Review: Batman: Their Dark Designs

Batman: Their Dark Designs

Writers: James Tynion IV, Vita Ayala, Philip Kennedy Johnson, Mariko Tamaki, and Dan Watters

Artists: Tony S. Daniel, Carlo Pagulayan, Jorge Jimenez, Rafael Albuquerque, Javier Fernandez, Danny Miki, Andie Tong, Victor Ibañez, Riley Rossmo, John Paul Leon, and Sumit Kumar
Color Artists: Tomeu Morey, David Baron, Alejandro Sánchez, Jordie Bellaire, Ivan Plascencia, John Paul Leon, and FCO Plascencia
Letterers: Clayton Cowles, Rob Leigh, Troy Peteri, Tom Napolitano, Deron Bennett, and Carlos M. Mangual
Review by Steve J. Ray

Batman: Their Dark Designs collects the epilogue to Batman #85, the complete “Their Dark Designs” story arc from issues #86-#94, and Batman: Secret Files #3. This book proves that, sometimes, waiting for the complete story can be better than reading it serialised. James Tynion has crafted a page turner, that I devoured in one sitting.

Binge-reading this story a-la-Netflix really worked, as every clue dropped, every subtle line of dialogue, and every character moment was fresh in my memory. Don’t get me wrong, I will never stop reading my single issues as they come out, but trade paperback collections (or this gorgeous hardcover, kindly provided by Penguin/Random House) are durable, and much more aesthetically pleasing on a bookshelf, than their 30 page counterparts.

Dark, and Beautiful, Designs

Another thing I noticed, or rather didn’t notice, was how brilliantly the color art by Tomeu Morey makes the disparate art by over half a dozen artists feel cohesive. It’s common knowledge, to anyone who regularly reads my reviews, that one of my bug-bears is getting one story drawn by multiple artists. Yes, I can still see that styles and faces change over the course of the book, but Morey’s stunning colors give readers a unifying texture that makes the whole effect far less jarring.

I’m also not one to complain about seeing art by veterans like Tony S. Daniel, Guillem March, and John Paul Leon, or new rising stars like Jorge Jimenez, Javier Fernandez, and Sumit Kumar either. This book does look gorgeous.

Letterer Clayton Cowles delivers some great titles, credits, and sound effects… plus, as James Tynion is a man who writes a ton of dialogue, Cowles also gives us crisp, clean captions, and word balloons that help the art, rather than clutter up the pages, and disrupt the flow of the story.

Extra, Extra! Read All About It!

The main “Dark Designs” story arc flows brilliantly, but this book also collects the tie-in issue Batman: Secret Files #3. This special issue introduced us to (or reminded us about) some of the main players in the story. While I welcome these shorts, I do question them being tacked onto the end of the book. Reading an introduction to characters when the story’s already wrapped makes little sense, and they perhaps would’ve worked better at the front of the book. However, as they don’t really affect the main narrative, perhaps they were just included for completeness’ sake.

The same can be said of the one page web interludes. They could’ve benefitted from being placed between the chapters of the chapters they led from, and into.

These are minor quibbles in the scheme of things though, and would much rather have them in the book, than not.

As always, we also get all the gorgeous main, and variant covers too. Now, I have nothing to complain about where these are concerned!

Conclusion

Batman: Their Dark Designs sets up the next big (huge?) arc, Joker War, brilliantly. When I first read this story last year, I got more wrapped up the Designer’s story than I perhaps should have. Thankfully, I’ve had my focus re-adjusted by reading this collected edition. James Tynion has truly crafted a multi-layered thriller, which has improved greatly on re-reading.

This book has so many great moments; it introduces new fan favorite characters, and brings back the best of the best of Batman’s legendary rogues gallery… though perhaps worst of the worst is more appropriate. The dust cover gives us Jorge Jimenez’s image from Batman #90 on the front, and Stanley ‘Artgerm’ Lau’s Punchline on the back. The front and back cover feature Tony S. Daniel’s gorgeous two-page spread from Batman #86.

All in all I loved this book, and highly recommend it as a perfect jumping on point for new readers.

Review copy courtesy of Penguin Random House, Images courtesy of DC Entertainment
ISBN: 978-1-77950-556-9

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