I’ve been critiquing this series quite a bit, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t find it entertaining. On the contrary, I’m always looking forward to more Dan Mora and Jordie Bellaire art! To me, they are DC’s best art team at the moment and it’s a real treat that they’re on Detective Comics. But what about the writing this week? Let’s have a look.

I actually enjoyed this issue a lot more than the previous two. I’ve critiqued this series for being overwritten and relying a lot on exposition. This week, there’s still plenty of exposition, but I don’t mind it here. Exposition can be tedious when it’s just an information dump, but when, for example, we have Nakano questioning his staff about recent events, sternly and urgently, it’s functional and organically integrated into the narrative. This way, readers are reminded of what’s happened in the series up till this point—Worth, the explosions in the sewer, Vile and the parasite situation, etc—and it is established that Nakano is taking all of these things very seriously and that he is on top of everything. He is actively trying to protect Gotham City. So, in addition to bringing readers up to speed, Tamaki also succeeds at turning this scene into a good show of character for Nakano, establishing him as a man with his heart in the right place, but who is also opposed to Batman, which, by the way, is a great dynamic to explore and develop in more depth in future installments. Not a bad way to open the comic!

During the opening pages, Tamaki seems to be on roll, as she seamlessly transitions from the dialogue between Nakano and his staff to Bruce’s inner monologue. She manages this by having Nakano ask a question, and the answer to that question is essentially Bruce’s first thought in this issue. From there, we flow into Bruce’s narration and continue to follow him for the rest of the issue. All of this is good writing. It’s concise, it’s confident, it’s cool.

But not everything works out as swimmingly as these opening pages. While I still thoroughly enjoy Tamaki’s characterization of Bruce Wayne as a likable, sympathetic man who is determined to do the right thing, I just flat-out disagree with how naive Bruce can seem at times. For example, after discovering that his Micro-Caves are compromised, Bruce makes his way to a coffee shop. He plugs his phone and calls Oracle and, while in public and surrounded by quite a few people, he starts to openly talk about Bat-business. Batman would never do this. It becomes especially silly when you think about the fact that Bruce could easily have made his way to Oracle’s base and talked to her face to face. Yes, time is of the essence, but Bruce wouldn’t take a risk like this. Besides, it would’ve been way more fun to see Bruce and Barbara in the same room than having them discuss these details over the phone. Additionally, to hammer home how amateurishly Bruce acts at times, he needs Oracle to tell him that he has a secret stash somewhere in the city and whether or not it’s secure. I mean, come on, he’s Batman! He should just know these things.

However, this isn’t a deal breaker for me. Yes, I would much prefer my Batman to be focused, wise and careful with his secret identity, but none of this gets in the way of the entertainment value that I get out of this comic. After all, Mora and Bellaire are back again, and they gift us with more beautifully detailed artwork. I particularly love the composition of the coffee shop; we see two characters in the foreground enjoying iced coffee while glancing to their left. We follow their gaze and in a deeper layer in the panel we see Bruce, his face covered in a hoodie, on the phone. Even further in the background we see folks ordering their coffee. Bellaire’s colors are also rich and varied—even though they are somewhat muted in this panel because the blinders in front of the windows keep out the hot summer sun. The more we examine the panel, the more colors we discover. This piece truly has three dimensional qualities to it, and as a result the world appears so lifelike, as if we could walk right into it.

Then there is that absolutely beautiful action sequence, where we see Batman—who is back in his blue and gray—confronting Worth, Penguin and a bunch of other villains. When the shit hits the fan, Mora draws slanted panels, crisscross on the page, with bullets—highlighted in dangerous yellow by Bellaire—flying everywhere. On this page, we end on a closeup on Batman’s face. Everything here conveys tension and deadliness, and none of it looks confusing. Yes, it’s chaotic, but it’s a controlled chaos that only masterful visual storytellers like Mora and Bellaire could pull off. This might be the greatest Batman art that I have ever seen—I’m totally in love with it!

This week’s backup feature is quite good. I’ve been keeping an eye on Rosenberg; I think he is a writer with a lot of potential, and I’ve been enjoying every piece by him that I’ve read. In this story, Rosenberg writes snappy dialogue, and although the tone is mostly sinister and mysterious, he still manages to sprinkle in some of his humor. We experience the events from Deb Donovan’s perspective, and I have to say that Donovan, whether she’s written by Tamaki or by Rosenberg, has really grown on me. She’s a strong woman, relentless in her investigations as a reporter and fearless during deadly confrontations. I think she’s a great and worthy addition to Gotham’s already extensive cast. The story is paced very well and keeps me engaged throughout, and Robertson provides excellent artwork with particularly fine shading that adds to the story’s mystique. Of course all of this is a setup for the upcoming Task Force Z series, so if you find yourself interested in this tale and want to see how it continues beyond these Detective backups, you will have to put another title on your pull list when it comes out. That said, this is well crafted and definitely worth a read. If it manages to make me excited about Task Force Z remains to be seen, though, but seeing as Rosenberg will be writing that title as well, I’m sure I will end up checking that out too.

Recommended if…

  • Mora and Bellaire—that’s your comics dream team!
  • You have been enjoying the Hue Vile storyline and want more.
  • Bruce openly discussing Bat-business in a coffee shop, surrounded by random people, doesn’t bother you.

Overall: Look, it’s a good comic! This has great action, a sympathetic lead, gorgeous artwork and a strong backup feature. It’s just that this comic has some flaws, some of which make Bruce look like an amateur. If that’s something you can live with, then definitely pick this up, because you are not going to find better Bat art anywhere else. And if you can’t live with that, then still pick this up, because this really does have the best Bat art of all the current Bat books!

Score: 7.5/10

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