“Bat and Mouse” by John Layman and Jason Fabok is another fine chapter in what’s shaping up to be a really solid arc, but there were a few hiccups.

These hiccups include a panel in which the letterer printed the wrong dialogue in the wrong speech balloons, a scene in which Batman is beaten down way too easily, and a set-piece that could’ve used some boundaries.

Spoiler
In the fight between Wrath and Batman, Batman is zapped once and drops to his knees and Wrath runs away. He gives some lame line about how he would kill Batman but he wants to check out the Bat armor’s capabilities some more. Well, genius, why don’t you kill Batman and take his armor and you can test it all you want? That was definitely the worst moment of the book. As for the set-piece, I’m talking about the sparring patio at the top of the skyscraper that had no railing. That was a bit much.

Our story picks up after the events of last week’s Detective Comics Annual #2. Now, you don’t need to have read that issue to understand what’s going on in this story. So don’t worry. In the annual, Batman made no advancements in his investigation of Wrath, but was sidetracked by an attack by Jane Doe. However, I do recommend that you read the Annual anyway just because it was indeed a good book. A little pricey, but good. Back to the issue at hand, as usual, Layman opts for non-linear storytelling and it plays very well. We get a little insight on who the recently departed Scorn was as well as Batman’s gentler side (that’s about as gentle as he gets toward criminal scum), a hint of the action to come, and then we spend the bulk of the issue watching Bruce and Alfred do some digging into Wrath’s daytime affairs– and you know how I love to see Alfred get out of the cave and do something.

Spoiler
Although I was a little bothered by Caldwell’s speech about Batman being brawn and how he must have brains behind it all. But then I came to my sense as and noted that it is the bad guy doing the talking here and that’s simply his perspective on Batman! Little does Caldwell know that Batman is indeed smart enough to make his own gadgets and do all the hard thinking himself. Batman’s a scientist.

It’s all really good except for those problems I listed a couple paragraphs ago and those problems won’t harm the issue enough to make you put this book down in disappointment. In fact, this I feel that this is an arc you’ll anxiously be looking forward to! And a lot of that is due to what I believe is the very best aspect of this entire issue is: Wrath’s villainous plot to control the city. In issue #23 we learn that he has a plan to sack Gotham and it’s one of the best I’ve seen in some time. The Court of Owls had no plan other than to send a couple dozen assassins running around town and Leviathan had a great plan that involved infiltrating every aspect of Gotham’s foundation from school teachers to mailmen, police officers to judges but that whole element of the story was just forgotten about once the big fight started happening at Wayne Enterprises. I’m anxious to see where author John Layman is going with his Gotham takeover story and if it could play at all into the upcoming Villains Month business.

The artwork by Jason Fabok looks terrific as usual and is all the better thanks to Blond’s colors. Fabok draws a phenomenal, imposing Batman and although I wondered if the design of Wrath would be too Talon-like, now that the character is getting more facetime it’s becoming clear that the similarities are minimal at best. For whatever reason, Wrath’s face reminds me a little of the giant cochroach from “Men in Black.” Anyone else getting that? Must just be me. Either way, Wrath’s a solid villain and I hope he actually sticks around this time. This will be, what? His 3rd attempt at entering the rogues gallery? Let’s cross our fingers that he doesn’t die by the end of this arc.

The backup by John Layman and Andy Clarke is also very interesting. Ever since the character of Man-Bat was first created he has had a fiance named Francine who has absolutely adored him and in this backup John Layman takes that idea and turns it on its head. While many of the origin shake-ups that have occurred in the New 52 have gotten a negative reaction from me I actually approve this one. Kirk Langstrom (I don’t know how, but I’m turning into Man-Bat. Again. Find a cure, not the same one, a new one!), like Mr. Freeze (I need to save my wife!), or Mad Hatter (I want to dress everyone up and throw a tea party!) is often portrayed as a pretty one-note villain but I think the changes made here make him and Francine a lot more complex and interesting characters.

Spoiler
Francine was a plant! She was there for corporate espionage and just wanted the formula. That really surprised me and the fact that she’s this really blood-thirsty, formula-addicted Man-Bat makes her pretty frightening too.
As for Andy Clarke, he’s terrific as always and draws a very highly detailed Man-Bat. I think he’s drawing the Villain’s Month Joker #1 comic too and if so I’m really looking forward to that. It’s about time Clarke was given a full issue.

Overall

It’s an excellent read and it really makes the upcoming issue look very promising. The artwork is fantastic in both the main story and the backup and the backup especially has some big surprises in store for Man-Bat fans. However, there were enough minor problems in the main story to bring down the score for me but even with these blemishes Detective Comics remains one of my most anticipated Bat-books.

SCORE: 8/10