Can Batman defeat The Designer? And when the price becomes clear, will he want to? Your Major Spoilers review of Batman #90 from DC Comics awaits!
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Jorge Jiminez
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Ben Abernathy
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: March 4, 2020
Previously in Batman: The mysterious master criminal known only as the Designer once brought together Gotham City’s greatest criminals to plot the perfect crime, and now his plan has been unleashed upon the city in all its might. Batman will go to any length to uncover the grand design, but Catwoman is the one who holds the greatest secret.
If Batman wins against the Designer, he will lose everything…
“HE WAS A CRAFTSMAN AND HE WANTED TO HEAR ABOUT MY CRAFT…”
This issue opens with Deathstroke on the run from a horde of armed drones, all under the control of Harley Quinn, and honestly, it does my heart good to see Slade on the run. High above the city, though, Catwoman finally tells Batman the whole truth: Years ago, she and several of his other foes were called to the home of a legendary villain called The Designer. It was near the beginnings of their careers, and he seemingly wanted only to help them to achieve their villainous dreams. Penguin wanted to amass political power and become the Mayor, while Riddler wanted to cripple the law enforcement of Gotham for profit, while Catwoman targeted the biggest heist in the history of heists. Then, The Designer met with The Joker. For hours, they spoke, and when the master villain stepped out of his office, he ordered all four of them killed. She explains that whatever The Joker wanted to do made the villain so angry that they barely escaped, and that The Designer’s current plans seemed based on what he discussed with them on that day.
But there’s one more catch, one that Batman already figured out: Her chosen target all those years ago, before she met him, before their engagement… was the Wayne family fortune.
THE JOKER, THE PENGUIN, THE RIDDLER & CATWOMAN
I haven’t been reading Batman regularly, but I really appreciate how quickly Tynion’s story drew me in. Little touches like Catwoman wearing her purple 90s costume, classic looks for the rest of her motley quartet and Harley’s gleeful tormenting of Deathstroke make for great details that support the big reveal. There are also hints that The Designer is (or wants people to think he is) Professor Moriarty himself, having outgrown the sparring with Sherlock Holmes to aspire to a greater goal, and it all comes together perfectly. There are a couple of quick action sequences in this issue, which Jiminez handles beautifully, but much of the issue is Catwoman’s flashback which, somewhat surprisingly, never gets visually stale. it’s two masked people standing on rooftops and five villains kibbutzing around a beautifully appointed table, and it’s all visually riveting, ending with a big splash of a plummeting Batman, and it all looks gorgeous. Best of all, the retcons necessary to make The Designer work all feel organic and possible, successfully playing him as a shadowy figure in the background of Gotham since the beginning of Batman’s career.
BOTTOM LINE: A REALLY STRONG ISSUE
The waves of one-upsmanship in the disasters that face Batman and Gotham City can feel exhausting, but Batman #90 pulls off the difficult matter of inserting a new character into the back story well, taking a situation that could have been another senseless “EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG!” and making it work thematically and tonally, with vivid art bringing it all to life for 4 out of 5 stars overall. It’s the kind of issue that might get me to pick up Batman again, at least for the duration of this arc, and that’s never an easy proposition.
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It's an engaging story of the early days of Catwoman that fills in blanks on The Designer and does it all with aplomb and strong art. Well worth the read.