Detective Comics #1031 review

This week’s Detective Comics is yet another example of Tomasi’s ability to write strong characters. We see this on the opening pages, as Nakano is being visited by The Mirror, who tries to get Nakano to side with him. However, Nakano straight up tells Mirror that he has no interest in “having [the election] being delivered to [him]” and he outright dismisses Mirror’s help. This shows that Nakano has integrity, and the way that he stands his ground makes him even more likable than before. His morals, ethics and values are on display here. He isn’t a bad person at all, even though he is against Batman and vigilantes in general. And even then Tomasi makes sure that we can see his point of view, which is something that has been well-established in previous issues. Nakano has gone from what seemed to me like a throwaway character to a complex character that I’m now invested in, and I’m looking forward to seeing his story unfold. If that’s not a good showcase of Tomasi’s character-writing abilities, I don’t know what is.

That said, the character of Mirror still needs quite a bit of work. So far he has seemed like a rather one-note villain, whose entire identity—for now—is just based around a single goal. We know next to nothing about this guy beyond what he looks like and what he wants to achieve. We don’t know his real name. We don’t even really know what motivates him. I suppose that this is all by design, as the creative team probably wants us to be intrigued by the mystery, trying to figure out who he is by ourselves before they eventually reveal his identity in a later issue. But I think this falls flat in this case because Mirror, so far, hasn’t done anything truly noteworthy. Imagine that what we get here is all that we get—if that was the case, then this villain would be entirely forgettable and quite boring. Mirror needs some kind of edge to make the mystery of his identity truly intriguing, or he simply needs to be unmasked so we can dig into his motivation and see how exactly he factors into the story besides the superficial things that we have seen from him so far.

Another questionable character moment has to do with Bruce. I’ve seen quite a bit of criticism about how he’s been neglecting Damian. While I don’t think this in itself is a problem necessarily, because this could be a character flaw intended to make Bruce more interesting on some level, I do think that if he continues to neglect Damian, we just end up retreading the same steps as before. We’ve already seen how problematic the relationship between father and son can be, and we’ve already seen them working hard to be better persons. While some people in real life fall back into old patterns and go through the same cycle again, I don’t think that fictional characters should necessarily go through the same. If they’re retreading the same steps over and over again, there will be readers who will lose interest. We need to innovate, not repeat ourselves endlessly!

Case in point: in this issue Batman has a lead on Damian’s whereabouts and he tells the Bat Family that if he doesn’t follow up on it now, he might lose Damian’s trail for a good long while. The entire Bat Family, who are about to leap into action to stop a riot, assure him that they can handle the situation and that Bruce should look for his son. However, for some reason that isn’t entirely clear to me, Bruce decides that Damian has to wait after all, but why? The entire Family is there! They’re basically an army at this point. Dick has even been Batman multiple times now. Why can’t Bruce just trust the others to handle things while he prioritizes his son?

Damian gets a wonderful scene, though. I’m not going to spoil what happens, but I like how Tomasi once more proves that he is the quintessential Damian writer, at least to me. Damian is overconfident, annoying and mean—but he is also very inquisitive and gets things done, which makes him a kind of “lovable bastard.” He is no longer Robin, and I actually like that! He’s on his own path now, and even though his path will lead him back to Bruce eventually, as that’s how Tomasi has set up this story, it’s good to see him entering a new phase. Hopefully it leads to good things, and if there’s anyone who can handle it well, it’s Tomasi.

Furthermore, I enjoy how Tomasi spends time showing us the actual citizens of Gotham, on either side of the vigilante-argument. Some side with Mirror and want the Bats to disappear, while others don Bat-masks of their own to oppose Mirror. This way, Tomasi takes a 360 approach to the conflict, presenting different viewpoints, from Nakano’s to Mirror’s to the citizens’ to Batman’s, and I think all of them are at least partially right. It makes for a compelling read.

Evely is back on art duties, and for the most part her work looks incredible. Characters all move and look very lifelike. Their anatomy is solid and their emotions are conveyed expertly through facial expressions and body language. Even though there are a handful of backgrounds that look kind of bland to me, on the whole I like the atmosphere and the aesthetic of Gotham City—it feels and looks very familiar while still being unmistakably Evely’s rendition, setting it apart from so many other artists. Lopes colors Evely’s work beautifully, contributing to this atmosphere, and using many layers to enrich the overall aesthetic. However, there are times that both artists drop the ball.

