Gordon travels to the Middle East to take on an Egyptian cult?!
At least that is my present understanding of the story. Basically, Gordon and his previous military unit got inadvertently involved in some freaky stuff back in the day, and all the individuals that got entangled in that original encounter are now being systematically eliminated.
Things start off with a heavy sense of cloak and dagger espionage. An unknown individual running from a shadowy assassin to deliver portentous secrets in the dead of night. All very intriguing. But then the assassin blurts out, “For Amun-Set!” Now this is probably just me, because I am very interested in Egyptian mythology, but that one line just killed any sense of mystery or suspense that this story may have had. Since the rest of the comic devotes its time to Gordon gathering information piece by piece that slowly leads us to the ghastly reveal that ends the book, I was left to wait for what I was sure was going to be the impending ending instead of being strung along in suspense. I can totally see how if you didn’t know what was forthcoming, this would be much more engaging, but I was left biding my time for the inevitable.
Right from page 4, I thought to myself, “This is going to be about some Egyptian cult that is trying to resurrect a mummy with an ancient artifact.” While not all of that has come to pass…yet…I was close enough that the reveal left me underwhelmed. It’s visually shocking enough that I was still taken slightly aback, but nothing was really divulged that had me second-guessing my original assumptions.
Another question that I am sure is on a lot of people’s minds is: When does this story take place? My original assumption was that, after the events of Batman #50, Gordon merely kept one of his body suits as a just-in-case fallback measure and that this story was going to take place in the present. As it turns out, it’s actually a flashback of sorts. Or at least Detective hasn’t caught up with the rest of the continuity yet: Julia and Daryl are still piloting a blimp, and the Power’s Bat program is still active. While the story is perfectly acceptable in-world, it raises questions for me from a real world perspective. For instance: What is so momentous about this particular story that it was deemed worthwhile enough to keep Gordon’s chronology in the past instead of moving on to the future where I am very much so looking forward to going?
When questioning the necessity of the story, you can’t help but consider its relevancy as well. Batman isn’t in the story, we aren’t in Gotham, and there is no “crime” element per se. While it might be unfair to judge a story based off what I want to get instead of judging it based on its own merits, I don’t think it’s entirely wrong to expect a certain quid pro quo of sorts to be maintained. I’ve sat through 10 months of Gordon stories, and quite frankly, I’m done with them. To be more specific, I’m done with Gordon stories that aren’t even Gordon-like in nature. Give me a good GCPD story, not this marine occultist mumbo jumbo stuff.
I’d also be hard-pressed not to call this filler. It just seems like a place holder until June so that at least something is on the shelf for readers to buy. Now maybe after the next issue I’ll be eating my words. Maybe this will be the most epic two parter ever. But it just seems like this story will have no bearing or implications on the future whatsoever. I’m just really tired of stories that don’t matter.
Art for this issue is handled by Fernando Pasarin, Matt Ryan, and Chris Sotomayor. After my first read-through, I knew I was still looking at Pasarin’s pencils, but I was almost certain that we had a new inker or colorist on deck. Looking back at the previous Bronze Age storyline, it turns out that this is actually the exact same art team. I found this rather surprising because the mood instilled by the art in this issue is entirely different from the feeling I got from the previous arc. The color palate is a lot more vibrant, and gone is most of the excessive shadowing. Even when we do have night scenes, the shadows are nowhere near as encompassing, giving away far more detail than what was previously left up to your imagination. Personally, I found the previous style far more intriguing because you were constantly left wondering what was just beyond your perception. It made scenes that would have otherwise been run of the mill, laced with the slightest hint of apprehension. The art in this issue lacks that edge, making it a much more straightforward read.
I’ll use the M.E. room as an example. Above you can see three different panels. One from Tec48, Tec49, and Tec51. The one from Tec48 is to show the excessive creeping blackness I was referring to and how even though the scene was just a conversation between Gordon and Bullock, it left me wondering if some psychopath was about to jump from the shadows and accost them. Now if you compare the panels from #49 to 51, you can see that both are in the day with the lights on during an autopsy. In these two panels, the difference between the muted/vibrant color palate is most obvious. I’m not sure why this choice was made, but it carries through the majority of the story, except for two pages that stand out to me as definitely being more akin to the previous arc.
Odds and Ends:
- Gordon is pretty nonchalant about holding a piece of dried human flesh in his hands. It’s not like those directions are scratched on the back of a napkin or something.
- Did they just say it would take the suit 40 minutes to get to him? Traveling from the East Coast to Afghanistan is a 16 hour flight. I checked. Are you trying to tell me that the Batsuit can travel at Mach 11?!?! Come on…really?
- You want to stay in the past and continue Gordon’s story as “Batman”.
- You want to read a story about a cult that dabbles in physical mutilation.
As stories go, this is perfectly acceptable. It has intrigue, tension, good art, and a story that unfolds just fast enough to keep you moving forward at a steady pace. While I do have a few legitimate minor criticisms, my major beef with the story stems from outside elements that have no real bearing on the evaluation of the story itself. Having said that, I feel like it would be unfair of me to reprimand the story for not sticking to my subjective preferences. Thus, while I personally didn’t really enjoy the issue that much, I’m going with an evaluation that only takes my objective criticisms of the story into account. Technically, it’s fine, but it’s not what I need or want right now.
SCORE: 7 / 10