A Chill Falls Upon The Gotham Nocturne: Reviewing ‘Detective Comics’ #1066

by Scott Redmond

Overview

‘Detective Comics’ gothic horror story moves into the next act as the caped crusader is multiple steps behind his newest foes, relying on the help of an old ally as another sometimes ally falls further into darkness. Everything about this storyline is just working as the creative teams are firing on all cylinders, bringing a greatly needed depth, realistic energy, and energetic focus to many of the elements that make up Batman’s world that we’ve seen so many times over the decades.

Overall
10/10
10/10

When it comes to characters featured in decades-long ongoing comic book stories, various elements surrounding them have and will continue to change. Relationships or bits of history fade in and out depending on the creators handling them or editorial decisions, often through massive company events. 

One element that has survived so many changes and even made the jump to various mediums is the always fascinating and engaging relationship between Batman and Jim Gordon. 

A whole new section of Ram V’s gothic opera begins as Act I opens, picking up where the Overture left off. The Orghams are in Gotham, Talia’s splinter League of Assassins beat a hasty retreat, and Batman has been left beaten and struggling. Gordon stepped in to save the vigilante’s life last issue, and here we get more from that moment that is so compelling. Not only does Ram V slip in some good (awkward) back and forth between the two old friends that have been separated for quite some time, but he uses Gordon as our means to catch up. 

It would have been easy to just have Gordon info dump all that happened in the previous issue, but instead, we get him reading it through a newspaper in mostly silent panels until Batman awakens and he verbalizes the last bits. It’s such a great little thing because it creates an intriguing situation where more prose is added to the page but it keeps the characters from having to spend too much time and space literally telling us the recap. 

Creating that visual falls to Ivan Reis, Danny Miki, and Dave Stewart as there is a bit of a creative shift in this issue. Stewart remains from the previous issues, and Reis and Miki are no strangers to this series as they tackled quite a few issues within the run that was prior to this one. Reis & Miki easily pick up a lot of the energy and tone that Rafael Albuquerque was putting down in the previous issues, with their somewhat smoother style seen in previous issues making way for a style that is similar but has a bit of roughness and heavier weight to it. Gotham’s inherent always simmering darkness is easy to spot with their work, no matter if it’s night or daylight. 

Reis just has such a great skill for paneling choices, letting them shift and slip around the page as necessary. Capturing emotion or moments in closeups that are peppered right over bigger focus scenes, all in a way that is natural and compelling for the eye to follow. The page with injured sleeping Bruce vs Batman (below) drowning in the past issue is a perfect example as all four panels show us the same character with each of the circumstances being different, but we feel so much from them without a word being said. 

Much of that inherent darkness comes from the continued wonderful colors of Stewart that just fit this type of story so well. They are dense and heavy with shadows but have the right amount of colorful pop to highlight the fantastical and natural elements of this world. The night feels oppressive and always present, the way Stewart portrays darkness feeling realistic, while the bright daytime feels just as confining not just because we know how Batman feels about being Bruce and out in the day at times, but because there is still a somewhat sinister tone beneath it as the darkness keeps rising. 

The issue isn’t just Gordon and Batman (though their working together again through the issue is awesome to see), as we get a whole lot more of the Orghams and some bits of their plans but most of it is kept back in order to keep us following along to find out more. What Ram V is doing with Two-Face, as well as the backup we’ll discuss momentarily, is probably some of the best focus the character has gotten in some time. Harvey Dent is stuck under Orgham’s control while the scarred Two-Face side of him is a passenger mocking and trying to gain control just works. It shows us that the whole “Harvey is good and Two-Face is evil” thing is not as cut and dry as one would believe, there are layers upon layers going on here. 

Ariana Maher flexes those lettering muscles once more to bring a wonderful visual flair to all the pages. Making sure that the emotions are felt through the words as things change sizes or shape or quality, slipping in things that stand out more such as the striking red bold out-there caption boxes of Two-Face speaking in Harvey’s mind. It all allows us to feel and hear the characters so well, as well as allowing space to hear the world with all the colorful bold SFX that can be found in various panels. 

In the aforementioned backup, Simon Spurrier, Hayden Sherman, Nick Filardi, and Steve Wands take us even deeper into the Harvey/Two-Face divide and holy crap is it just beyond words. We get more of Two-Face commentating from within Harvey’s mind while Harvey is out playing as Two-Face, and the story ties into the main story more as Gordon is mentioned and Harvey does more bidding for the Orgasms. It could have just been a whole story of this, but then this crew took it up fifteen notches. 

Gordon’s new ally, the unnamed boy he came across in his own backup stories a few issues ago, crashes Harvey’s party on Gordon’s behalf and things take a very trippy mental leap. The boy puts Harvy and the Orgham’s Azmer Demon to sleep and has a conversation with Two-Face’s red caption boxes. Sherman and Filardi pull out all the visual stops as we get some amazing pages, including one where we see Harvey Dent’s head stripped down to the basics with muscle and scar tissue and the little scar-shaped mental projection Two-Face is moving through the head as he speaks to the boy. Oh and then the flashbacks with all the splashes of vibrant colors from reds to greens and panels that are all kinds of wild shapes is exactly what I love about comic books. 

Wands adds to this with all the fantastic work with the letters, from Two-Face’s caption boxes having a different scarred faded type of font to the bubbles of the boy just floating around on pages even somewhat interacting with lines on the page almost letting the lines be seen as bubble tails. 

All of this together builds off the horror/mindscape stuff that they created in the previous story and expands it even further. I would most definitely read a regular Two-Face/Harvey series from this creative team in this sort of style. 

Detective Comics #1066 is now available from DC Comics. 

%d bloggers like this: