For the record, I’m not a fan of “Fear State.” The reason is that, over in the main Batman comics, barely anything seems to be happening as those issues are riddled with exposition and there is hardly enough action. Seeing as the previous issue of Detective Comics wasn’t to my liking, either, I was feeling a bit reluctant to read and review #1043. Now that I’ve read it, I can say that it’s actually a really entertaining comic. So, let’s have a look!

Before we get to the good stuff, let’s just get some criticism out of the way. I think that the first two pages of this issue are wasted, because the dialogue between the two random characters is very wooden and their conversation doesn’t really go anywhere. The two characters are blank slates—we know next to nothing about them and as a result I simply don’t care. They are talking about zombie ants (which actually exist in real life), and I suppose that their conversation is meant to establish a theme for this story, but the execution is so lackluster that it doesn’t feel like it adds anything substantial at all. It seems to me that starting the issue in Nakano’s office, where we find him discussing the situation in Gotham with his staff, would’ve made the opening sequence (and, by extension, the rest of the issue) more focused and narrative-driven.

But once we get past the opening sequence, we are treated to a fun, action-packed adventure! The main focus is on Nakano, and I’ve always enjoyed how Tamaki writes the character. Nakano really seems like a good person, who cares about others and wants to do the right thing, except he doesn’t approve of vigilantes and therefore opposes Batman. This is an interesting angle, and I’m looking forward to seeing this dynamic between Nakano and the masked heroes of Gotham City develop further, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen this kind of dynamic before in Batman comics. Nakano is also assertive, driven, unafraid to take risks, and he fights back against his assailants. He’s a character whose journey I want to keep following; I’m excited to see his story unfold!

Though Nakano gets the spotlight, Batman isn’t neglected. It takes a bit for him to appear, but when he finally does, his presence is commanding and intimidating to the bad guys. Batman hardly gets the most panel time this month, but he does act like a true super-hero when he saves lives and stops crooks. I’ve critiqued Tamaki’s representation of our hero numerous times, but this is more like it, and I hope that Tamaki will continue to improve in this department.

The artwork this month is simply unreal. Right on the first page we are treated to the glorious sight of a street in Gotham. The perspective is breathtaking; it feels as if we’re in the street ourselves, watching a car approaching us in the distance. Behold the rain clattering on the asphalt, forming big, deep pools in which we see the reflections of the buildings on either side of the road. Speaking of reflections, even in Nakano’s office Mora pulls a similar trick, where we see the room and the people in it reflected in the surface of the table that they’re sitting at. This kind of attention to detail should be rewarded; it’s truly incredible and speaks to the level of craft of one of the greatest artists to ever grace the pages of Detective Comics, or Batman comics in general, for that matter.

Besides the details, Mora’s character work continues to be outstanding. There aren’t many artists that manage to render their characters as consistently as Mora. What makes his characters so lifelike in particular is that, no matter the angle, their proportions and features always remain the same. There are hardly any mistakes at all, if any. We don’t see a character having a slightly bigger nose than in the previous panel, for example. Mora knows his characters, how they move and interact and hold themselves.

This extends to the action sequences, of which there are plenty in this issue. We see bullets flying; glass shattering; people ducking for cover; cars flipping over; and, of course, Batman descending on the city like a devil in the night. Batman seems larger than life, taking mythological proportions in the way that he runs, punches, dives and saves lives.

But it’s not just Mora. Bellaire continues to prove that she’s just about the best colorist in the business. She chooses darker, more muted colors for this issue compared to some of the previous publications. These blues and reds and yellows signal oppressiveness and danger, which makes Mora’s action beats more explosive and the quiet moments more intimate. If you are an aspiring colorist and are looking for ways to enhance mood and tension, then I really only have two words for you: Jordie Bellaire.

The backup feature—the conclusion of “What the #!$% is Task Force Z?”—is fine. The artwork by Robertson is solid, as there are some fun action sequences here and the characters are all rendered well. Rodriguez’s colors seem slightly too flat for me personally, even though I can see that there are quite a few layers here and the color schemes match the story’s tone nicely. Rosenberg’s writing is crisp and concise, too, but I feel like Deb Donovan doesn’t get as much panel time as she probably deserves, given that she’s supposed to be the main protagonist of this backup feature. Yet, as much as I’ve enjoyed reading these backups, I can’t say that this actually feels like a conclusion at all. Of course I’ve known from the beginning that this is basically just an elaborate ad for the upcoming book, Task Force Z, but the abrupt, open ending really hammers that home and it just doesn’t quite cut it for me. I tend to dislike it when a story gets reduced to a mere teaser for another story in its “conclusion,” and that holds true for me here as well. It’s been an entertaining ride, but it just kind of peters out in the end.

Recommended if…

  • Mora and Bellaire are your dream team! (If they aren’t yet, they will be after you read this issue!)
  • You’re a fan of Mayor Nakano—he’s getting more and more interesting as the story continues.
  • You are collecting all the “Fear State” tie-ins.

Overall: This issue is really good! The writing has a bit of a false start with dialogue that doesn’t add much to the overall story, but the wonderfully drawn, action-packed adventure that follows is just great. Even though I dislike and definitely don’t recommend the main “Fear State” storyline, I do recommend this tie-in. Don’t worry if you haven’t been reading Tynion’s Batman; this can be enjoyed on its own as well!

Score: 8.5/10

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