versions of all of their favorite Batman incarnations. The point of this final issue was to bring Batman’s battle with his inner “selves” to a breaking point right as he’s about to confront the Joker again, as a moment that teeters into spiraling Batman beyond his hard no-kill rule. It’s an interesting idea, but with everything going on, with the two-even break since Batman’s multiverse adventures, readers may be left feeling… nothing. It’s dumb.
In the backup, Vandal Savage continues to make his move consolidating Gotham under his thumb. It’s revealed that he has some kind of influence over the GCPD, namely Commissioner Renee Montoya, and he may have had this influence for some time now? The art continues to be a swerve from the main story, though not entirely unpleasant. It’s just… Vandal Savage? If there’s anything more tired than the main story, it’s this Savage-led backup, especially after how terribly received “The Gotham War” was.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with an advanced copy of this comic 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.