On Monday I was returning home from a weekend trip on a 4 hour flight. I spent the majority of the flight napping, and every time I would wake, I glanced at the show someone was watching in the seat in front of me. It looked like the most boring thing ever created. All I ever saw was two people talking in a boardroom. Two people talking in an executive bathroom. Two people talking in a fancy restaurant. Two people talking on a private jet. NOTHING EVER HAPPENED! And this women spent 3 hours watching it. At one point I relayed all this to my wife, and being the level-headed person she is, she pointed out that perhaps the dialogue was riveting and that the drama unfolding was the actual selling point of the show. Not that something needed to “happen”. I was skeptical of course, making a joke that they were all probably talking about nothing more than corporate takeovers and perhaps where they got their suits dry-cleaned.
So, where am I going with this? Well, I’m about to talk about a comic where nothing really “happens” and almost every scene is composed of nothing more than two people talking to one another. And….I loved it! So first off, you’re right honey, dialogue and drama are definitely enough to carry a story. (But, it sure helps if it’s a story about Batman and not some boring lawyers.)
Whenever I see extensive drama in a Batman comic, or perhaps I could say melo-drama, I always think about the early to mid 80s when Doug Moench was writing for the character. His stories involved multiple love triangles, someone trying to adopt Bruce Wayne’s ward, unknown relatives showing up out of nowhere, jealousy, and court battles. (It was kind of like a Batman soap-opera) It still had all the action and superheroing, but more than half the story was devoted to the heroes’ civilian identities and the drama that was going on in their regular everyday lives.
This concentrated focus on character always makes me happy. And that is exactly what Tynion is doing, and has been doing since taking over Detective Comics. Yes, the last story eventually got big and epic, but it started in a very grounded and real place. In a place where how a character feels and who they are as a person is much more important than their ability to do a back-flip or a roundhouse kick. When you take the time to endear the characters to us, then we are invested in them and actually worry about them when throw-down time eventually does come along. I know that some people want action all the time, but for me, I enjoy the characters so much that I am more than happy to just sit back and listen to them talk when they are written correctly.
Speaking of which, it’s possible to enjoy this story with nothing more than what is presented on the page, but you’re going to get a lot more out of it if you’ve had plenty of previous reading experience in the Batman Universe. Renee Montoya, Harper Row, Luke Fox, and Jean-Paul Valley all make appearances. While Harper and Luke are relatively new characters, both Valley and Montoya have histories dating back almost 25 years. Granted, given the current continuity, you can’t take those stories detail for detail and plug them into the ongoing story and expect to have a cohesive and understandable narrative, but you can still inject the essence of the character derived from those older stories into this one in order to enrich it. Take Valley for instance:
His introduction into the New52 occurred during Batman&Robin Eternal, but I don’t see how the Valley they introduced during Eternal would have evolved into the one we currently see before us. This Valley feels very much to me like a continuation of the character that was established in pre52 continuity. And that is a good thing. Maybe a little confusing if you overthink it, but good nonetheless.
Let’s talk about Harper for a second. Over the last 5 years, I’ve actually enjoyed Harper Row. I specifically say Harper Row, because I wasn’t a fan of Bluebird. I really enjoyed seeing the viewpoint of a random Gotham citizen. And in the beginning, it was nice to think that was all she was. That she wasn’t being groomed for the superhero business. I didn’t want to believe that just because she was more than a nameless face meant she would eventually become a costumed superhero. During the course of both Batman Eternal and Batman&Robin Eternal, Harper spoke about how superheroing was just something she was trying out and that she could stop whenever she wanted to. I’m glad to see that they finally decided to take the character in that direction as I always felt she could do more good as herself than as a masked alias. And from her dialogue above, it seems that she feels the same way.
While knowing the background for Renee, Harper, and Jean-Paul would probably assist in your enjoyment of the story, it seems to me that no amount of background research is going to fill you in on the current state of Luke Fox. Looks like he’s had some major plot developments unfolding over the last few months that have occurred off-panel. He’s basically evolved into another Bruce Wayne Billionaire Playboy. For a second I found it a little jarring. But once again, if you don’t overthink it, it makes sense and you can easily extrapolate what happened in the interim with the few tidbits of info the story reveals.
