About a month after the final issue of Future State: Dark Detective, we finally get to read the start of Tamaki’s present-day story. I find Dark Detective to be a flawed but very entertaining story, and so I’ve been cautiously optimistic about Tamaki’s Tec run. But is this first chapter as solid as I’m hoping it to be? Let’s have a look.

This issue is mainly setup. We are introduced to several new characters who will, no doubt, play important parts in this arc. We also see how Bruce currently operates as Batman. He has lost his fortune (again) and now lives in the city center, and he’s using Micro-Batcaves that are hidden all over town. These changes come from Tynion’s “Joker War” arc from the main Batman book and, as such, “Joker War” is referenced here in Tec #1034. However, it’s absolutely not necessary to go back and read “Joker War,” as Tamaki does a great job of taking all these various story beats and reintroducing them to readers. All things considered, Tec #1034 is a good jumping-on point.

Furthermore, I think that Tamaki has a good grasp on Bruce’s voice. She writes factual and straight-forward inner monologue. Back in Dark Detective, the inner monologue tended to be repetitive or pulpy to a point that it was hard to take seriously. In Tec #1034, however, Bruce’s inner monologue doesn’t just narrate the plot, but also shows us his analytical and tactical mind. I do have a nitpick: at a certain point Bruce is thinking about the positives and negatives to living in the city center. He says that the positive is better coffee and the negative is no parking. If you ask me, these are absolutely not the kind of positives and negatives that should be going through Batman’s mind in that situation. This is, of course, not a big deal—like I said, a nitpick!—but it stands out to me because the rest of the inner monologue is solid.

Besides that nitpick, I do have some more serious points of criticism. These aren’t deal-breakers in any way, but I do think that it’s strange how nobody on the creative team or in the editorial board seems to pick up on these things. First of all, we see Bruce in an abandoned, old tunnel beneath the city, building one of his Micro-Batcaves. He is there all by himself. But if he really is doing this without help, how the heck did he manage to get all that equipment down there, and how does he want to set up even more Micro-Batcaves across Gotham? If he had some of the Bat Family members helping him out, that would explain a lot, but none of this is even addressed in this issue. Without such an explanation, it’s all a bit much and hard to buy into. Secondly, after Bruce has finished working in the Micro-Batcave, we see him exiting out a manhole and returning to his apartment. When he’s about to enter the building, one of his neighbors, Lydia, hugs him and tells him to come to a neighborhood party that night. There’s nothing wrong with this scene on the surface, but why doesn’t Lydia notice that Bruce is dirty and smelling of sweat and sewers? Surely she should realize that something’s a little off about the famous Bruce Wayne, former billionaire and socialite of Gotham City. This is a missed opportunity, and suggests to me that there isn’t as much attention to detail as I would like.

But the real draw of this issue isn’t the writing. Mora and Bellaire, who did such a wonderful job on Future State: Dark Detective, arguably making it the most beautiful Future State book of them all, are back to art duties in this issue, and their work is outstanding as usual! Bellaire’s colors are layered and varied, ranging from cold to warm depending on the mood and setting of each scene, and they enhance the pencils. Mora draws lifelike characters with realistic facial expressions and with near-perfect proportions. His backgrounds are interesting and very detailed.

What impresses me the most this time around is how economic Mora is with his visual storytelling. For example, he uses double page spreads for his fight scenes, and adds in smaller panels inside the spreads to show specific actions. While I would be somewhat disappointed if this same technique is used for a big battle between Batman and the villain of the arc, I think it is effective here because Batman is up against a handful of nobodies. In the smaller panels we mostly get close-ups on terrified faces, and the fight as a whole plays out like a horror sequence, where Batman drags his opponents off into the darkness and incapacitates them before they even get the chance to react. In but two pages, Mora presents a Batman who is not only an expert martial artist, but also a master of stealth who puts fear in the hearts of his enemies. This is the competent Batman that I like to see!

The backup feature is very brief, so I’ll keep my commentary brief as well. I did not care for this backup. There’s a little back and forth between Damian and Talia, there’s a setup for the upcoming Robin book in the form of Damian finding out about a secret tournament, and there is a character reveal at the end. The reveal is presented as if it’s totally epic and something that everyone’s been waiting for, but I’m not confident that most readers will really care, because this character hasn’t been around for almost a decade—unless I’m not aware of an appearance somewhere. The art is fine, and I’m glad that Damian is getting rid of that ridiculous domino mask with the fins, and I like the smooth coloring. But almost nothing happens here, and I really don’t see why this had to be a separate backup feature (other than the obvious fact that DC is trying to make some money here). Either way, there just isn’t much to this and it doesn’t add anything to Detective Comics #1034. You can totally skip this backup if you don’t want to read it.

Recommended if…

  • You have been looking for a jumping-on point for Detective Comics.
  • You are a fan of Mora and Bellaire’s exceptional artwork.

Overall: This is a good comic. There’s a new mystery for Batman to solve; there are intriguing new characters; the writing is tight and crisp, save for a few slip-ups here and there; and the art is just incredible. While it’s too early to say if the arc as a whole will be worth it, I think this is a solid start to Tamaki’s run on the title, and I recommend this issue!

Score: 8/10

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