So far I’ve been enjoying Tec’s “Fear State” tie-ins more than I thought I would. Last month we got a great horror sequence, where Nakano was trapped in a sewer and attacked by parasites, and Batman had to find a way to get to him in time. As much as I hate Hue Vile, the character responsible for that parasite infestation, I just dig that sequence. But this is the conclusion to “Nakano’s Nightmare,” and so the big question is: can this creative team stick the landing? Let’s have a look.
A pattern is forming: for some reason Tamaki keeps opening up her issues with entirely inconsequential stuff. This time three out of five panels on the first page are dedicated to a random couple that find some of the parasite stuff and start kind of joking about it, saying that it’s a “Batman thing.” Toward the end of the issue we see this couple again, reiterating the same joke. While I tend to appreciate seeing Gothamites react to what’s going on in town, I think that these characters’ lightheartedness completely undermines any sense of threat or danger throughout the entire issue, because the first thing that you see in a comic is also what sets the tone for the rest of the story. Moreover, the contrast between these Gothamites’ attitudes and the narration boxes, where Batman monologues about how “some twisted catastrophe, some grand scheme, some fatal end, is always brewing,” completely clashes. There’s nothing interesting about this stuff, it doesn’t add anything to the main narrative or theme, and, quite frankly, it’s just a waste of panels.
In a way this does set us up for what’s to come, because this entire story feels very inconsequential. For example, Mayor Nakano, who was in danger last month, in a very tense situation, is revived by Batman super easily and quickly here, as if the comic is saying: “Okay, no problem, move on, nothing to see here.” On top of that, Batman being able to confirm that Nakano isn’t infected simply by checking if his eyes have an abnormal reaction to light just seems a little silly to me. If that’s all it takes to 100% confirm that Nakano’s safe, then why bother putting the character through all that parasitic nightmare stuff in the last two issues?
What’s more, this issue’s main purpose is to make Nakano have a change of heart, so he’s willing to start working with Batman instead of against him. While I think that that’s exactly what Nakano needs at a certain point, because that means that the character has grown by learning this lesson, this is not the way to do it. Up until now, Nakano has vehemently opposed Batman the entire time. If he’s to become an ally to Batman, that’s a process that should be spread out across several issues instead of rushing it in one. None of this feels organic or authentic and it hurts both the overall storyline involving Nakano as well as the character itself. I will say, though, that it’s pretty cool how Batman puts Nakano in his place, but that cool factor is not enough to make up for this flawed execution.
Moving on, the dialogue isn’t particularly great, either. Most of it reads like a first draft rather than a final, polished draft. Just take a look at this:
- Nakano: “If you know what this, tell me.”
- Batman: “I don’t have a definitive answer.”
- Nakano: “Tell me. What. You know.”
- Batman: “I strongly suspect what attacked you earlier is the larval stage of the parasite.”
What makes this not work for me is that Batman’s first line and Nakano’s second line are unnecessary. Additionally, I don’t like how Batman’s explanation is written, either. It lacks character. Take this line out of context and nobody would be able to guess that this is said by Batman. If I had to describe the quality of the dialogue throughout this issue with one word it would be “uninspired.”
And that leads me to my final critique on the writing. With all the problems being resolved so easily—seriously, nobody here even breaks a sweat—we end up with a comic where there’s no sense of struggle whatsoever. Things just kind of happen and that’s it.
Of course Dan Mora and Jordie Bellaire’s art remains strong. As always, we get interesting angles, creative layouts, and beautifully layered colors. All of it is very detailed, and the way Mora and Bellaire render Batman, he’s never looked better. Art like this can sometimes blind us to the flaws of the writing, so Tamaki is very lucky that she gets to work with this insanely talented art team. However, the art really is the only selling point, and with Mora leaving the title after last month’s issue (his Batman/Superman backup in #1050 notwithstanding), I am not feeling particularly hopeful about this comic’s future.
Lastly, there’s another backup here by Phillips and Lapham. It continues the story from last month’s backup. I don’t really have much to say about it other than that I don’t like this at all. The art is all right but simply not my taste because it looks rushed and bland to me, and the writing feels like it’s not going anywhere. After putting the book down, it’s hard to remember what even happened. Back when Tamaki’s run started, I was digging the backups because they tied in with the main story and added to it. Now the backups are nothing but extended ads for other books, and I don’t see the point anymore.
- You want to get a complete Dan Mora Detective Comics run.
Overall: The art is outstanding, but otherwise this isn’t a good issue. It feels rushed and afterward I’m just bored. There are some good ideas here, such as Nakano’s change of heart, but the execution isn’t up to par. I can only recommend this issue to Mora and Bellaire super-fans who want a complete collection of this team’s Batman art. Otherwise I’d say there are much better books on stands this week.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.