Before he lost his $100 billion fortune in ‘The Joker War,’ Bruce Wayne could fund any project he wanted, which is how Batman got so many cool gadgets and vehicles. In Batman #125, one of those gadgets goes online, and the implications are intense.
Batman #125 reintroduces artist Jorge Jiménez and colorist Tomeu Morey to the ongoing series and marks writer Chip Zdarsky’s takeover of the title, with Clayton Cowles on letters. The issue also begins the ‘Failsafe’ arc, named for a robotic figure that gets introduced in the final pages.
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This oversized issue follows Bruce and Tim Drake, AKA Robin, as they attempt to stop the Penguin from killing the wealthiest citizens in Gotham. At the annual Flugelhelm Gala, Tim is shot by one of Penguin’s goons, and Bruce has to rush him to the hospital. Penguin also goes to the hospital for mercury poisoning – because he eats too much raw fish – and Batman pops in for a visit after leaving Tim at the emergency room.
Here, it becomes clear that Penguin has planned everything to frame Batman for his murder. He pops a cyanide pill and hits the call button for the nurse, and as Batman tries to fish it out of his mouth, he’s caught with his hands on a dead man. To make matters worse, Batman’s confrontation with the Penguin at the gala was super public – as was Robin getting shot and then carried out in Batman’s arms.
To anyone looking at the scene, Batman certainly seems like a murderer.
This is where the ‘Failsafe’ arc title comes into play. At the end of the issue, some sort of protocol at the Batcave is initiated and a mechanical cocoon emerges from deep within the stone walls and floor of the cave.
Inside the cocoon, a robotic figure called Failsafe comes online. The implication seems to be that Failsafe – the significant new Doomsday-like villain Zdarsky has been hyping in the lead press to the issue – was programmed by Bruce himself to come online if he ever went bad. Penguin’s framing is so successful in its permeation of the public consciousness that the robot goes online.
But is Failsafe programmed to take out Batman, or to take his place? The former seems more likely, especially considering past storylines of a similar vein.
The apparent activation of Failsafe calls to mind the classic JLA story ‘Tower of Babel’ by Mark Waid and Howard Porter, in which Batman’s secret contingency plans to defeat his fellow Justice League members are stolen and activated by Ra’s al-Ghul.
It also calls to mind the story ‘Batman RIP: Zur-En-Arrh’ by Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel. In that story, Batman is poisoned by the villain Doctor Hurt, activating a ‘backup personality’ built into Bruce Wayne’s mind, known as the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, which Bruce himself psychologically programmed to pilot his body in the event his actual personality is ever subverted or subdued.
Batman #125 both reminds readers why Penguin is such a good match for Batman – because they’re both thinking 10 steps ahead at all times – and introduces yet another backup plan of Bruce Wayne’s to deal with a potential “Batman going bad” situation.
He is always concerned about how to be the best hero he can for Gotham, and his determination to shut things down if his power ever gets corrupted is a mark of that.
Want to know what’s to come for Bruce Wayne? Here are the new Batman comics planned for release in 2022 and beyond.