After nine issues, the opening salvo of the new Detective Comics run comes to an ending that is a mixed bag of results. Solid character work and really great colors and lettering save what could otherwise be a mostly middle-of-the-road and lackluster conclusion while showcasing some hope for what might come down the line.
Anytime a creator embarks on an endeavor to do a really long-form format to tell a story, there is pretty much that fifty-fifty chance on whether things will land smoothly or stumble quite a bit. Unfortunately, when it comes to Detective Comics the ending of the really really long Vile/Mr. Worth-focused storyline there was a lot more stumbling than smooth sailing.
As noted in previous reviews, the amount that Vile and Mr. Worth got stretched out while the more interesting small-scale Bruce Wayne dealing with a new Gotham home and smaller scale (cause he’s not as rich now) cases got forsaken was not ideal. There were issues (like last issue, #1041) where there were glimmers again of recapturing that smaller personal scale to really make it stand apart from the Batman series. Other issues, like this one, showed the strain that comes with really trying to stretch some things out longer than they probably should be.
Also, this issue really had to deal with the fact that things had to be wrapped up fast since next issue comes this book’s part in the overall Batline ‘Fear State‘ event. Mariko Tamaki writes Batman/Bruce Wayne, so well and even when the plot buckles under the stress of being stretched she still nails the characterization and adds more depth to the character and others like Huntress, Oracle, and the reporter Deb Donovan.
Seeing Batman pushed to the edge but being disciplined enough to still push back against the parasite and stop himself from hurting others was pretty solid. Though how the parasite from Vile was dealt with felt so sudden and very anticlimactic for all this build-up.
While Vile and Mr. Worth would have been likely more intriguing in smaller doses, both wore out their welcomes pretty quickly only for them to be dealt with pretty rapidly and even somewhat definitively in this issue. Truly, after the first few issues and ones like Detective Comics #1040, after Fear State, it would be far more interesting to see this book go back to smaller-scale stuff and Tamaki could really stretch herself out in the best ways.
Detective Comics, in my opinion, works far better as the book that has some smaller scale arcs or one-off issues with Batman doing actual Detective stuff. In this case, that detective-like stuff would come with the caveat of not having all the same tech and infinite funds of old meaning Batman would truly prove how great his detective skills are without all the supercomputers and gadgets of old. That would be a truly great book to see from Tamaki and her usual artistic team.
While seeing Viktor Bogdanovic on this book brings a giant sigh for his toxic behaviors in the very recent past (see this previous review for a full account), his artwork in this issue wasn’t as glaringly out of place compared to Dan Mora’s usual work. There are a number of pages and full panels, inked by Bogdanovic and Daniel Henriques, that definitely really work because they are bold and big and are elevated by the always fantastic colors of Jordie Bellaire. Namely some of the panels showcasing the Vile parasite bursting out of Batman’s mouth, of Batman bursting through the window behind Huntress, and a terrifying rooftop image with a looming Batman hovering over the actual Batman and Worth with lightning in the background.
There are some others where the lack of details kind of harms them as some of the villains don’t look imposing and are almost washed out a bit. Though not as almost blobby like some of the figures looked in his previous issues on the series. This issue looks less standard superheroish and looks like time was taken and it actually fits the more horrific tone of the story.
Bellaire continues to really bring the mood to this book with her color palette choices, with the bright reds and blues and greens being mixed with a lot of shadows that really drive home the horror in some panels and the intense action in others. There is just a really solid idea of a really stylized and gorgeous Gotham when she and Mora get to work together regularly, and her part isn’t lost even with this artist change over.
Aditya Bidikar is also a superstar on this book, really nailing the lettering each week no matter what is needed. All the normal Batman caption boxes are there and the really great light green Oracle communication dialogue boxes, but there are some new ones this time. Like the raging Batman ones that get all caps lock and slightly altered shape next to the bright red parasite in Batman’s brain boxes that are just horrific with their splash of lighter red and dragged-out crooked letters.
The same goes for a lot of the SFX related to those under Vile’s possession, and just the SFX in the issue period. Not to mention Vile’s red and misshapen, with a nice green border, dialogue bubbles. Just so great.
With the backup comes the second part of the Task Force Z prologue by Matthew Rosenberg ahead of the October launch of that series. Rosenberg writes a really great Deb Donovan, despite her being a new character from this current Detective Comics run, and really leans hard and well into the reporter angle which is welcome. Red Hood also feels less of a tortured soul bad boy always fighting against his daddy figure under his pen, compared to a lot of what we got the last decade or so for the character. More pieces are laid out here and actually began to sell me a bit more on the upcoming full series, which had already piqued my interest a bit.
Darick Robertson isn’t here for the art of this second part, with Max Raynor stepping in to work with Diego Rodriguez back on the colors. It’s a change in styles for sure, as Robertson and Rodriquez was a bit more noir and muted while Raynor & Rodriguez is a bit more bright and closer bold in some ways, but it isn’t the type of change that really takes from the story in any way. The noir feel worked for what happened in the last issue, while this style is just more open and a bit more superhero-like in a good way that fits the action of this story.
Rob Leigh continues to nail it with the letters here continuing the really cool newspaper/notepad-like caption boxes for Deb as well as all the other dialogue that peppers the pages. Letterers don’t get enough credit at times for the work they do to make sure that large expository stories like this don’t become just overwhelmed by all the dialogue bubbles. They all work around the art, some of the panels being drawn to be just close-ups to help facilitate that.
Detective Comics #1042 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.