Detective Comics #1003 review

I should really talk about covers more, because that’s a good one right there.  It has a lot going on, but everything works together without it getting cluttered.  You’ve got the delightfully dramatic action in the lower quadrant, with the Arkham Knight holding a sword to Robin’s throat and threatening “join me… or DIE!”  Gotta love dialogue covers, guys.

Going higher you’ve got Batman’s profile creating the black of the background, staring stoically at the Robin signal up in the night sky.  That excellent new trade dress ties it all together to create a striking image that does what any good cover should: it makes you want to pick up the issue to find out what the heck’s going on.

And what the heck is going on?  Why, more shenanigans with the Arkham Knight, if you’d believe it.

When we last left our heroes, Robin found himself in the company of the Arkham Knight, who had removed their helmet to reveal to him their identity.  Rest assured, I won’t spoil the reveal, but I do want to mention a conversation I had with Peter Tomasi at FanExpo Dallas over the weekend.  He said that in writing this new Arkham Knight, it isn’t their identity that’s important, but their mission.  Given the story that he’s been telling over the past several issues, I would say that this angle is evident, and he’s been successful in that approach.  Sure, we want to know the identity of this mysterious figure.  It’s in out nature to be curious about these things, and Tomasi has kept their identity a secret up until now.  Who they are is important, and it certainly plays into the “why” of their mission, but the identity of the Knight serves the story rather than the story serving the identity.

And even knowing who they are now, the whole of their mission has yet to be revealed.  What we do know if that the Knight is, frankly, kind of cuckoo-bananas, and I do love that they’re a bit of a whackjob.  If you were concerned that this Knight would end up just being a retread of the one from the game, then you can put those fears to rest.  Jason Todd’s Knight was angry and wanted vengeance (generally speaking, that is), whereas this Knight sees themselves as part of a righteous crusade.  Honestly, besides some brutal decisions late in this issue, you could almost see the Knight as a hero, or at least understand where they’re coming from.

And that’s what I like about this character, and the way Tomasi has been telling his story.  There’s a genuine mystery around the whole ordeal, from their identity to their connection to Gotham to their overall motivation to go on their crusade.  I don’t know how much more glowing praise I can give other than saying that I am truly, fully invested in this arc.

But I’ll go ahead and heap on some more.  While the Arkham Knight story is the driving force behind this arc, what I’m really struck by is how Tomasi is pretty much writing this as Batman and Robin 2.0.

And I am all about that.

Even Brad Walker’s pencils are evocative of the best of Patrick Gleason on Batman and Robin, full of joy and energy and a true sense of adventure.

I mean, look at this and tell me it doesn’t look like something from that Tomasi/Gleason masterpiece of a comic series:

Other than a wonky face here and there, Walker has really settled into a good style for this book, and I’ve come to think that he’s the perfect fit for this story.  He has a great sense of energy and pacing, with clearly defined action scenes leading to big, impressive splash pages.  The “Robin-signal” page above is just one of several examples of genuinely breathtaking imagery in this issue alone, bolstered by Andrew Hennesy and Nathan Fairbairn’s inks and colors, respectively.  The scene where Damian finally escapes Arkham Asylum is a definite highlight, with Robin using his skills to best the Knight’s acolytes in a scene that is both frenetic and clearly laid out.  Clarity is not sacrificed for action, which speaks to the skills of Walker, Hennessy, and Fairbairn.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention letterer Rob Leigh as well, whose clean fonts, creative word balloon designs, and fantastic sound effects make reading the book as engrossing as looking at the art.

I do wish that the “tons of dead bats around Gotham” thread would have been brought back up again, but I’m sure Tomasi will return to that soon.  It’s a small complaint, too, especially when the rest of the story is so engrossing and, yes, just flat out fun.

Recommended if:

  • You like Batman.
  • You’ve been wanting to know the identity of the Arkham Knight.
  • You just want some good, old-fashioned comic book adventure.
  • You’re a big fan of Doctor Phosphorus.

Overall: From the strong writing to the excellent visuals, this book is firing on all cylinders.  The Arkham Knight continues to be a fascinating character, made even more impressive by the fact that their identity is almost secondary to their motivation and mission.  Tomasi is crafting a strong, engrossing mystery that still allows for some excellent character interactions.  I wasn’t kidding when I called this Batman and Robin 2.0, with the chemistry between Batman and Robin carrying over from that series and a visual style that evokes Gleason without being derivative.  Truly, over the past five months, this is the best Detective Comics has been in years, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down.

SCORE: 8.5/10