The new creative direction remains entertaining and adds so much to Bruce Wayne’s world while expanding out Gotham and its citizens in many ways. Unfortunately, a problematic artist has come aboard causing the book to lose some of its very uniquely stylized look that had been established in prior issues. The addition of backups continues to allow for more characters to get the spotlight as the past and present of Gotham and Batman grow in intriguing ways.
Far too often some variations of the words “the comic industry will break your heart” find their way around the comic book sections of social media/the internet. While it comes up often because it’s true, it’s probably far more accurate at this point to state “the comic book industry will frustrate you to no end.” Unfortunately, this week presented one of the cases that makes those sayings ring too true far too often.
Let’s just get right into it. DC Comics made a huge move by tapping Mariko Tamaki to be the first woman to ever write Detective Comics and only the second to ever write one of the main flagship Batman-related books (Devin Grayson being the first). Pairing her with Dan Mora and Jordie Bellaire on the art was a fantastic move and the book has been a wonderful stylistic gorgeous ride since they came aboard a few months ago.
Jump to the current issue where Mora is off art for a few issues and his replacement is one Viktor Bogdanovic. An artist who has been around and handled books like Aquaman and Wolverine for the Big 2 publishers. He’s also the artist that caused a stir last year by mocking sexual assault by revealing his own story and claiming women should just learn to roundhouse kick to stop assaults/harassment from happening. When the internet rightfully clapped back, Bogdanovic doubled down and threw out blocks (this reviewer being one of the blocked) and then threw out a lacklustre “sorry not sorry” so-called apology.
Art aside, which honestly comes off as a downgrade to a more just standard superhero fare in this issue after the gorgeous version of Gotham we’ve been getting in previous issues, putting this man on this book is an awful move. The fact that he quietly moved off Wolverine (where he was when the tweets came out) and easily bounced back over across the metaphorical street to snag another big book is continued further proof of how broken and gross the industry can be.
The story is still interesting and Tamaki shows some really awesome skills at being able to showcase tons of different genre feelings in just a handful of issues. Bellaire continues to do her best with the colors which keep a bit of the stylized look of the previous issues and actually helps to elevate things a bit. Jonathan Glapion does some really solid ink work alongside Bogdanovic’s work on the pages.
Aditya Bidikar has been stellar on lettering and that hasn’t changed here at all, some really solid choices that bring the emphasis and power to some of the dialogue and those big bold SFX that just shake the proverbial room.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the artwork that Bogdanovic provides here, if this was any other book. Rotating or fill-in artists are a common thing for comic books. The issue often comes up when the switching artists have very boldly different styles. Especially when the switch happens mid-story arc. If Mora finished one arc then someone else like Bogdanovic did the next it would not be as jarring or different.
At the same time, someone more artistically compatible with Mora would have been a far greater choice. At the end of the day no matter what, Bogdanovic is the wrong choice period because of his behavior and what a really toxic cloud that brings over a book that should be celebrated right now.
There are two backups this month and both are really great for different reasons. Tamaki and Bellaire team up with Karl Mostert and Rob Leigh for a really intriguing story with rising supporting cast member, reporter Deb Donovan, and cuts right to the heart of the matter. Deb is a character that has the sharpness of Lois Lane but a style all her own and is a much welcome character type to the pages of a Batman series. While she occupies a space in the middle elite where Bruce Wayne now finds himself, she has a very realistic and biting view of the wealthy and it comes out in spades here.
Leigh does a great job with all the lettering, but especially the caption boxes styled like they come right from the newspaper article Deb is writing through the story. Mostert is an artist that I don’t think I’ve seen before but the style is very sleek and detailed but minimal at the same time in the best way. It pairs very nicely with Bellaire’s coloring.
Secondly, it’s a story focused on Lucius Fox and his first night on the job with Batman and Robin. The retcon that has gone down with Lucius having known about Bruce/Batman from early on is one that has been really great to see. It adds so much more depth to their relationship. John Ridley, who has been handling the Fox family over in The Next Batman: Second Son, really hits home how different Bruce and Lucius are and how different Lucius and Alfred are when it comes to what they will and won’t support.
Dustin Nguyen is not an unfamiliar name in the Gotham or Batman-related title realm, and he brings his signature style here and makes what is mostly a “talking heads” issue work. John Kalisz brings the colors and they are very dark and moody fitting for the time of day for the story but also the mood. These are all men, and a boy in Grayson’s Robin, who are dealing with issues and their feelings about the world and what is right or wrong and how to cope with things. It’s not a “light” story in any shape or form, but a necessary one.
That urgency is also wonderfully conveyed through Tom Napolitano’s lettering where you can feel the panic from Lucius after a choice and the terseness of Batman’s words along with the calm collected nature of Alfred.
Detective Comics #1037 is now on sale from DC Comics in print and digitally.