Hey guys! You’re talking to Nick today – Brian couldn’t make it for this review, so I’ve stolen his identity for the next few hours so that I can upload this article. Rest assured, I’ve made many purchases with his PayPal account.
Brian’s reviews for Tom Taylor and Andy Kubert’s Batman: The Detective have painted a pretty favourable picture of the Dark Knight’s European “getaway”. While I agree that there’s a lot to enjoy about this book, there are definitely a few critiques I’d like to discuss. Ultimately, Taylor is very good at creating consistent and well-characterized content, but that content can still fall short at times: both in overambition and, in my opinion, the art. Let’s get into it.
The story begins with an interrogation of Bruce Wayne, and immediately I’ve picked up on something I dislike – though others would probably view this as a nitpick. At the end of issue #3, Bruce finds himself being taken away by Interpol agents for the murder of Henri Ducard: that’s the stinger Taylor and Kubert use to get the audience invested in what will happen next. Of course, that’s immediately undermined by the first page of this issue.
This is the kind of thing I remember seeing a lot when I was reading The Walking Dead on a regular basis. Plenty of those issues had final pages that were inflammatory in some way, leaving you on cliffhangers that made you compelled to read the next issue – and then leaving you suitably underwhelmed when they turned out to be red herrings, or ultimately overstated for dramatic effect. Here, it’s a similar feeling – but unlike The Walking Dead, this book isn’t an ongoing. We’ve got six issues of this, and I don’t think that these attention-grabbing tactics are going to get that many more readers when you’re already an acclaimed writer, working on a limited series with art from a living legend. To me, that kind of stuff hurts the longevity of a comic: especially when you’re reading it in a collected trade, which this book will be sold as before too long.
Yes, this really is a nitpick* – but sometimes I feel like nitpicking is important. For one, it provides small but important pieces of constructive criticism that creators can actively consider going forward! For another, the fact that I have the time to spend pointing out little flaws such as these speaks to the overall quality of the book. The rest of the scene, for example, is done quite well: there’s an intriguing back-and-forth to the rest of the interrogation, which does a good job at delving into the psyche of both Bruce and the villain he’s hunting, without giving too much away just yet. The problem Batman is faced with at the end of this scene is definitely one of those crazy “because I’m Batman” moments, but it’s one that’s well-structured and entertaining, and certainly not the most ridiculous thing the caped crusader’s escaped from.
The rest of the issue is more of a slow burn, clearly building up to a larger conflict in the next issue. To me, that’s not really a problem. I’m not looking for a high-octane action sequence in every issue of a comic called The Detective, and the time spent on setup makes for some really great moments, like a few touching references to Alfred. (Side note: This story is canon, right? The haircut and the way Taylor describes Bruce’s age makes me feel otherwise, but everything else seems to line up regarding the status quo.)
Speaking of the haircut, I’ll be frank: I don’t like how Kubert draws Bruce in this comic. I think his Batman is fantastic: a tank of a man made all the more intimidating in a trenchcoat and goggles, which I personally always love as a look for the Dark Knight. I think he’s spent so long working on comics that constructing a clear and focused layout of panels looks like it comes as naturally to him as waking up in the morning – and it’s evident in how effortless it is to peruse through his work. And no matter how you feel about his style, pages like this can’t be ignored – even if it’s partially thanks to the vibrant warmth of Brad Anderson’s colours.
But I still don’t like his Bruce Wayne. Unlike the superhero himself, I don’t think the man behind the mask should look so square-shaped – arms (and hands!) often looking like they’re thicker than his entire head. The haircut has been done before, it being reminiscent of his look in Zero Year, but it wasn’t exactly popular then either. Here though, I think it looks even worse, and honestly betrays the age of the character. This is a man that looks old, past his prime – and seeing as that seems to be a theme of the book, I can’t blame Kubert for drawing to the brief. But if this really is in-continuity, it feels jarring, and it makes me feel like I’m looking at a character I recognize. You can see a good example of what I’m talking about in my next image – a page that I do ultimately think is quite good, but have to hide for spoiler reasons.
This is also what I was referring to when I talked about Taylor’s story being somewhat overambitious. I think he has a great premise here, but the fact that two hundred people died off-panel – save for one page that covers several murders with a quick “while you were away” recap – feels really underwhelming, considering the amount of lives lost while Batman was out cold. That’s two hundred people, and two hundred people that Batman has a personal connection to! He mentions how this sucks, of course, but the fact that it’s treated with very little weight and nigh-forgotten about as soon as it’s broached feels like it could have warranted another pass in editing. Hell, I wouldn’t mind if this book had an extra issue, either – despite my comments, I think it’s a very readable book that could easily keep my attention for a little longer.
- You’re somehow able to stomach books with British people in them
- Andy Kubert’s work is an instant buy for you – I like him a lot, though my feelings towards some of his recent work post DKIII have been mixed.
- You like a classic “Batman escapes an impossible situation” scene!
It’s a nice feeling to review a book I genuinely like. These types of comics are good, because they make me feel like I have something to say about them that feels substantive, without taking away from the fact that the overall product is a good time. Taylor and Kubert have made a miniseries that I certainly don’t think is perfect, but represents a great example of Batman’s character, his values, and what he’ll do to save the people he’s sworn to protect. I’m curious and excited to see how it culminates!
*Speaking of nitpicks, I’d be curious to ask whoever did the lettering about why they chose a blue text box for Batman’s narration – presumably a decision made by letterer Clem Robins.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.
Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch