Comics Watch: 'The Batman' and a New Era of Gadgets

Writer James Tynion IV's reign has begun, and he's brought tech that Bruce Wayne has never seen before.
Tony Daniel/DC
Writer James Tynion IV's reign has begun, and he's brought tech that Bruce Wayne has never seen before.

Welcome back to The Hollywood Reporter's weekly Comics Watch, a dive into how the latest books from Marvel, DC and beyond could provide fodder for the big (and small) screen.

It’s a new era in Gotham City. Today’s Batman no. 86 begins the start of a new creative run by writer James Tynion IV and a rotating roster of all-star artists including Tony Daniel, Guillem March and Jorge Jimenez. Daniel provides art for the central story in this issue, with March providing the epilogue, centered on the plans of a certain clown prince of crime. None of the creators are strangers to the world of Batman. Daniel provided the art for a significant portion of Grant Morrison’s iconic run on Batman, and went on to write and illustrate Detective Comics for the New 52 opening salvo. March is best known for his art on Gotham City Sirens, Catwoman, and most recently, Justice League. And Tynion, who quickly emerged as one of DC’s top talents has worked on Batman Eternal, Detective Comics, and Justice League alongside mentor Scott Snyder. This is all to say that Batman is in extremely safe hands, and the title looks to continue the gold standard set by predecessors Tom King and Scott Snyder. But there’s more than just familiar quality at hand here. Tynion and co. have plans for Gotham that could reshape the character going forward and perhaps even inspire upcoming Batman films at Warner Bros.

Picking up from where Tom King’s run finished, Batman no. 86 introduces us to a Gotham scrubbed of Bane’s influence but not his impact. The nine-issue arc, entitled “Their Dark Designs” sees Bruce Wayne attempting to rebuild Gotham for the future. It’s a future that may not need his kind of Batman and could allow him to finally let go and start a life with Selina Kyle, to whom he is married in every sense but legally, without masks. But Batman no longer has the same familiar support staff. Alfred was killed near the end of King’s run, and Commissioner Gordon has been infected by The Batman Who Laughs. Lucius Fox is fulfilling Alfred’s former role and providing off-site support to Batman, as well as developing new technology, which we’ll get to. And Detective Harvey Bullock has been promoted to commissioner, a role that he’ll likely handle a lot differently than Gordon. But there’s no easing in to all of these life changes for Batman, as a group of contract killers led by Deathstroke have infiltrated Gotham at behest of a mysterious figure from Catwoman’s past.

While these new relationships and mysteries will be sorted out over the course of Tynion’s run, one of the most striking reveals in this issue is Batman’s new arsenal. The Caped Crusader is of course known for his “wonderful toys” but more often than not we see upgrades on the familiar tools of his utility belt. This issue introduces us to a couple new innovations. The first is called a Shadowcaster, a marble-sized projector that casts the shape of Batman’s shadow, allow him to lead adversaries exactly where he wants them (it’s way cooler than the Spider Signal). The second is the Nightclimber, an autonomous mecha that scales buildings, and is able to be piloted to cruise around the skies of Gotham. From what we can tell of it so far, it seems like a more efficient, and faster mode of transportation than the Batmobile or Batplane. Visually, both of these new gadgets are the kind that could make for some amazing sequences on film, which got me thinking about the role Batman’s arsenal might play in Matt Reeves’ upcoming film.

Filming on The Batman began this week and set photos point toward a modern setting. While there’s been no glimpse of the titular hero, it's likely he’ll be equipped with the familiar grappling gun, smoke bombs and flash grenades. But beyond that, who knows. We don’t even know yet if the film will include the Batmobile. Set photos did show a figure who appears to be Wayne on a motorcycle, so perhaps we’ll see a Batcycle. Reeves has briefly discussed his vision for the film, calling it a detective story, and the cast suggests it’s one inspired by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween. That story, set early in Batman’s career, is light on major gadgets. But Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008) also drew inspiration from that story and his film, and the two others in the trilogy, are packed with gadgets, and the reinvention of the Batmobile, the Tumbler, that bended the notion of the term grounded, so often attached to those films but also seem to have inspired the look of the Nightclimber. It’s worth nothing that Lucius Fox does not seem to play a part in Reeves’ film, which isn’t surprising given that much of the character’s prominence and role in creating Batman’s tech followed Morgan Freeman’s portrayal of the character in Batman Begins (2005).

So where does he get all those wonderful toys? It’s quite possible that we’ll see Wayne inventing much of his own tech in the upcoming film and that they’ll be of a less refined nature, a la Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman: Zero Year. I'm not expecting anything as fantastic as the gadgets in Batman no. 86, at least not in this first installment. But the possibilities for the Shadowcaster and Nightclimber, not just in terms of design, but story, make me hope they’ll stick around in the Batman mythos and eventually show up on film. We’re only at the start of Tynion’s Batman run, and if it turns out as good as we expect it to be, then there will be plenty more to say about how this arc, like so many classic and iconic Batman stories have, will shape the continued exploration of the Dark Knight on film.

  • Richard Newby