Last month Ram V began his run on Detective Comics by plunging Batman into a strange new case involving ancient artifacts and people turning into monsters all while surrounding it in an operatic tone. This month he works to further those mysteries, and the personal questions he’s challenged Batman with.
Much like the previous issue, this one has a good balance of action and quieter moments, with the focus more on introspection and detective work. V accomplishes that right from the start by opening up on a scene between Bruce Wayne and his old friend Harvey Dent. Through the rest of the issue he also focuses on deepening the connection between Gotham and the Orgham family and carrying the tone set in the opening issue of the arc, both in artistic style and through the use of music in narration.
One thing that shines right from page one here is the art. Rafael Albuquerque continues to do amazing work in this issue. From the opening pages with Harvey and Bruce talking in a darkened bar to the dark and terrifying return of Barbatos again this issue, the art is gorgeous. It’s dark, and atmospheric, and especially shines for me in the scenes with Bruce and Harvey peppered through the book. There’s just something about the setting there, with music drifting over them, frequent shots of the lone singer, and the repetitive flipping of Harvey’s coaster that feels almost nostalgic. Visually you get the feeling that these are two old friends talking about things bigger and sadder than they are.
The colors equally so, as Dave Stewart uses not just deep shadows, but bright pops of color to catch reader’s eyes. One of my favorite moments is seeing the Orgham family’s magic, and magical tools in action. There’s rainbow shots of music in the air and glowing gold symbols on characters that all come together to make the scene feel alive.
I’ve already mentioned Harvey Dent a couple times, but he plays a large role in this issue, and should continue to over the rest of the arc. Bruce seeks him out in the book’s opening pages, and through the issue to talk about a few things, mostly related to his ongoing case, but also to talk about the state of Gotham and their place in it. I like the way V has been folding introspection in with the general mystery going on, and it shows nicely here as Harvey sends some rather pointed questions Bruce’s way to keep him thinking. It furthers some of that talk about Bruce/Batman aging and layers new questions over it. I also just like that Harvey Dent is included. I enjoy his friendship with Bruce, and it’s interesting to see V continuing with this version of Dent who has been cured. Plus his new gold mask is very cool.
The other major characters at play here are the Orgham’s, the antagonists of this arc. V furthers their story and deepens their ties with the Arkham family by outright stating the connection between them here. He also starts to show off their own magic, highlighting Arzen’s own seeming lack of control over it. I do love a little magic mixed in with a Batman story, and between characters transforming and the Orgham’s this one looks like it’ll have it in spades.
Music also plays a big role in the narrative, and a growing one. Where the last issue had the theme of the opera woven through it, this one brings actual music into play in a few areas. You have the opening pages with the woman singing in the bar, a music box used to soothe magic, and music tied to literal darker tones. I like seeing how V is not only utilizing opera as a theme, but physically using music in the story as well.
Last time I didn’t say a whole lot about Barbatos, but seeing as he’s made another return in this issue I thought I’d pause and speak on his inclusion a bit. I like this version of Barbatos quite a bit, he feels more of Morrison’s version than Snyder’s. So far he hasn’t played the biggest of roles, but I have a feeling that will change as the arc progresses. He does seem to be furthering the questions V’s been posing to Bruce through the series so far, pressing him on his identity much like the rest of the story has been.
I’m enjoying how the story is playing out so far. The pacing feels right, not too fast and not too slow, but strung in such a way that we’re getting information and action with each issue so far in a way that feels balanced. The tension ratchets up a bit here at the end too, as events push the conflict further past just letting Bruce investigate and hopefully into a clash next issue.
Jim Gordon in: The Coda Backup
This backup smoothly continues the story set up in part one. The narrative keeps following Jim in his search for his client’s missing son, while also adding some interesting layers of mystery to the story with them being interrupted by armed men after the kid. The key element here, and that I’ve found in most backup’s I’ve enjoyed, is that it focuses on Jim himself, on his goodness and dedication to his job. It also continues it’s discussion of him looking for his place in Gotham by showing him interacting with Bullock and reflecting on his own troubles. Generally, if you want a good, short look at Jim Gordon this is a pretty good read.
- Harvey Dent is your man
- You like stories that push the characters in interesting ways
- A darker mystery is more your style
This is another strong entry into Ram V’s first arc on Detective Comics. It deepens the mystery started in the previous issue, while also adding in a few interesting elements such as the Orgham’s magic and Harvey Dent himself. If I’m being honest, I’m most interested in seeing how Harvey and Bruce’s relationship is impacted by this storyline, but there’s also so much else going on here to enjoy. The operatic tone, inclusion of Barbatos, and mysterious magic changing people all work to keep readers engaged and the story pressing forward.
Overall Score: 7/10
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.