Over the past two issues of this arc we’ve seen the Riddler weave riddles over the airwaves and Gotham citizens committing crimes without a solid reason. Tied with it all, is the mystery of Judge Donovon and the first of these crimes: the bombing of her courtroom. With the arc wrapping up, will Batman finally answer the riddle posed to him?
While I was initially excited to read this arc, I’ve found it less and less enjoyable with each issue, and this one even more so. It’s bloated and complicated with too many moving parts and not enough time/simplicity to really work. I was trying to explain the plot of this arc to a friend yesterday, and in doing so I realized just how little it actually seemed to make sense to me. You have Judge Donovan, the citizens acting out, and Riddler chatting over the airwaves. Mix Talia al Ghul into it too and overall the story feels like a head scratcher. There’s a lot going on, and three issues isn’t really long enough to build any of this up the way that it should be.
That’s made blatantly obvious by the first few pages of this issue as they lay out all the pieces of the mystery. Again, instead of showing us any detective work at all we’re told how all the parties are connected. And yeah, they are all connected, but it’s in in a weird kind of circuitous way that only kind of makes sense. The characters with the strongest reason for their actions are the citizens themselves, pushed to crime by their past guilt. the key players: Donovan, Riddler, and to some extent Talia, all have different motivations, but none of them feel all that solid. Talia wanted connections, and favors from others, Donovan to be free of her past, and Riddler to play with Batman. All three of these could have used a lot more time to be developed, though honestly I’m not sure a longer arc would have made this mystery work any better for me at least. It was trying to do too much, and needed simplifying rather than more time.
After telling readers the answer to the mystery via flashback and a conversation between Talia and Riddler the rest of the issue focuses on helping Batman learn the truth. We as readers get treated to the same explanation a second time, just told from Donovan to Batman instead of through narration and flashback. It’s frustrating to see it re-worded, though the repetition does add a little insight that the opening pages left out.
The story also spends quite a bit of time focused on having Batman try to to pin Riddler for the whole affair, and also letting him off because all he really did was his podcast, and everyone else acted of their own affairs. This I don’t mind so much, it’s a good out for Riddler himself. What I do take issue with via Riddler and his podcast is the timeline. Donovan seems to indicate that Riddler’s been doing his show for quite a long time now, long enough to help her decide what to do. However, up until this point we hadn’t been given much information on just how long Riddler had been doing his show for. I’d assumed it wasn’t too long, but apparently I was off in that assumption. It’s just another element here that doesn’t really feel properly fleshed out.
The art, much like the story, really isn’t doing much for me. However, there’s a few really stand out panels by Ivan Reis I do want to chat about. The first is his gorgeous shots of lady justice surrounded by water. The waves are crashing up around the statue and the whole moment is very atmospheric as is the way the lights shine in the rain and reflect on the water. It makes the danger the women are feel all the more real.
There’s also a shot of Batman protecting Judge Donovan’s mother that has great movement and color to it. I’m generally a fan of Batman using his cape to shield himself or others and this is a great example of that. The way Ariana Maher layers fwoosh behind the cape is also cool, and drop you into the moment of the scene as well.
I really don’t have a ton left to say about this arc. While it does answer all the questions it posed at the start –including Nygma’s riddles—it doesn’t really do it in any way that feels satisfying to me. There was just too much going on here to make anything it does feel complete or well formed. It’s not the ending to Tamaki’s time on Detective Comics I wanted to see, especially when I read the first part of this arc, but it is the ending and I’ve got to accept it for what it is.
Gotham Girl Backup
As the final entry into Gotham Girl’s mini-arc I have to say, I really enjoyed this story. I wasn’t expecting to like a backup that featured Clair, but sure enough Sina Grace’s story won me over, and for me she sticks the landing.
The thing I love most about this backup is how honest a look at an individual struggling with their mental health it is. More than the mystery this backup is centered on Clair’s daily struggle to simply keep going, and this final entry highlights it in a great way. Yes it wraps up the who and why of her friend’s murder, but more importantly it continues to respect her own personal journey. It also highlights how it’s not always easy to heal, and in fact even after therapy people aren’t magically fixed. They still struggle, and fall, and have victories, and grow, and no one person deals with trauma the same way. For that, I really enjoyed this backup.
- I’ve said it before, but if you want a good Gotham Girl story go here
- And if you want a story that talks about mental health in an honest way
- Just pick it up for the backup honestly
As the finale to this arc, I can’t say I’m very happy with this issue. The answers feel rushed and lacking actual depth, while the narrative itself tries to wrap up more threads than it can in the few issues it had. Batman himself feels like an afterthought compared with the focus on all the other players: Judge Donovan, Riddler, and now Talia. Overall, its not an arc I’d want to read again, nor is it a Riddler story I’d want to recommend to others. The Gotham Girl backup however is well worth a read if you’re looking for a tale focused on deepening Clair’s character and that speaks well to people struggling with their mental health.
Overall Score: 5/10
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.