For example, there’s a double-page spread—although still cut up into several panels—where we see a riot between Batman-supporters and Mirror and his followers. The Bat Family gets involved as well, trying to break things up. The overuse of red and yellow, along with the chaotic panel-layout and the many characters in the background, make it hard to follow the action here. For some readers, this might not be to their liking. However, there’s something to be said for this artistic decision, because it does at least convey the sense that the riot is very chaotic. Perhaps we aren’t meant to be able to follow the action that well. Still, to me, I think this could have been executed better if more colors had been used and the layout and all the characters hadn’t been so overwhelming.

It doesn’t help that this double-page is followed by another (also cut up into several panels), as I can imagine that this is too much for some readers. But my main problem with this second spread is very specifically how the fight between Batman and Mirror is constructed. It doesn’t flow well as panels don’t follow up on each other logically. Had the flow and the positions of the characters been more solid, I would’ve loved this sequence, so it’s a big missed opportunity in that regard. I’ll break it down:

In the first panel we see Batman behind Mirror, grabbing Mirror’s wrist. Mirror looks okay here, but Batman is already in a very awkward position, which is strange, because Batman is a master martial artist and should know how to grapple. In the second panel Mirror has turned around and has somehow pulled his arm free from Batman’s grasp, but he only would’ve been able to do that if Batman had not been holding onto Mirror’s wrist tightly, which is another un-Batman-like moment. It would’ve been more believable if Batman had yanked Mirror’s arm behind Mirror’s back to overpower him and end the fight quickly. In the third panel we see Mirror punching Batman in the face, but this doesn’t make sense either as Mirror did not have enough distance from Batman in the previous panel to be able to land that blow successfully in that specific way. It is also beyond me why Batman didn’t act the very second that Mirror turned around and got his arm free in the second panel—you gotta be on top of your game, Bruce!

The fourth panel is fine; this is a cool moment where Batman is forced to look at Mirror’s mask, staring at his own reflection, although for some reason the artists neglected to render Batman’s reflection—a missed opportunity! But after this we get to an especially messy sequence of six tiny panels.

In the first of these panels, Batman swats Mirror’s face with the back of his hand. Already I’m not sure how we got from the middle panel to this one. A headbutt would have made more sense for Batman, especially since there’s just no way that he can swing his arm like that to hit Mirror, unless he would’ve stepped back, or would’ve pushed Mirror away from him first. Then, in the next panel, Mirror has already kneed Batman in the stomach, which just goes to show how ineffective Batman’s previous move was. Again, this is very un-Batman-like. Each of Batman’s strikes should be a calculated move, very precise and well-aimed, but he doesn’t look like the expert martial artist that he is supposed to be here at all. What happens in the third panel is a bit vague because of the way the characters are positioned, but on closer look it turns out that Batman once more hits Mirror across the face, this time with a closed fist, although it’s still a back-handed blow. Essentially, it’s a copy of his previous move, which we already know was highly ineffective.

Moving on to the fourth panel, it’s just hammered home how ineffective it is as Mirror grapples Batman, pushing his head down and clenching the arm that Batman just swung at Mirror’s head. Both characters’ poses look incredibly awkward once more and I’m not sure what’s even going on here. These don’t look like real martial arts moves at all. It’s weird. In the fifth panel we see the first decent-looking Batman punch, where he actually puts some real strength into it, as Mirror is knocked back and can’t recover from this. However, it makes no sense how we went from the previous panel to this one, which makes for a rambling sequence. The final panel of the fight scene shows Batman kicking Mirror, but Batman looks like he’s completely off-balance, with his arms kind of flailing about, and his leg raised awkwardly—that’s not what a good kick looks like! And yet Mirror is completely knocked off his feet and falling to the ground.

I am not a fan of this scene at all, even though I am a fan of Evely’s work in general. In this case, however, the panels are too small, the fight moves are too inconsistent, and the positions that the characters are in are awkward and weird. They don’t look like they know what they are doing. This is not how trained warriors fight. For Mirror, I suppose I can accept that because it’s not been established whether or not he is in fact a trained fighter, but for Batman this is absolutely inexcusable.

That said, Evely is still an amazing artist and I’d like to see her in the pages of Detective Comics again, teaming up with Tomasi. She also draws an awesome Damian.

Recommended if…

  • You are a fan of Damian Wayne.
  • You are a fan of the Bat Family.
  • You like when writers look at a debate/problem from all angles.
  • You like well-rounded characters.

Overall: This issue is good, but not flawless. Tomasi continues to write interesting characters and Evely continues to draw beautiful stuff, but there are times that either creator is missing the mark. Mirror is still a rather unconvincing villain, and Bruce is still neglecting Damian, but the other side of that coin is that Damian gets to operate on his own, which I really enjoy. Evely draws a beautiful Gotham City and great characters, but her fight scene is a big mess. Still, I recommend this issue because of all the things that the creative team does get right!

Score: 7.5/10

Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.