Detective Comics #1036 review

Although I’ve critiqued this current run (which started in the Future State: Dark Detective issues) quite a bit, I do think it’s been an entertaining story. With every new issue, I’m warming up more to Tamaki’s approach to Batman, and I’m getting more invested in the story. That certainly hasn’t changed with this issue, so let’s jump right in and have a look!

So far, I’ve been noticing a trend in Tamaki’s writing: there are moments where she overwrites. What I mean by that is that she sometimes uses more words than necessary and she uses quite a bit of exposition, sometimes in such a way that dialogue sounds unnatural. While there are still moments in #1036 where I think the dialogue could use a bit of work (for example when Huntress says things to Batman that don’t add anything to the scene and don’t really work as jokes either), on the whole I think the writing in this issue is an improvement. Tamaki avoids having to rely on exposition by dedicating the first page to a newspaper article that efficiently recaps the story so far. This allows the writing to be more streamlined.

I also really enjoy the opening sequence of this issue. Last time we ended on a cliffhanger, where Bruce saw what seemed to be an undead Sarah Worth outside his house, and that’s where we pick up this time. Bruce wants to take the undead Sarah inside, but Bruce’s neighbor Lydia sees him and calls the cops. Now Bruce needs to figure out why Sarah is here, and if this even is Sarah in the first place, while simultaneously finding a way to hide her from the cops when they enter his house to take a look around. It’s a relatively short scene, but it’s suspenseful and it progresses the main plot.

However, as Bruce unravels more details about Sarah’s murder, I’m starting to see some flaws in the story. First of all, it turns out that it’s not actually Sarah, and the one that’s impersonating Sarah basically turns out to be a witness. Batman and Huntress interview this witness for more clues. So far I really like this—it reads like a detective story dressed up as a superhero story, where the witness isn’t just a regular citizen but a rather remarkable individual as well. Yet, what doesn’t quite work for me is that this witness was exactly at the right place at the right time to see Sarah’s murder, not to mention how the witness ended up right outside Bruce’s home, all of which is way too convenient. Now Batman doesn’t have to go out of his way to find a witness, nor does he have to do much to get information from them. Instead, this witness simply shows up at his doorstep out of nowhere and straight up gives him what he needs to continue working his case. I’d really like to see Batman putting in a little more effort, because if this keeps on happening, the detective stuff will become stale very fast.

That said, I am definitely enjoying the Batman/Huntress team-up, and I very much appreciate that the Huntress backups actually tie directly into the main story, so that it’s all connected. I also like that the main focus is still on detective stuff rather than big superhero action, even if the detective stuff could use a little more work. Lastly, this story is very dynamic in the sense that there are plot twists and various characters that enter the story, which keeps me engaged and makes me want to read on. This can only be achieved when the pacing is good. In previous issues the pacing has been somewhat off, but I think Tamaki is starting to settle into her groove quite nicely. Here’s to hoping that she can keep this up!

Mora and Bellaire are once again back on art duties, and I’m already starting to feel like a broken record. Month in, month out this art team impresses me with their work. Mora’s page layouts are fantastic: he always plays with the panel placement so not a single page looks the same, which keeps the story aesthetic dynamic and fresh. At the same time, he manages to keep the flow of the story clear and easy to follow. Bellaire’s colors are very moody again, which creates a foreboding atmosphere throughout the issue. Her work is layered and detailed as usual, blending in smoothly with Mora’s pencils and inks. Truly, the art on display here is masterclass, and even if you aren’t interested in the story, this issue is worth it for the art alone. This is perhaps the best Batman art since Capullo—most other recent Batman art pales by comparison.

The backup story is good, but whereas the main feature is significantly lighter on exposition, I think that this backup has too much of it. Four out of the ten pages are almost exclusively used to deliver exposition, and it’s a lot of information that could easily be condensed if unnecessary words and lines had been cut. As a quick example, a line like “Which I know because I’m the one who found her” is redundant. Not only is it written in an unnatural way, but it’s also stating the obvious. That said, the pacing, just like in the main story, is pretty good here as well, despite the heavy use of exposition. I also think that Tamaki writes Huntress well, as she makes Huntress say and do things that seem authentic to the character, although I’m not a Huntress expert. Finally, I’m really digging Henry’s artwork. Like last month, his art is a lot less detailed than Mora’s, which, at times, can still make the art look and feel a little empty. But, on the other hand, it also makes the art very clean. The characters are rendered consistently and Bellaire’s amazing colors help to create an aesthetic cohesiveness throughout the entire issue. All in all, this backup is starting to get pretty interesting; I just wish that there was more time to flesh out the characters, because, aside from Huntress herself, we still don’t know a lot about the rest of the cast, which makes them generic and forgettable.

Recommended if…

  • You are a Huntress fan!
  • You want to see Batman and Huntress teaming up to solve a case.
  • You like your Detective Comics best when there’s actual detective work in them.

Overall: When I first started reading this run, I was mainly here for Mora and Bellaire’s art. But now the story itself, and the characters, are growing on me and I’m invested. The writing is an improvement over last month, although some plot beats are still a bit too convenient, as if the writer is taking the easy way out, and some of the dialogue still sounds unnatural and clunky. The art, however, from Mora, Henry and Bellaire, is excellent. Mora and Bellaire steal the show together, but Henry—even though his style is vastly different—isn’t that far behind. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is Batman art that will enhance any Batman fan’s collection, no matter what you think about the story. Now is your chance to see Mora drawing the Caped Crusader—don’t miss out!

Score: 8/10

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