Detective Comics #961 review

This week in the pages of Detective Comics: It’s Azrael vs the Bat-Family, more flashback fun with Bruce and Zatanna, and Jean-Paul Valley takes a journey through his own subconscious.

I know this story is supposed to be about Azrael, but my favorite parts of each issue have actually been the sections dedicated to Bruce/Batman and Zatanna.  I’m intrigued by their interactions and really  enjoying this glimpse into Bruce’s training days.  Since the Batman sections and Azrael sections have been so disparate from one another, I’d almost have preferred it if they had been two separate stories.  This way, they could have elaborated even more on Bruce’s time with Zatara and Zatanna.  Granted, if they had done that it would have been issue after issue of just talking (not that I would have minded), so I can see why they chose to intercut it with the more action-based Azrael/Ascalon storyline.  Speaking of which…

The brief scene where Valley finds himself floating through his own subconscious is extremely beautiful.  I love how there’s no real horizon to speak of.  It’s just a space where everything melds together and flows in and out of one another.  Looking at this image actually makes me feel very at peace.  But that is short lived as the mental manifestation of The System appears to confront Valley.  As their conversation becomes more antagonistic, the waters and sky within this space become a turbulent maelstrom.  Having the mental landscape react in kind to the emotional state of the projections present was a really nice touch.

I don’t want to turn this into a moral/ethical/religious debate, but The System has a point there.  I’m certainly not saying I think this applies to everybody, but I’ve definitely know plenty of people who don’t practice what they preach.  But I think that’s the thing about a good villain.  Even if you don’t agree with what they are doing, if you can see the logic behind their actions, you can at least accept that it’s a valid point of view.  After all, from the villains perspective, he is merely doing what he thinks is right.  And at the end of the day, isn’t that what we are all pretty much doing?

At this point, all hell breaks loose (Or heaven, I guess that is more accurate as he is an avenging angel) as Batwoman and Cassandra take on Azrael.  It’s a no-holds-barred battle-royale of epic proportions that works its way all throughout Luke’s lab.  And by the end, all the combatants are immensely beaten and bloodied.

I haven’t particularly enjoyed any of the fight scenes in Tynion’s run prior to now.  It’s either been too difficult to tell what was happening, one of the combatants wouldn’t even be fighting, poorly illustrated, happened off panel, uninspired choreography, bad sequential editing, or you’d simply lose track of combatants during a group fight and wonder what they were doing while their teammates got pounded.  But here, none of that applies.  In fact, this fight is the exact opposite of everything I just said.  This is literally the best fight scene I’ve seen in Detective Comics since the beginning of Rebirth.  Heck, it’s in the running to be the best fight scene in any DC comic since the beginning of Rebirth.  Keep in mind, this is coming from someone that’s usually more interested in character development/interactions and plot details. So for me to be raving about a fight scene, it’s got to be good.  I’d go into detail, but really, it’s just one of those things you need to see for yourself.  It might also be worth mentioning that nobody involved in this fight goes out like a punk in regards to their fighting prowess or is depicted fighting any less than they are capable of.  I know this has been a hot button issue for some of you on Tynion’s run, that’s why I’m specifically bring it up.

Usually at this point in a review I have a paragraph dedicated to discussing artwork, but the thing is, I think most of the compliments I’ve been giving this issue up till now were already directed at the art team anyway.  So, suffice it to say, Alvaro Martinez is awesome.  From environments to sequential fight choreography and everything in between, Martinez is the man!


The AzBat suit finally makes an appearance, and I’ve got both positive and negative things to say about it.

On the positive side, I really like the angle they are taking with it.  In the original story, the suit was merely used to show Valley’s further descent into madness.  But here, the suit is being utilized as a force for good.  Since Valley’s brain integrates with the A.I. of the suit he is wearing, it totally makes sense that wearing a suit with Batman’s personality integrated into it would in turn make Valley a better person.

On the negative side, Rebirth is all about the characters trying to become what they once were, drawn to do so on a subconscious level.  Since Valley is the one that made the suit in the original story, how is Fox making it now following the rules established by Rebirth?  Or, are we saying it’s the universe in general that’s trying to bring things back to the way they were?  Even if the later is the case, and the universe itself were trying to revert to what it once was, how is having the AzBat suit a force for good reverting to a former universe.  It’s not, since it’s only the original AzBat suit in form but not function.  I’m not going to look down on this too much because I really like the new spin Tynion put on it.  But it is problematic when integrating the idea with the concept established by Rebirth.

I’m also having a little bit of trouble reconciling everything that is going on with Azrael when you consider the fact that Knightfall is canon in the New52/Rebirth timeline.  People bring it up all the time and make reference to it.  I mean, it’s totally possible to read the first half of Knightfall and simply omit the few occasions that Valley shows up, but how do you read the second half?  I guess that’s the thing.  It’s probably only that first half that’s canon.  But it does beg the question.  If the second half of Knightfall isn’t canonical to the New52/Rebirth timeline, what did happen after Bruce was injured by Bane?  How did he come back?  Who beat Bane?

Odds and Ends:

  • I don’t get it?  Why would Batwoman be upset to find out they weren’t getting busy?  Then again, she is delirious from blood lose.  Maybe it’s not supposed to make sense.

Interesting Facts:

  • Obeah Man first appeared in Detective Comics #618 (1990).  He is the villain responsible for the death of Janet Drake, Tim’s mother, and also was the one that put Jack Drake in a coma.

  • Luke has a Hardac (Holographic Analytical Reciprocating Digital Android Computer) in his lab!  This is from Batman: The Animated Series, “Heart of Steel”.

Recommended if…

  • You want to see the best fight scene to come out of Detective Comics since the beginning of Rebirth!
  • You want to continue your trip down memory lane with Batman and Zatanna.


While the exchanges crafted by Tynion between Bruce and Zatanna have been my favorite sections of the “Intelligence” stroyline thus far,  Alvaro Martinez and his artwork totally won this particular issue.  From his character renditions, beautiful environments, and outstanding fight choreography; everything that he contributed to this book is simply magnificent!

SCORE: 9 / 10