Detective Comics continues the plot of the previous arc while taking a momentary deviation to spend more focus on Bruce Wayne, while also sadly figuratively and literally burning down the new world it built for him not too long ago. The series artistic trio is reunited to bring another stunningly gorgeous and well-developed issue that firmly showcases how darkly beautiful Gotham can be as well as perfectly capturing the dire mood of this story.
While the last issue provided a conclusion of sorts, the issues facing Bruce Wayne in his new area of town and the threats of Mr. Worth and the very aptly named Vile are far from over.
This new era of Detective Comics started off very strong with this whole new cast of characters and place for Bruce Wayne to live and set up shop as he adjusts to his new status and the new version of Gotham. Within a handful of issues that’s all been wiped away as half of the new supporting cast introduced are dead, this issue wiping away Bruce’s new home, and Bruce Wayne has to fend off being a murder suspect while the father of one of the dead is on a warpath tearing up Gotham.
That’s not to say that the Mariko Tamaki written series isn’t still strong. She has a strong focus on who Bruce Wayne is right now and Batman as characters as well as really great depictions of Huntress, Oracle, Penguin, and others. We’re getting a deeper look at how Mayor Nakano’s administration is working and how Gotham is changing.
It’s just a shame though that this focus on a long-form drawn-out story of Worth and Penguin and Vile being villains means sacrificing that promising building up of Bruce actually in Gotham. Having more time in the village and having smaller detective-style adventures with such an interesting supporting cast would have been great. Alas, it was not to be, and we shall see how this all pans out in the long run.
All that being said, this is a point where there is starting to appear to be a crack in the Bat-line and the talk of there being strong communication. Not that they aren’t communicating, clearly they are on the same page, but this book and Batman aren’t entirely showing that.
Both are doing really long-form stories where each arc adds to the next. At the same time, both are doing stories where folks are full-on wrecking stuff across Gotham yet neither one is referencing the other because they are still telling their stories. In one City Hall is attacked and in the other Worth wrecked like an entire block, which both of those events together could have easily still led to the main book’s having Simon Saint taking over and unleashing the Magistrate program.
Just some small references could even help in making these books feel actually closer together in some way. It’s the little things that help often.
Also, the plot of Bruce Wayne surviving in jail over the weekend, fending off a drunk that believes that he is also Batman, is a really intriguing and fun plotline. It’s a shame that it had to be sped along and only took up a portion of the issue. It definitely deserved more focus and more room to breathe. Feels like there is more that could be pulled out from it, but overall, it was a nice way to bridge between the story arcs.
What this era also started with was a strong artistic stance for this book that comes back this issue as Dan Mora returns to work alongside Jordie Bellaire and Aditya Bidikar. These pages are just so gorgeous and heavily detailed full of bright colors and deep shadows that just make the entirety of Gotham such a beautiful sight. Worth and Penguin look like utterly terrifying threats, especially in the heavily shadowed close-up panels where their facial expressions send shivers down the spine.
There is a really great thing being done where the colors are bolder and brighter for the overall scenes of Gotham, some truly great night scenes in some panels, and then all the color being ‘drained’ in a way for the jail cell scenes. It accurately captures the artificial lighting and drab aspect that is seen many times in these situations.
Truly some of the most beautiful pages come from the aforementioned scene of a fellow prisoner drunkenly saying Bruce is Batman. As the man speaks of why he feels this, the issue flashes back to an old-school Batman and Joker battle. The colors take on a deeper and more “classic” look as the depictions of Batman in one of his old school costumes are just stunning to behold. Especially the bright bold neon greens that dominate much of the page, it just makes it all pop in even greater ways.
Bidikar joins the party during all these scenes with a lot of great changes in font and style for the variety of dialogue and captions. This carries over to the use and design of SFX which shifts greatly between smaller and atmospheric to big and loud and bold depending on the context. During the fight scenes, they are huge and bring you right into the action, and then like where Bruce’s home burns they are smaller because the dog barking is small compared to the giant page dominating blaze.
In this issue the backup story takes a turn, that isn’t connected to the main issue. Dan Watters, Max Raynor, Arif Prianto, and Rob Leigh tell an intriguing and very dark story about the end of Kirk Langstrom/Man Bat’s life. It’s really sad as the man that has battled addiction, in the form of the Man-Bat serum, and brushes with villainy who turned his life around have such an unsung and secret death where he saved many but no one can know.
Raynor and Prianto really go all out to bring this tortured dark body horror-style storyline to life, including some really graphic and scary images to do with the demon that literally bursts from Man-Bat’s body. Leigh adds with the really creepy fonts for the demon’s speak and some really strong SFX, including some really ‘gross’ ones that add to the body horror aspects of the issue.
Clearly, this is tied to the upcoming ‘Task Force Z’ storyline that features resurrected villains working with Red Hood, yet at the same time, it might feel out of place in this book. Mostly because it calls on a lot of stuff from another book that people might not necessarily be reading and the backups so far have all tied to this actual book. That being said, it makes more sense that it’s part of this issue because the upcoming backups are meant to kick off the ‘Task Force Z’ storyline.
Detective Comics #1040 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.