Everything about one of DC Comics’ oldest series feels fresh and exciting again as the new creative team continues to build upon Batman’s new status quo and an even more dangerous Gotham. Every moment of the issue lives up to the book’s name as the mysteries deepen, and the colorful and gorgeous, and stylized artwork makes every page a joy to behold. This month’s backup provides a rare welcome deeper look into one of the all too often forgotten members of the extended Bat-family of characters.
Having any big character in comic books be the focus of more than one ongoing title at a time comes with the idea that each of those books should offer something different in regard to story or genre. They should try to not be exact carbon copies of one another where everything about them is the same but they happen to be featuring two separate adventures of that character. The entire Batman line at DC Comics has been nailing that goal of having their books all feel unique, and the creative team for Detective Comics is no exception.
Living up to the series name, the latest issue is heavy on the detecting angle for Batman while keeping it smaller and contained within the new neighborhood that Bruce Wayne calls home. At the same time, the book uses one of the beautiful tools available with this medium of being able to easily mash up genres. Detective story meets the biological horror and the supernatural, making for a very wonderfully strange and borderline creepy story.
Dan Mora, Jordie Bellaire, and Aditya Bidikar continue to be a powerhouse artistic trio as they easily move from more neutral or somber talking head type moments to creepier muted underground/horror-tinged moments to more bright and frantic action pieces at the drop of a hat. Gotham City truly comes to life under their care, as there is so much detail put into each and every moment.
One moment, out of many amazing ones, that stands out is a chase scene through the sewers where water is splashing under the feet of a running Batman and bullets are whizzing past, his pursuers gaining. It is all on the art side at this moment and they deliver. The SFX from Bidikar, the muted yellow and shadow-tinged coloring from Bellaire, and the detailed imagery drawn by Mora all works perfectly in sync and makes the moment truly sing. That is the case for the entirety of the issue.
Mariko Tamaki has found Bruce Wayne and Batman’s voices easily and continues to deftly build up Gotham and its citizenry beyond the usual suspects. It is not just the supporting cast of neighbors around Bruce; it is the Mayor and his cabinet, some of the other old money of Gotham, and more. Just like the aforementioned artwork, these touches truly make the city and the world of Batman come to life. It moves beyond the familiar and sometimes overused portions of his world and brings us something new and more.
One of the best things to come out of the events of Joker War is this scaled-down Batman who no longer lives in a manor on the hill with a million expensive toys to use in his fight against crime. Tamaki uses that new status quo quite well, presenting a Batman that has to rely on different tactics in his investigations, and calls tunnels more of a home now than rooftops. It brings us a literal grounded Batman who is down amongst the people and the streets rather than a seemingly untouchable mythic concept that lurks above.
This month the backups turn from the short Robin story, picked up on in his new ongoing series, towards the crossbow-wielding vigilante and often Batman ally, Helena Bettinelli, the purple-clad Huntress. Tamaki, Bellaire, and Bidikar stick around for this part of the issue and are joined by Clayton Henry on the art front.
As noted above, Tamaki has put a lot of focus on the danger of Gotham as of late and keeping things at a street level. With this backup, that focus remains, but comes from a different angle. It’s a sad tale about a city that continues to take from everyone, even those that are just trying to find their place and find some safety and freedom from the ills that fall upon them.
Henry’s style works wonderfully for this somewhat ‘smaller’ (in scale, but not in importance) tale as Bellaire’s colors do their wonderful work, ranging from enhancing detailed scenes to providing colorful popping backgrounds on people-focused panels, and Bidikar’s letters do their wonderful work to bring more life to everything on the page.
Overall, it is one of the more compelling, character-driven things that Helena has gotten in quite a long time, as most of the time it felt like the Bat line forgot who she was or she was only tied to Harley-related stuff because of the recent film. It easily smashes aside this ‘heartless vengeance driven’ idea that too many think is the only part of her character. As with others in the Bat-family, she is driven in a way because she cares and because she hurts.
Detective Comics #1035 is now on sale from DC Comics in print and digitally.