Art for this issue is handled by Alvaro Martinez and it’s 99.9% perfect. Since it’s so perfect, it would take me forever to go into detail about every single thing this issue did right in the art department. Instead, I’ll share with you the one image that I though was off:
It just looks wonky to me. Other than that, any other image from this book is essential the model of perfection.
Random questions and comments:
- When you look at the caliber of guests attending this Police Gala, it makes me wonder how Cassandra, Stephanie, Harper, and Basil got on the guest list. I guess Bruce could have pulled some strings to get them tickets, but it’s not like these characters have a connection with Bruce Wayne outside of his alter ego. Maybe they got tickets as professional seat fillers or something.
- Basil’s face drips off for a second outside the Gala. With the number of media photographers and random people snapping pics with their phones hoping to get a shot of celebrities, you can’t tell me someone didn’t see that.
- Does anybody remember those villains Peter Tomasi came up with? Those nobodies that Batman injured, and then they all teamed up to take Batman on together? One had a boot print on his face. Another had a batarang permanently embedded in his head. In a very loose way, it would seem that those villains and these ones share a similar genesis. Both were created by the actions of The Dark Knight. But while the Tomasi villains were bad-guys who deserved what they got, I’m guessing these villains were actually just innocent bystanders that have a grudge with Batman because they were collateral damage from a fight he had with a super-villain and were mutated in the process.
- I love the fact that we actually get a crime scene investigation. More of that please.
- I didn’t review #940, so I wanted to take a moment to comment on the supposed death of Tim Drake. The way it played out, we got to experience that feeling of “oh no..oh no” as the story unfolded, but it was nice that we weren’t left in the dark about what really happened. That way, we don’t have to suffer along with the characters for the next couple of months till his real fate is revealed. We got to experience the rush without having to endure the uncertainty. A perfect example of having your cake and getting to eat it to.
- Does Basil even have bones to break?
- Did anybody else feel a couple of hairs stand up on the back of their neck during that opening sequence?
- I’m getting a voodoo/witch doctor vibe here, but that is totally the Scarecrow’s gauntlet from the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum.
- Considering that the team was formed to draw out The Colony, and that has been achieved, I kinda think that Bruce would have been distancing himself from the team even if Tim had lived.
- Tribute to Dennis O’Neil? I’m going to say yes. Either they spelled it wrong accidentally or they did it intentionally because they didn’t want their reference to be too overt. Whichever the case may be, Denny O’Neil is the man, and I have much respect for his contribution to the Batman legacy. If you are interested in reading more on O’Neil, you can click here to check out an article I posted about him earlier this year.
- 1989 Batman Movie reference! I’ve actually seen this one line referenced more times than I can remember. I’ve even commented on it before in my “Interesting Facts” section. As inconceivable as it is to me to think that there are Batman fans out there who don’t know that line and haven’t seen that movie, I have to face reality and accept that the movie is 27 years old and might be beyond the interest of today’s youth. But for those of you who are interested, or just want a trip down memory lane, here you go.
- Ninja Man-Bats! These guys made their first appearance in Batman #655 (2006) in the now classic Batman story that started off Grant Morrison’s run on the character. They are League of Assassin ninjas that have been injected with the Langstrom serum in order to create super-soldiers for the League.
- An inside joke perhaps? Late in her career, in the preNew52 continuity, Renee took on the mantle of The Question during DC’s year-long event from 2006/2007 entitled 52.
- If I may bring up Doug Moench again. Since this story’s focus on drama offhandedly reminded me of Moench’s work, it also reminded me that during his time writing for Batman, he was actually writing for both Detective Comics and Batman simultaneously. He was basically putting out a bimonthly story, much like the writers today are doing. I just thought it as an interesting parallel worth sharing.
- You love it when a story puts character relevance above all else.
- Proper character portrayals are important to you when choosing a story.
- You love loads and loads of drama.
- A story isn’t complete for you unless it has at least 4 references.
This marks the 7th consecutive time that Batman-News has given James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics a score of 9 or higher. That’s got to be some kind of record. And with scores like that it should come as no surprise that I’m in serious awe of Tynion’s writing abilities. But it’s not just that. He has an understanding and respect for the material that I haven’t witnessed in years. Couple that with the fact that Alvaro Martinez is a hair away from being perfect when it comes to his artistic expression, and you just can’t go wrong with this book. If things keep going this way, I’m going to have to add them to my list of favorite creative teams. Bring on issue #944!
SCORE: 9.5 / 10