The current Detective Comics run has been hit or miss for me. I’ve enjoyed some issues and I’ve disliked others. The main draw for me is still Mora and Bellaire’s art, and when Mora isn’t on art duties—as is the case with this issue—I’m glad that Bogdanovic is stepping in. But, as good as the art is from month to month, the writing just isn’t on that same level, and this becomes apparent especially in the conclusions to the arcs so far.

In previous reviews I’ve said that even when the writing isn’t to my liking, I’m still getting a lot of entertainment value out of the excellent artwork. However, I’m afraid that I’m not quite enjoying the issue this time. Yes, the artwork is still really good, but the plot is very rushed to a point that the comic just isn’t enjoyable anymore. Not only will you have finished reading this issue very quickly, which makes the comic seem shorter than it is, but what we get is a lackluster way to wrap up the story so far as well. It reads like the writer realized that this is the last issue before “Fear State” kicks off and just quickly threw this together.

As we’ve seen in the previous issue, Batman’s infected with Vile’s virus. The parasite inside of him orders him to kill everyone he sees, but Bruce resists. This results in repetitive captions. The parasite says things like, “Kill them!” Batman says, “No!” The parasite says, “Yes!” Batman says “No!” again. This kind of repetition makes the narration dry and boring. Moreover, there is nothing at stake here. Of course Batman will be fine by the end of the issue. Don’t you worry about that. As a result, none of this is entertaining. It’s just kind of happening, and I feel no emotional connection to any of it whatsoever. Even if there really is no way around this and Batman absolutely has to get infected, it would be great if the creative team was given the room to develop and explore that idea more rather than letting it come to pass without any consequences.

Instead of infecting Batman with the virus, perhaps it would’ve been more effective to have an innocent supporting character get infected. A character who could actually die. A character we would actually worry about. But of course that can only work if we’ve already gotten to know the character over the course of several issues, so we could have established an emotional connection to the character and their struggles. Seeing Batman save this person from certain doom would not only be a great heroic moment for Batman that readers will no doubt enjoy, but it would also provide Tamaki with more opportunities to create a more solid story structure.

See, two issues ago Bruce went to jail. Unfortunately, that issue didn’t go anywhere; there was hardly any story; and Bruce even acted out of character at a crucial moment. To write a comic book story effectively, the writing needs to be economic. Every panel and every word balloon has to count. We certainly can’t afford to waste an entire issue, especially not when the conclusion to the current arc is only two issues away! Had Tamaki used the jail issue to introduce elements that could create stakes and suspense, this conclusion no doubt would have played out much better.

But what’s really problematic about this issue is how Batman and Huntress defeat Vile. I won’t go into specifics here, but I can say that there isn’t any sense of struggle. There is no challenge for our heroes. Being infected does not impact Batman and Huntress’ capabilities in the slightest. Ultimately, this scene just doesn’t feel like a real confrontation at all. It just feels hollow.

Yet, while the story doesn’t work for me, I do appreciate the art. Bellaire’s colors are as beautiful as ever. The book is very colorful as Bellaire always makes use of a varied palette. The moments that are supposed to be oppressive and bleak are rendered in stark red and yellow and orange, with the occasional bright green cutting through the mix. When there’s a lack of backgrounds, Bellaire’s layered hues and tones fill that empty space and create a wonderful aesthetic. Her work continues to be a masterclass example of how to tell a story through colors. If you are a fan of good coloring, or if you are studying how to use colors to enhance a narrative, then it might be worth picking up the comic for that alone. Yes, Bogdanovic draws all the characters and the action, but without Bellaire this book would not have that same hauntingly beautiful atmosphere.

Bogdanovic is also doing great work, of course. There is always a cinematic quality to his art. His characters, particularly Batman, seem larger than life. His rendition of an infected Batman works especially well here: Bogdanovic turns our hero into a terrifying monster of the night that even scares the crap out of Worth. Sometimes, because the art takes such mythological proportions, things can look a little bit stiff, as if we’re looking at statues instead of urban warriors. That’s not necessarily a complaint, though; I suppose it really just depends on your taste and what you are into.

The backup feature continues the “What the #!$% is Task Force Z” storyline. Rosenberg writes a snappy, concise script. The dynamic between Deb Donovan and Red Hood is fleshed out more and there is some entertaining action as well. I think I’d like a little more plot development, though. Since I already know what Task Force Z is going to be in broad strokes, the mystery doesn’t work for me. Had DC not announced the Task Force Z title yet, perhaps then I would have enjoyed the detective quest a little more. Now I’m noticing that I’m getting a little bit impatient and I just want the story to get to the point. Furthermore, Max Raynor’s artwork looks fine; I really dig the quirks and movements and expressions of all the characters. Because of this approach, the talking scene in the restaurant at the start looks fun rather than static and boring. I’m not the biggest fan of Rodriguez’s colors, though. It’s not that they’re bad or anything, but in my opinion they do make the art look a little flat instead of making it pop.

Recommended if…

  • You don’t care about the story. You just want good art.
  • You like nightmare-parasite Batman. The meaner, the better.
  • You want to see Worth being terrified for a change, because him being angry all the time gets monotone and predictable.

Overall: The main story isn’t well-written or paced. The backup feature is all right, but because DC has already given out too much information about Task Force Z, the mystery doesn’t really work anymore. Story-wise, this just isn’t a good comic. Bogdanovic and Bellaire’s work is beautiful, though, but does their quality work alone justify spending $5 on this comic? I think that’s the question that you have to ask yourself if you are on the fence. After all, with such a high price point, the quality of the story-telling needs to be on par. If it isn’t, then that’s going to be one tough sell.

Score: 4/10

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