An Odd Couple Situation: Reviewing ‘Detective Comics’ #1043
by Scott Redmond
Detective Comics joins the fall Batline event while making sure to keep threading some of its own plotlines, and continuing to bring Gotham to colorful dangerous gorgeous life. Despite how big the event is and how much action there is within the issue it maintains a smaller tight character-focused energy all the way through.
The ‘Fear State‘ has begun and fully taken hold of Gotham City across all of DC Comics’ Batman-related titles, causing the city to descend into chaos once more as various institutions begin to crumble. After being caught in the beginnings of the Joker War, and losing his left eye in the process, former cop Christopher Nakano ran for and won the spot of Gotham City mayor on a platform to ban vigilantes/masks within the crime-ridden city.
The decision to bring Simon Saint and his Magistrate program into firmer control of the city has backfired and now someone has their sites set on the mayor, with Batman as his only hope to make it through the night.
Detective Comics has been heavily focused on the Mr. Worth and Vile storylines for the past few months, and while the title has joined the overall event with the other books it hasn’t left all that behind fully. Mr. Worth is gone but parts of the Vile storyline are still here and look to have an impact on this storyline.
Overall, this is an interesting story as Mariko Tamaki brings the focus down somewhat just to Nakano and his attempts to reign back control from Saint/The Magistrate after events in the main Batman series and deal with an assassination attempt. There is quite a bit of action here that keeps the book moving at a swift pace as Nakano is able to fight back, using his cop training, before Batman’s intervenes.
Having two characters at odds team up when in a desperate spot is more often than not a quite interesting place to take a story, and while we haven’t fully gotten to that point, yet the future issues look to really play with this concept. How the Nakano/Batman sewer adventure hour fits in with where we see Batman all over the place in his main book isn’t clear, but this is common for events. The same character can often be somehow in fifteen contradictory spots.
Dan Mora and Jordie Bellaire are forever a dynamic duo that makes this book truly gorgeous when they are able to combine their powers. Gotham is a city that just has a massive personality to it, helped by the fact that we’ve seen it in various formats and styles over the last eight decades. The version that Mora and Bellaire bring us is so colorful and distinct and even at its worst is just beautiful and bursting with personality.
Just a simple page like the beginning with two dudes talking in a van is a sight to behold as there is the Magistrate saucer above and rain falling on the city, the buildings and skyline perfectly depicted in reflection of the street puddles. Bellaire’s colors shift from panel to panel just as it realistically would when moving through a colorful city like Gotham with all the bright lights and looming danger.
One of the really nice touches is how she uses red very often for panels with some of the most dangerous moments (seen in Catwoman as well) or ominous characters such as here for panels with Saint or the Magistrate soldiers. Whereas there are cooler tones for the city or other characters, like a lot of blues in the Nakano panels. Across the panels, there is a shifting highlight color, and it just makes things resonate and stand out rather than things being more uniform, which is fine in its own ways.
Everything just flows in a dynamic way that doesn’t stop till the moment the story reaches its conclusion, never letting your attention waver for a second. Mora’s paneling follows the trend across many books to really mix it up and push past standard page layout sentiments, with panels overlapping or taking on unusual shapes. This works great because it makes each page unique in another way and allows for some of those color changes of Bellaire’s to appear on the same page in great contrast as well as allow letterer Aditya Bidikar even more room to do the usual great stuff with dialogue and SFX.
A great example is on the page where a seeming security officer tries to shoot Nakano, taking up one whole panel on the page with subsequent smaller panels next to him, one of which lets the gun SFX take up most of that panel. Comic books are a visual medium and the best ones are ones where the artists get to just cut loose and make it something that will stick with you in all aspects once the final page is turned. This team does that consistently and it’s a real treat to look at each month.
This month wraps up the ‘Road to Task Force Z‘ backups from Matthew Rosenberg, Darrick Robertson, Diego Rodriguez, and Rob Leigh. It has far more of an action focus with Deb Donovan and Red Hood running afoul of those behind the missing villain bodies, with Batman on the scene to help. Besides the fight that takes up most of the issues, there are reveals that Nakano is working with someone in the shadows that is behind this new task force and was always looking to capture Red Hood for this. Essentially these backups were doing the work of a zero issue, to get Jason Todd in the right spot to be the leader of the upcoming Task Force Z book.
Robertson and Rodriguez do some really great work on the art, keeping it moving and energetic through the fight scenes and then setting the menacing mystery mood of the quieter talking pages. Leigh makes all the dialogue work across the panels while getting to drop in some pretty big scene-setting SFX along the way. The final page with the looming zombified villains is greatly terrifying, it will be interesting to see how that dynamic carries over to the main series.
Detective Comics #1043 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.