Detective Comics #1039 review

We’ve reached the conclusion of Tamaki’s first arc, “The Neighborhood.” Gradually, I’ve been getting more and more critical of this series, but I was still hoping that the creative team would be able to stick the landing. Do they succeed? Let’s have a look.

Well…while I wouldn’t say this entire comic book is bad, I don’t think that the creative team managed to conclude this arc properly. For one thing, this issue doesn’t feel like a conclusion, but rather a middle of the road chapter. There are still many loose ends and there is hardly any resolution. It seems to me that the only reason DC made this a “finale” is so these first six issues of Tamaki’s run are easy to collect in trade.

I think the biggest mistake that editorial and the creative team made is cramming Hue Vile’s origin story into this issue. The origin doesn’t connect well with the main plot, and we run through the character’s past so fast that it just feels rushed and comes off like an afterthought that disrupts the flow of the main narrative. This becomes even more problematic when the backup is essentially repeating the Vile stuff from the main comic. Granted, the backup does go beyond what we see in the main comic in terms of events and locations, but I don’t care in the slightest about what DC cities Vile has visited and what blank slate characters from his past he has killed. The only thing that we learn about Vile in the main comic and the backup is that the parasite inside of him needs to feed on violence, and that’s about it. Moreover, the writing for Vile, whether it’s in the main comic or the backup, is so over-the-top edgy that it’s hard to take this stuff seriously. It’s just kind of tedious.

As for Worth, this character is lost to me. Unless the creative team can find a way to humanize the character or make his story more compelling, I don’t think this guy is going to add anything to the narrative going forward. Even Batman says this in the issue itself, “I’m getting a little sick of fighting this battle with you, Worth.” Really all this character is, is uncontrollable anger, and all that we see him doing is blowing things up and screaming.

Both villains in this story desperately need something to make them unique and multi-dimensional. After all, if DC can’t be bothered to properly flesh out their villains—especially their new ones—then I’m not sure why readers should bother with them, either.

I’m also not a fan of how this story went from a solid detective mystery to a bombastic, explosive, fiery hot mess over the course of six issues. See, I was really into the slowly unfolding mystery in the earlier issues. It was very entertaining to see Batman going back to basics and using his brain to solve his cases rather than his fists. It was a welcome change of pace, seeing as the “Bigger Is Always Better” nonsense has been an ongoing, unpleasant trend in Bat Books. It’s a shame that the creative team throws all that intriguing build-up out of the window in favor of having Gotham blown up…and the streets swarming with gangs and criminals in an all-out brawl…again. On the one hand I’m relieved that most of this city-wide action takes place—and is resolved—off-panel, but of course that isn’t what I really want, either. No, I don’t want to see any more city-wide explosions and brawls for a while, but if this is to be included, it should be shown properly. We need to see consequences. We need to see civilians trying to deal with the situation. Without any of these things, it’s all just fluff, and there’s merely the illusion of stakes.

Moving on, it’s easy to look at this comic and be blinded by the beautiful artwork. Bogdanovic does a fantastic job rendering the grotesque body horror elements, and his compositions and page layouts are always striking and detailed and dynamic. Bogdanovic is also very consistent with his character-work. Sometimes, for example, you see an artist drawing a character’s face slightly different from panel to panel, but with Bogdanovic that’s not the case—he has a good grasp on each design. However, I don’t really enjoy the fight choreography in this issue. For example, we see Batman running toward Worth, but before we can see the start of their fight, we cut to different characters in a different location, and when we do cut back to Batman and Worth, they’re just standing there! Other fight scenes are very brief and amount to nothing more than Batman striking a few cool poses. The panels don’t line up well to create an actual sequential, choreographed fight. Now, I’ve seen Bogdanovic draw some excellent fight sequences before, so I know he’s more than capable. I wonder to what extent this is on him in this case, or if the fights were scripted like this by Tamaki. Either way, it’s another missed opportunity.

Recommended if…

  • You are just here for the great artwork.
  • All you need is bombastic, explosive action.

Overall: I just don’t think that this is a good issue. Yes, the art is great and if you’re just tuning in for that I’m sure you’ll have a good time! But the villains are so straightforward that they’re uninteresting; the city-wide chaos happens mostly off-panel; several plot threads that should’ve been resolved in this finale aren’t; and as a result the overall story arc ends up being rather weak. We need stronger villains, a sense of threat, and a better structured narrative and plot. These comics ain’t cheap, so they better start giving us our money’s worth.

Score: 4.5/10

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