A Batman mini written by Tom Taylor? It was a proposition I couldn’t resist. Andy Kubert on pencils? I was there before the book was printed. Damian as Batman, at least as suggested by his costume and the lack of “Bruce” anywhere in the solicit? The pitch just kept getting better. But pitches are pitches, and they’re no guarantee of a satisfactory final product (look no further than Tom King on Batman…). So does Batman: The Detective live up to the promise?
Things in The Detective certainly start with a bang—or a BOOOOM, if you will. You may or may not like Kubert’s aesthetic choices, but if you can’t see how good the visual storytelling is in the first scene of this book, then you’ve abandoned reason. One of the things I (and, probably, most of you) love about Tom Taylor is that he so often finds that pitch-perfect union between gravitas and classic comic book bombast. Kubert proves himself the perfect collaborator right away: even without the voiceover, the situation is obviously grave, but the presentation is so much larger-than-life. I could compare it to a great action film, but I think that sells comics short—this is what film should aspire to. And it’s just as impressive how efficiently Kubert gets it done, telling us so much without the need to linger.
The voiceover helps to contextualize the action: in his twilight, Batman realistically—or cynically, if you prefer—sees his crusade as a large-scale failure, discerning that the difference he has made has been limited to the individual lives he’s spared from Gotham’s cruel hand. With someone targeting those individuals, it’s time for him to leave Gotham on a quest to preserve what little legacy he thinks he has left. And away he goes to find out who’s behind all of this.
For a book entitled The Detective, this one isn’t lacking in action. Once Batman finds his way to the first stop in his investigation, he is quickly embroiled in the same sort of bombast that opened the book. Taylor is wise to give Kubert these opportunities, as we end up with one of the most consistently interesting set of visuals that I’ve seen in a comic in some time. But Taylor also manages to keep Bats on the trail, never losing sight of what the book’s title clearly mandates. The blend often feels like we’re in a 1940’s crime drama, and for me, that might be the best sort of Batman story there is.
Of course, at this point, a Batman story is also about the supporting cast, and The Detective has quite the motley crew. I won’t spoil any of the characters here, but if you’re a fan of some of DC’s more obscure characters, you’re sure to approve of Taylor’s choices. There are no members of Batman’s rich rogues gallery present—at least not yet—but I find that refreshing, and I hope that Taylor keeps it that way (and that DC editorial gives him the freedom to make the choice).
- You like Batman as a detective.
- You like Batman in action.
- You like Batman out of Gotham.
If you’re looking for the Tom Taylor on Batman that we’ve been waiting for, then you’re in for a surprise—but not a disappointment. Batman: The Detective takes the Bat out of Gotham, and it leaves the rogues behind, yet this clean slate is the perfect stage for Taylor and Kubert to bring the Dark Knight back to his essence. Here’s hoping for much, much more of this in the years to come.