Detective Comics #984 review

Is Bryan Hill writing a Red Hood for the next generation? We’ve got an upstart up-and-comer villain with a fancy necromancer-tech helmet of some sort, and he’s got a personal problem with Batman–and particularly against the people who follow in his footsteps. Sounds like a grudge-match forged in the furnace of some failed wanna-be who didn’t make the cut, doesn’t it? And someone help me out here: I thought the woman he got the helmet from in the opening flashback was Doctor Poison, but apparently she’s now Japanese and not Russian anymore?  Or has she returned to being Russian now? ну сколько можно уже!

Regardless, the villain isn’t that exciting, even with the ramped-up Palpatine powers. But that’s really not why we’re here. The story is between Batman and Clack Lightning, and whatever this strange passive-aggressive game Batman’s playing at with regard to wanting Jefferson Pierce to “shore up” his Bat team so they’ll quit dragging him down.

Yeah, Batman’s basically hired a fight coach for some of the most capable young heroes in all the world because he’s doesn’t want to be bothered about needing to save them if they get into a pinch.

I can’t decide if that’s sweet and fatherly or if Batman is basically a &#!%@!

This mission, if you choose to accept it….

On the one hand, I really enjoyed this comic: it’s well-paced, it’s beautifully drawn, and it’s especially fun to see Cassandra back in fighting trim. On the other hand, I don’t entirely like Hill’s characterization of Batman. Some of his interactions are really fun: like the way he talks with Pierce: bringing him into the fold, but also still keeping him at a distance. There’s a nice tension there that will make or break this story ultimately: can Batman and Black Lightning work together, agree on what’s best for the Bat younglings, and reconcile some ethical differences?

For his own part, Black Lightning leaps into the role with scarcely any prompting. We go from Batman picking him up in Bruce Wayne’s plane (clearly a cry for help from Batman to reveal his identity since he could have swooped down in any of his many Bat jets for the job), straight to the street-fight-in-progress with Cassandra Cain.

With Jefferson Pierce and Karma trading electrical charges, it’s clear that Black Lightning is the right man for the job. But I don’t think Karma’s going to like him getting between him and his targets–especially since Karma is clearly someone with strong ties to Batman–his remark about the pearls is especially interesting.

Should we go ahead and start placing bets on who he is beneath the mask? The Eastern-styled curved blades and the beads might be clues.

Cassandra does put up a heck of a fight!

Miguel Mendonça and Diana Egea on inks once again makes a terrific team on the visuals. I would have liked to have seen something a little more interesting with Karma’s costume (if it can even be called that–he’s basically wearing street clothes), but that might have been out of the artist’s control.  That said, I do like how the mask can suggest expressions like the little smirk he gives Black Lightning after being super-charged by his blast.

There’s some nice atmospheric things that Adriano Lucas on colors also helps out with. From the opening negotiation with the hazy swirl of our dealer’s cigarette, to the motion blur of the fight and Black Lightning’s effects–a scene which is wonderfully lit in so many way as it takes place on a city street teeming with with lights. The more subdued moments–at the airport and later at Wayne Manor–are nicely counterpoint both in terms of the figure work as well as the palette (which in these moments is tonally cooler overall, a nice contrast to the city heat).

I feel like Karma’s pink electrical effects vs. Black Lightning’s blue ones is kinda silly-looking. Would have preferred almost anything else: green, white, yellow or even purple maybe. My other art nitpick it is that Karma looks like he breaks Cassandra’s arm, but we later realize he only dislocated it. And yet between the dislocation and her snapping it back into place, she nevertheless props herself on it (while laying on the sidewalk). It’s a clumsy little moment, but the action makes up for it.

Recommended If…

  • You like Batman stories where Batman takes a back seat in order to let someone else do the heavy lifting for a change.
  • Cassandra Cain is your OTS (one true sidekick).
  • You need a palate cleanser from last week’s Batman disaster.


Bryan Hill is building some complex dynamics into this story of Batman mentoring a mentor for his many mentees. While the king bat will likely be taking a more back-seat role as Black Lightning assumes the duties of steering the batlings, this story is now doubt first and foremost about Bruce’s complicated relationship not only with Jefferson Pierce, but with his own “children” as well.  Miguel Mendonça and Diana Egea contribute mightily toward a book that’s just a pleasure to flip through, and while Karma isn’t terribly interesting yet as a villain, there’s definitely potential here!

SCORE: 8/10