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(Image credit: DC Comics)

A lot happens in Batman #138, which is published today. We’ll get into it all shortly, after this very necessary spoiler warning and a little recap.

Previously on the Gotham War: Batman and Catwoman have fallen out on a grand scale following Selina Kyle’s intriguing if fundamentally flawed plan to transform all the hired goons of Gotham City into elite cat burglars who only target the super-wealthy. Bruce Wayne has been psychologically compromised by his Batman of Zur-En-Arrh “backup personality” and is behaving far more recklessly and violently than usual, dividing the Bat Family in the process. Meanwhile, Vandal Savage has bought Wayne Manor, and his daughter Scandal has infiltrated Catwoman’s gang. Got all that? Good.

Batman #138 ramps things up from there quite considerably….

(Image credit: DC Comics)

Let’s start with the Jason Todd of it all. Red Hood has been siding with Selina in this argument, a decision that led him to come to blows with Batman in Catwoman #57. The Dark Knight bested him, of course, and now has Jason locked up where he’s brainwashing him so that he can no longer kill or seemingly even fight back.

“Now when you have heightened adrenaline, when you’re about to do something dangerous, your fear kicks in,” Bruce tells him. He says that this is all for Jason’s own good, but this is seriously shady behaviour, no matter how much Bruce tries to frame it as making him into a “better man.”

It seems to have stuck, too. Scandal comes to Jason with an offer: work for her and Vandal and she will make him immortal. He’s too scared to go with her, though, and she ends up leaving him in his cell.

(Image credit: DC Comics)

The rest of the issue is largely taken up with a succession of fights as Nightwing and Tim Drake take on Batman, and Damian Wayne tries to violently intercede. Amidst all of the kicking and punching, however, there’s a flurry of revelations.

Nightwing and Barbara Gordon have figured out that Batman has been taken over by Zur-En-Arrh. There’s no explanation for how – they just smart I guess.Dick also removes Bruce’s access to the Batbox, cutting him off from support systems around the city.Batman is using the Riddler as an informant, which rather undermines his point about Catwoman “killing this city with compromises,” but hey, it’s one rule for Bruce Wayne and one rule for everyone else, right?A flashback reveals that Vandal Savage and Ra’s al Ghul’s immortality comes from the same place: a series of mysterious alien meteorites that crashed to Earth centuries ago. Oh, speaking of Vandal, he intends to transform Catwoman’s “thieves guild” into a new League of Shadows.

Like we said at the top, it’s a lot and, honestly, we’re not entirely sure what to make of it all, the barrage of revelations and developments coming so thick and fast they leave the reader punchdrunk and reeling.

(Image credit: DC Comics)

Some of it works really well. The brainwashing of Jason Todd has the potential to be a fascinating character development, though it’s also one that needs to be handled carefully – this is unambiguously psychological abuse on Bruce’s part, after all.

Vandal and Scandal, meanwhile, are making for a fun villainous double act, while the revelations about Vandal’s history confirms some long-held fan theories. That’s kind of neat.

It does, however, feel like we’re drifting ever further away from the central concept of the Gotham War: namely the division between Batman and Catwoman, and the intriguing ethical dilemma posed by Selina Kyle’s plan. Vandal is fun and all, but I hope that wherever this story is going, it eventually hones back in on our two main characters and finds a way for them to finally get along… at least until the next crisis.

Batman #138 is out now from DC Comics.

Bruce Wayne has many memorable foes like the Joker and the Riddler. Then there’s these guys… Check out our list of the weirdest Batman villains of all time.

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