I’ve been feeling optimistic about Tamaki’s Detective Comics run so far. The mystery at the heart of the story has been interesting and the artwork has been beyond amazing. However, Tamaki’s work has been flawed as well. Sometimes she overexplains things by relying too heavily on exposition or by adding more words than necessary. And other times logic simply goes out the window in favor of creating a “badass” sequence, which is the problem this time around. Does that make this a bad issue? Well, no. Is this issue worth buying? It…depends. Let’s have a look. There are some spoilers in this review!
What I find interesting about the way that Tamaki writes Batman is that sometimes she seems to really get what makes him tick, and then there are moments where he’s so out-of-character that he might well be a different character altogether. As we have seen in the previous issue, Bruce is the prime suspect in a police investigation regarding the murder of Sarah Worth. At the end of the previous issue we also saw that Lydia, one of Bruce’s neighbors, got murdered. Now the cops arrest Bruce and begin to interrogate him in one of the police stations.
At first, it almost feels like Bruce is sneakily turning the interrogation around, as he’s asking counter questions to the cops, things a detective would ask. Had Tamaki focused on that throughout the scene, I would likely have praised the writing here. Unfortunately, the scene falls apart when Bruce tries to prove that he hasn’t murdered Lydia by telling the cops that he has an alibi. When the cops ask him to name his alibi, he begins to stammer like a nervous, anxious fool, making himself extremely suspicious in the process, as if the writer and editor(s) totally forgot about the fact that this is the goddamn Batman!
There is no good justification for this out-of-character behavior. Even if it’s just an act, the goal isn’t clear. You could try to argue that Bruce means to infiltrate the police station, but this is something he could easily do as Batman at night. If he needs to hack into some computers, he could simply ask Oracle to do that for him, remotely. Especially when we take into consideration what happens later on—when Worth blows up the entire police station—any arguments or justifications for this kind of behavior just fall flat, because none of this goes anywhere. The reason I am bringing this up is that this comes off as a pretty glaring error, and I truly hope that it isn’t a sign of things to come. Tamaki has written a fun and consistent Bruce Wayne so far, and I don’t want her to continue to slip up like this. If anything, this scene makes me scrutinize her take on Batman in more depth now, and that’s not an ideal situation.
Moving on, I’m also not entirely sure what to think of Mr. Worth anymore. It seems that the creative team’s intention is to present him as a hulking, intimidating figure. But when he tries to intimidate Nakano, the mayor simply shows him the door because Worth isn’t respectful enough. So far, Worth just doesn’t have much going for him. I’m not looking for reasons to root for him, given that he’s the villain; I’m looking for reasons to really start perceiving this guy as a threat!
I think the main problem that I have with Worth is the fact that he seems rather generic. All we know about him so far is that he’s rich; that, apparently, he is yet another billionaire that’s somehow also built half of Gotham City; and that he’s all-consumed with grief over the death of his daughter and now wants to kill Bruce at all costs like a maniac. What else, besides these straight-forward and somewhat generic villain traits, do we know about him? What is it that makes him a dangerous enemy? Granted, the dude blows up the police station, but blowing stuff up is such standard fare for Gotham crime at this point that I need to see something that sets this guy apart from the rest. So far I’m just not sold on this character.
Furthermore, after blowing up the police station, Bruce crawls from the rubble, and he’s totally fine. He can still walk, run, jump, escape, switch to the Batsuit, and ambush Worth! If the creative team wants Worth to be a force to be reckoned with, they shouldn’t let his attacks do exactly nothing to our hero. Lastly, does Batman reveal his secret identity to Worth in this issue? Worth, trying to track down Bruce, yells, “Where are you, Wayne?” When Batman, all suited up, attacks Worth, he shouts, “Here!” It seems like a minor thing, but it isn’t. Batman would never risk revealing his secret identity to the wrong people. Never, ever, ever. This is important!
That said, we finally get more information about how all these people in Gotham are being murdered, and who is behind it, although the why is still a mystery for now. What I particularly like about this stuff is that there’s a body horror element to it, which makes for some awe-inspiring, horrifying visuals, courtesy of Bogdanovic, Glapion and Bellaire! As it stands, it feels like the murder mystery and the Worth plots are fighting for the spotlight, and going forward I would like to see this more balanced out, with the murder mystery eventually taking center stage. Because, let’s face it, this is Detective Comics. I want to see the World’s Greatest Detective solve crime. A rage-fueled, grief-stricken maniac doesn’t need to interfere with this unless he’s connected to the mystery. In short, this arc needs more focus. And it needs it fast if the creative team intends to course correct.
Unfortunately, Dan Mora is sitting this one out. I’ve been praising Mora’s contributions to the title and I would have liked to see a consistent approach to the art. Let one artist work on a full arc, and then when the next arc begins, have the second artist come in. However, the second artist, in this case, isn’t just any artist. I have always had great respect for Bogdanovic’s skills as an artist, and the fact that we now have Mora and Bogdanovic working on the same series is a real gift to Bat-fans!
Bogdanovic’s style is different from Mora’s, and yet the styles match surprisingly well. Like Mora, Bogdanovic’s panels are often very detailed, and especially the facial expressions are extremely lifelike and contribute a lot to the narrative itself. Both artists excel at creating scenes with cinematic qualities, too. In this issue we see Bogdanovic showing scenes from different angles, from panel to panel, and the one double page splash that he draws is entirely functional in that it has the kind of impact that that scene calls for. Bellaire’s amazing colors also create a sense of consistency, as she uses the same muted tones to give the world of Gotham the same kind of atmosphere that we have seen in Mora’s issues; in other words, this feels very much like the same world, even though the artist has changed.
There are two backups in this issue. “Gotham Has Heart” is written by Tamaki and illustrated by Mostert, and “3 Minutes” is written by Ridley and illustrated by Nguyen. I will keep my commentary on these two very short stories brief. The art in both stories is fine, as both Mostert and Nguyen are strong artists in their own right, but after the fantastic artwork by Bogdanovic it does feel slightly underwhelming. Mostert gets the emotional content across, which in large part carries the story, but in Nguyen’s case I think it’s mainly the script that is holding him back.
Ridley doesn’t write a terribly exciting story here; essentially Batman and Robin are under fire and Batman contacts Alfred and Lucius in the cave. The majority of the story focuses on Alfred and Lucius, as Lucius tries to figure out a way to help Batman, meaning that we get quite a few talking heads panels, which may or may not be your cup of tea. All in all, both stories are competently crafted, but both seem entirely forgettable and don’t offer more than brief entertainment. Perhaps you are looking for more than just that, or maybe that’s all a short story needs to be—I’ll let you decide for yourself.
- You need to see Bogdanovic working on Detective Comics—it truly is something to see!
- You are into body horror.
- You are interested in Mr. Worth’s story.
Overall: The art is outstanding, but the writing takes a dip in quality. For me, that’s not a deal-breaker yet, because I still think that the creative team can course correct, but if the writer and editor continue to go down this road, they might run into trouble. The backups are fun little additions to the book, but they are by no means must-read stories.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.