BATMAN #90 & #91

There once was a very kind cat, who withheld a dark secret from the bat. So to turn things around. She clowned and she frowned. Until her secret evolved into chitchat. Want to know more? Then please ignore the following adventure created by James Tynion IV, Jorge Jimenez, Rafael Albuquerque, Carlo Pagulayan, and published by DC Comics in April, 2020.

TO QUOTE Richard Simmons: I consider myself a court jester – motivator’.

Once upon a time, in a city called Gotham, there lived a supernatural thief who decided to arrange a meeting between himself, The Designer, and four other criminals, The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler, and a certain sultry cat burglar, so he could teach them how to be much better at their chosen profession.

However, when they eventually met, face-to-face, he suddenly came to the stark realization that one of them would pervert his guidance and destroy everything they touch. Namely, The Joker, who proves him right, straight away, by shooting Mr. D in the head before urging the others to cover up for his crimes.

Well, until today, that is, because he’s back, The Designer is now back, and he’s set a plan in motion that will pit hero against villainfact against fiction, and law against order. Want to know more? Then please pick up issues 90 & 91 of Batman today. In the meantime, though, here, have a look at this...

On the whole, I rather enjoyed reading these two episodes of ‘Their Dark Designs, because the artwork was atmospheric, stylized, yet sometimes slightly diverse, whereas the story in itself was easily divisible by two: With issue 90, going back in time and chronicling the events that led up to ‘the fiendish four’ betraying The Designer, while issue 91, expanded upon Batman’s current battle with Slade. So in many ways, both installments were able to appease certain plot-points, despite suffering from a couple of ups and downs. Or in other words…

1) Issue 90, did you enjoy reading it?  Well, if truth be told, that’s a pretty difficult question to answer because the overall narrative was a moderately mixed affair. On the one hand, the plot was simple to follow and it was nice to see The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler, and Catwoman interacting with each other without any major infighting (ish). While on the other hand, James's script lacked any originality and some of the details were rather vague. After all, Catwoman’s explanation of past events were mostly anecdotal and partly based on supposition, The Designer’s origins were somewhat superficial and needed further explanation, and even though we knew about the plan to attack Bruce Wayne, we didn’t know any of the details until the end of the issue. Which reminds me…

2) Was issue 91 any better than issue 90? Well, with some benefit of hindsight, I suppose I should say yes and no. Yes, because the action was more intense (I loved Bruce’s fight with Slade), the story was more personal (there was a notable increase in voice-over narration), and the overall presentation was far more consistent than the previous chapter (which was surprising, considering that three different artists were assigned to draw it). And no, because nothing new was revealed about The Designer or his plans for taking over Gotham! In fact, the only thing we found out — plot-wise, at least — is that next month will be a big team-up extravaganza between Batman and Slade, Catwoman and Harley, and The Designer and... coff-coff-coff (no spoilers here). In addition to this, James Tynion's script was also smart enough to question the validity of certain characters' motivations, which in turn, gave it an extra added dimension. Questions about Catwoman (Did she tell Batman the truth about her betrayal? Or is The Joker right when he said that she's holding something back); Questions about Harley (What’s her role within the scheme of things? Because so far, she’s being used as a sidekick or someone to talk to); And in retrospect, questions about The Designer’s first opponent (Was he a member of the JSA or someone old/new?). Either way, I’m sure the best is yet to come, but at the same time, it would have been nice if we were told the truth, instead of teased about the truth (if you get my gist).

3) OK. So what have we learned about The Designer so far? Well, from the looks of it, I can safely say that he’s a villain who has a connection to magic and comes from a long, bygone, era. Apart from that, though, well, it’s hard to say, really, because the rest of his origins are shrouded in mystery (just like the man himself). But with that said, I do have a sneaking suspicion that...

  • One: He might have obtained his enchanted abilities from the magical realm known as The Dreaming (a.k.a. Sandman’s old haunts) due to the bond he shares with the ‘Tartarus House’ (which looks fairly similar to the ‘House of Secrets’).
  • Two: He was most probably born during the Middle Ages on account of his stilted diction, his outlandish medieval attire, and his face-mask sporting a ‘D’ that’s in the style of printed calligraphy
  • And Three: He appears to be a self-made man and follows an ideology that doesn’t really make sense. Well, let’s face it, one of his, coff-coff, ‘main abilities’ is to be able to outsmart people or teach criminals how to be better criminals. Or in other words, he’s a good thinker. But not that good, otherwise, he would have been able to predict The Joker attacking him and the others betraying him. I mean, seriously? They're a gang of thieves, so what else did he expect? For them to play nicely? No. I don’t think so. Not by a long shot. 

4) What did you think about the art? Yeah, I liked it, I liked it a lot. But in the same breath, I think things would have flowed a lot better if only one artist was hired to draw these two episodes; and not three artists who have slightly different styles of work! Well, Jorge Jimenez is an illustrator that's best known for his manga-inspired style of art, Rafael Albuquerque has a reputation for drawing either noir or minimalist designs, and as for Carlo Pagulayan? He has a more traditional approach to his work compared to the other two. So in many ways, even though I liked what each artist produced individually, collectively, I would have preferred a bit more symmetry.

I’m now going to musically match-up this adventure with the Chief Keef song, 'Designer (Back From The Dead)’, all for fairly obvious reasons. 

Now I know this may sound like a silly thing to say, but in many ways, The Designer reminds me of a self-help guru, which is why I’m choosing this particular vocation for this month’s comic book comparison.

Say no more. 

At the end of issue 91, it is revealed that The Designer is secretly working with someone else. So, out of the following eight options, let’s see if you can guess who that someone might be? I mean, could it be…

  • The Penguin.
  • Hillary Clinton.
  • The Joker.
  • The Riddler.
  • Donald Trump.
  • Harley Quinn.
  • Deathstroke.
  • Beyoncé.

Nuff said.

BATMAN #90 & #91 BATMAN #90 & #91 Reviewed by David Andrews on April 02, 2020 Rating: 5

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