This month we return to Detective Comics as it picks up in another movement–strain–scene? Of Gotham Overture, this time titled: Something in the Way. It’s been a while since I took a music class, and we never studied operas, so forgive my spotty memory on how best to turn the titles of this series into an analogy. The point is that Ram V continues his greater story here by starting another shorter arc settled within it, and introduces new elements while also keeping the rest of the larger plot afloat.
The narrative picks up three days after the previous one, which is just enough time for Gotham to be moving on after the harbor attack and being well into starting to fall for its newest rich figure: Arzen Orgham. The time skip and level of events taking place while Batman was out cold on Gordon’s couch feels appropriate, especially considering the fact that last issue Arzen was already making strides to start taking over Arkham Asylum.
Arzen and Bruce’s time on the page this issue are pretty scant, with the biggest scene of note as the two meeting in front of the asylum as it’s being demolished at long last. This section again hones in on the theme of Bruce’s age, here highlighting young vs old.
On a more physical level, it also finally lets these two main characters come face to face. While it’s clear how Arzen and the other Orgham’s feel about Bruce, it’s hard to really say just how Bruce at least feels about Arzen here. The narrative wants you to think it’s cordial, and even that Bruce likes him. But even without all the information we as readers have, Bruce should have some inkling that all is not right here, especially since Talia was so intent on keeping him out of the loop regarding her plans for them.
The real star of this issue is Harvey Dent. If I’m being honest, Harvey is quickly becoming the star of this whole run. If you’ve followed my reviews of any title, you’ll know I’m a character oriented reader. I’m here for deep dives into characters, character driven stories, and generally just a love of the characters themselves over the nonsense they often get into. Every time Ram V turns his attention on Harvey it’s so focused on Harvey and his personal struggle. Forced into a lose-lose-lose scenario of work for the Orghams, give up Batman’s identity by asking him for help, or by letting his other side out again to ask Batman for help– Harvey’s in a tough place. For now he’s getting by with faking being the old Two-Face, but that act can’t last forever.
What really makes it shine is the constant narration from the other side of himself. Harvey doesn’t really talk back often, instead choosing to focus on the external instead of the internal, but the running dialogue of Two-Face in Harvey’s head is hard to ignore. This is made even more robust through the backup to the issue, the second part of three focused solely on Harvey during this time. I’ll cover the backup in more detail later, but honestly it’s a must read if you want every aspect of this story to feel as fleshed out as it can.
Before I dive into the backup fully I have to stop to highlight the art, this time with pencils by Ivan Reis and inks by Danny Miki. Overall they fit the tone and style of the book really well. And I want to highlight one particularly stunning page. Batman is back out and investigating Ubu’s fate after the harbor fight, and finds himself at a power station that is a center of interest not only for himself, but the Orghams as well. As he’s leaping down into the scene he’s highlighted by the billowing smoke of the power station in what is just a stunning piece of art, the pencils, inks, and colors –by Dave Stewart– all work in harmony to make this shot something that physically made me pause in reading to stare at it. I’d happily hang this page up for display if I could.
This scene of detective work also pushes the story towards its conclusion for this month. It’s a solid cliffhanger that has me legitimately curious to see how it resolves next month, and how it might move the story into new directions that further flesh out this world Ram V is building. It’s interesting that we’re following a continuous story, but it also feels like Gotham is alive. The way V structures the story, easily cycling through a variety of very focused POVs, and also including elements like newspaper clippings and references to mayoral elections makes the world around the main plot feel vibrant. And the inclusion of this latest twist at the end pushes that further in showing just what other major Gotham players are up to during all this.
Two-Face: A Tale of Three Halves Backup
This backup both continues its own shorter tale it’s telling and serves to add depth and flavor to the main narrative in a way that feels almost like it’s not even a backup, just more of the main body of Detective Comics. Simon Spurrier does a great job weaving his own side story for Harvey in with the main events of the comic, and keeping Harvey’s voice highly consistent with the way Ram V writes him.
It also continues the trend of folding in characters seen in other backups and the greater narrative by re-introducing Jim Gordon’s newest partner, the supernatural young man he found in Arkham’s rubble. He shows up not only to protect Gordon, but also to speak to Harvey’s other side, and even work to defend him as well. It’s interesting seeing not only the back and forth between Harvey, but between parts of Harvey and other characters who can take a different kind of look at the pain Harvey’s been through and shine a new light on that side of himself.
I cannot stress enough how much I think this backup should not be skipped if you’re looking to get a really well rounded look at just what Detective Comics is doing. Both this and Gordon’s backup can stand on their own, but they also work really well in conversation with the rest of the run as a whole, and if you want to see and understand all the stories at play they’re required reading.
- You love Harvey Dent
- The plot grows gradually, and layers on itself–you know, like music in an opera
- Did I mention Harvey? Because he’s carrying both the main title and backup beautifully
Ram V again does a great job giving readers a compelling story full of characters I just want to see more of. Harvey Dent is the highlight this issue, and honestly I’d read a whole arc dedicated to him at this point. His struggle is a big part of the reason I’m enjoying this series so much as he battles with himself on just what he should do. The larger plot points like Arzen’s destruction of Arkham Asylum, and Batman’s continuing investigation are equally well written and structured in a way that keeps the world and pacing feeling natural and bright. If you want solid storytelling this series is a must to pick up.
Overall Score: 8/10
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.