Writer James Tynion IV has written many Batman stories in his career. Whether under the flagship title itself or another series, the writer has built a reputation for writing a traditional Batman/Bruce Wayne. But it’s this issue that shows his knack for understanding Gotham’s people doesn’t stop with the heroes, it extends to the villains too. That’s why having the primal focus in this issue on Catwoman, Joker, Penguin, and Riddler makes Batman 90 stick out from the rest.
Although the issue opens with the present day, it isn’t long before the readers are taken down memory lane. However, unlike prior flashbacks, this one is through the eyes of Selina Kyle. Fans are reminded of a simpler time in Gotham. One where villains themself feared the Falcone crime family, wore colorful costumes, and eagerly expected to run into the dynamic duo. Unfortunately, things were changing right before Batman’s eyes. The Designer had come for Gotham.
More specifically, The Designer had come for the city’s rogues. After sorting through the bunch, it seems these four villains had stood out the most to him. Once united, an offer is made. The perfect crime, with his full endorsement. Unfortunately, things seem to go haywire when one of them decides to clown around with The Designer. Why does all this matter? Well, what if The Designer never moved on? What if he also kept their plans for the perfect crime? More importantly, what is the perfect crime and why does it involve Catwoman so much? All these questions and more are answered within the pages of Batman 90.
“Their Dark Designs” has been one of the most consistently good, intriguing, and nostalgic stories Batman has had in a while. Make no mistake, this was by design (pun intended). Both writer James Tynion IV and numerous artists who have contributed to the arc have been noted eager Batman and DC fans since the beginning. However, with the introduction of Jorge Jimenez on art, the stakes themselves seem higher. His attention to detail, body proportions, and perfect medium between lifelike and cartoon bring the story to a new level.
In addition to the picture-perfect artwork, the storytelling itself has been spectacular. Tynion seems to put his all into this story, making one of the most classic Batman stories. With the upcoming Joker War story ahead, one begins to wonder if he’s been holding back, or just gearing up for the final battle between the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime. Make no mistake, the writing itself is superb, with each page leaving fans wanting more.
Final thoughts: Altogether, Batman 90 is one of the most suspense focused issues written in a while. Up until now, Tynion has relied on Batman’s detective work and sleek technology to spearhead the stories. Unlike the prior issues, however, this one is nothing like that. As a result of Selina narrating the story, its very groundwork is based on fear, nostalgia, and guilt. This is all elevated by the impeccable artwork, highlighting both the simplicity of the past and the impending present threat that lies ahead.