Detective Comics #959 review

Detective Comics 959

Previously in the pages of Detective Comics: The Order of St. Dumas has activated an A.I. program that will transcend the faults that all the previous Avenging Angels eventually succumbed to.  Concurrently, Bruce Wayne attends a card game at the Iceberg Lounge in order to meet with Zatanna and enlist her help in a matter of utmost importance.  Coincidentally, a member of The Order of St. Dumas is attending that very game, causing our seemingly disparate plot lines to merge.

This issue opens with a flashback from Bruce’s training years, and it should come as no surprise to anyone, it’s from the period of time he spent with Zatara and Zatanna.  In it, Bruce recounts an almost romantic interpretation of Gotham City to Zatanna.  And as he spoke, I found it very easy to conjure up images that fit his eloquent descriptions, especially the imagery of spotlights from police blimps cutting between the buildings.  The opening also addresses the fact that Bruce is having difficulties mastering simple sleight of hand tricks (we will get back to this in a minute).  This opening forms a bookend with another scene between the two characters that takes place just before the end of the issue, but instead of tackling this comic chronologically, we’re just going to jump straight to it.

This image is absolutely beautiful, and I think it’s pretty much what most of us think of when we picture Gotham City.  Gothic looking architecture under the blanket of night and hounded by the relentless onslaught of never ending rainfall.  But, as much as I love this image, it doesn’t really meld well with Bruce’s description from the beginning of the story.  He described Gotham as a “rainbow of lights” with “every color imaginable”.  And I’m not really getting that from this image.  If anything, this is kind of the opposite: desaturated and gloomy.  In a way that isn’t even implied in the story, I kind of feel that a Gotham before Bruce’s parents died was very much the way he described it.  But with his loss and the decline of the city, it’s what we see now.  In that sense, the city mirrors Bruce’s internal strife: vibrant when he was happy and bleak/dreary in the present.  I’m actually fine with the fact that it’s so different.  It’s actually interesting that it is.  But what doesn’t make much sense to me is that it isn’t addressed by the characters, and I think that it is a missed opportunity to make the comparison I just did.  In fact, Zatanna acts as if what she sees is what Bruce described.  And that’s kind of strange since it’s so obviously different.

Another thing that bothered me about these bookend pieces is that Zatanna comments on the fact that Bruce never did learn sleight of hand.  The flashback clearly indicated that Bruce needed to learn basic tricks and sleight of hand before Zatara would teach him anything further.  But from other stories, we know that Bruce learned lock-picking, pick-pocketing, and escape artistry from Zatara.  If he never learned sleight of hand from Zatara, does that mean Tynion’s Batman doesn’t know these other skills either?  Or did he just learn them elsewhere?  In any case, I don’t see the point in messing with this part of Batman’s history and confusing people in the process.

After the flashback opening, the story jumps back to the present where Zatanna had just gotten rid of Ascalon (The Order of St. Dumas’ giant A.I. driven assassin-bot) by increasing his weight and making him plummet through the floor.  Shortly after Zatanna and Batman share their hellos, Ascalon comes crawling back up through the hole in the floor while simultaneously uttering “compensating for additional weight”.  Ok, here’s a little nitpick.  It makes sense to me that a robot could be able to redistribute power in order to lift more weight (in this case, himself).  But how exactly would that strengthen the floor?  The floor gave way underneath him because he outweighed its structural capacity to hold him.  I don’t see how anything he did should have changed that.  He should still be too heavy for the floor.  Oh well…moving on…

At this point in the story, we get a 5-page fight scene that involves the entire Bat-Family.  Although, really, Batman and Zatanna are the only ones doing anything useful.  Zatanna’s attack is probably the most interesting visual in the book (aside from that panoramic view of Gotham) and really gave Alvaro Martinez an excuse to let loose and go crazy with his illustration.  There’s debris flying about, water gushing from the floor, lighting arcing all around the room, and awesome looking lighting effects throughout.  Oh, sorry…what’s that?  You want to see it?  Well then…buy the book!  Support Martinez’s work so we can see more of him in the future.

It’s interesting that a character in the comic is talking negatively about the content of the comic.

And this isn’t the only time it happens in this issue.

Even Zatanna says she was expecting to fight clowns or colorful gangsters instead of giant robots.

Next up, we have the return of Dr. Victoria October!  I’m actually super excited to see her again.  I really liked her appearance in Detective Comics #948 but figured she was just a one-hit-wonder type of character and we would never see her again.  There’s just something about her sassy dry wit that I love.  Admittedly, when the scene first started, I thought it was Dr. Leslie Thompkins.  Afterall, she often helped Batman with medical stuff in the past.  And with her de-aging in the New52, along with a similar hair cut and color to that of Dr. October, I don’t think it was a stretch that I would make that mistake.  In any case, she has a fun little back and forth with Nomoz that I found delightful.  Definitely my favorite scene in the book from a character/dialogue perspective.

I also found it noteworthy that Victoria once again commented on the fact that she isn’t some kind of super villain.  Is this some kind of foreshadowing to the opposite?  I hope not, I like her.

Odds and Ends:

  • Anyone else think Ascalon’s faceplate is somewhat reminiscent to that of the nobodies?  Specifically speaking, Maya Ducard’s.

  • Batman has a pair of double-bladed brass knuckles in his utility belt…..Wow.  That doesn’t seem like a standard complement item to me.
  • Hahahaha.  Gordon’s old Bat-suit is Luke Fox’s butler.

Recommended if…

  • You’re a fan of Alvaro Martinez’s artwork.  I think he is my favorite artist on the Tec rotation.
  • You found Dr. October to be a charming/intriguing character and are happy to see more of her.

Overall:

While this issue has its fair share of missed opportunities and questionable narrative choices, I nevertheless found it quite enjoyable.  Much of that is due to the outstanding artwork presented by Martinez, but it would be unfair of me to not also compliment Tynion for hitting the mark more often than he missed it.  All-in-all, it’s a descent story that continues to lay the groundwork for what will hopefully be remembered as Tynion’s Ode to Azrael.

SCORE: 7.5 / 10 

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