An Odd Couple Gets Less Odd: Reviewing ‘Detective Comics’ #1045
by Scott Redmond
Detective Comics wraps up its entry into the Fear State, by doing its own thing with a confined horror story centered around two men hashing things out and potentially building a better future. This series shines when it can tell tighter down to Earth stories, that allow the artistic team free reign to showcase just how beautiful scary creepy, and stunning Gotham City and its events can be.
Since the moment he emerged from the shadows to fight for Gotham City, against the superstitious and cowardly criminals, the relationship between Batman and the various powers that be has been tenuous at best. For every James Gordon that worked side by side with the vigilante, there were numerous police chiefs and mayors and others that tried to hunt down or end the vigilante and others like him.
Coming out of ‘Joker War‘, the city began to collectively turn against masked vigilantes in large part thanks to the campaign of former cop-turned mayor, Christopher Nakano. As the Magistrate and Scarecrow initiated ‘Fear State‘ spreads through the city streets, that acrimonious relationship might have changed for the potential better.
As part of the event, Detective Comics has mostly been doing its own thing (we even find out this issue that it all takes place between the pages of Batman #113) that is somewhat tied to the overall story but clearly was also built to move forward plots that Mariko Tamaki had already been planning to tackle. From the Nero XIX figure taking the mayor’s office hostage, to the big seeming conclusion to the Vile story, to this odd couple pairing of Batman and Nakano to hash things out. A whole lot of stuff is actually accomplished in these three issues.
Truly, this series is at its full best when Tamaki gets to really focus down on more down to Earth and character development-filled moments. Not that I’m saying that this book isn’t good all around, as the big bombastic horror and science fiction and action stuff is good too. But where this book just really sings is the moments like we get in this issue are allowed to breathe and take up more of the room.
The tense atmosphere of the sewers, the parasites all around, is a perfect space to allow Nakano and Batman to have a mostly uninterrupted back and forth about their views. Both men have some solid points, but it’s really great that Tamaki leads both to the realization that they could have done more to perhaps not allow things to get to this point between them. Surely it won’t be this simple, but the fact that the story ends with both men being willing to have some open communication speaks volumes.
Nakano is pitted as an antagonist to the bat-family, but as shown here he is a person that has a good heart and good ideas for helping this city that is in near-constant turmoil, but he, unfortunately, can’t see the whole picture. As Batman noted, Gotham is a city full of monsters and not all of them are literal monsters or garishly costumed individuals. Nakano rededicating himself to making a list and trying to decipher who these monsters are should prove to be quite interesting moving into the new year and the upcoming weekly 16-part storyline.
It never ceases to amaze what Dan Mora and Jordie Bellaire bring to the page every single issue that they do together in this run. They are just able to breathe such personality and life into Gotham City, from the beautiful and expansive upper levels to even the dark dank, and terrifying sewers. Gotham is one of those cities that has a million parts to it that all have their own distinct personality, and that is not missed here.
Even though it’s clear that these are comic book pages, the detail that Mora brings along with the sharp and bright shadowy colors that Bellaire adds in makes it look like this stuff could walk off the page as reality. It’s clear that there is a solid plan with each and every panel, making sure to maximize what we’re seeing and picking just the right angles to depict these moments. From the use of big splash pages down to just having pages that are all tight close-ups. Not a single bit of space is “wasted” in any way.
Often in some books, one can find that the same tonal color palette is used across all the pages of the entire story. This isn’t a bad thing, but it bears repeating that what Bellaire does with colors is just really awesome to see. There is no fear to shift from brighter almost neon colors down to darker shadowed still bright colors, or from warmer heavy colors to cooler lighter colors as the scene needs it. Some of these shifts are on the very same page, and it just shows how good she is overall. Because none of it feels out of place next to each other, it just feels realistic because we’re surrounded by a variety of colors and tones all the time in life.
Also still amazing is the letter work of Aditya Bidikar who completes the package here. Everything from the overall placement of bubbles and SFX and captions to the great usage of bolder and bigger text to actually depict yelling or whispering or different voices, it all just enhances the overall story. We the reader could fill in the blanks, but without great lettering, we may not actually land upon the effect that the book was actually striving to showcase in these moments.
We get the second part of the Arkham Asylum/Arkham Tower backup story here from Stephanie Phillips, David Lapham, Trish Mulvhill, and Rob Leigh. Diving into the effect that the Asylum and its history has had on the city is an interesting place to go, and there are definitely a lot of fitting horror vibes to this story that Philips is nailing with her writing, and Lapham and Mulvhill are enhancing with their artwork. There was a really interesting panel where fear gas was making Batman see things, and the dream shattering actually was depicted as shattering panels, which was very creative.
Leigh continues to pull off the heavy lifting of making the lettering sing in these very dialogue-heavy backups that stand to build up other books and storylines.
There is almost a classic Batman story sort of feel to this entry, from the way that Lapham draws his costume to the subject matter. It’s a very confined story, which is not something we get all too often with Batman these days. So that’s a nice thing to have. It’s still not clear where this all fits in with the current line events (the timeline is a bit muddled between the books) but we should have a clearer picture once the big event starts in January.
Detective Comics #1045 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.