Last month’s issue ended with Two-Face rescuing Batman, after Harvey finally decided to let his other half know the Caped Crusader’s true identity. Injured, and under the care of not only Two-Face but the Ten Eyed Man as well, just what’s in store for Bruce this issue?
Detective Comics is lovely, character focused, and always seems to do something to keep my interest. I love that about it. I like that it can be haunting, and deeply interested in looking at each character’s motivations and personalities. Ram V does an excellent job balancing these elements. And in this issue, we get that again with moments between Batman and Jim Gordon, and even Renee Montoya.
What is growing increasingly frustrating is that so little seems to be happening with each issue. We’ve had eight issues plus an annual in Ram V’s run, and so far and the plot is about as glacial as Mr. Freeze’s underground lair. We’re even still in the first act of the ‘opera’ theme Ram V has been building on through this series. I do not mind a narrative taking its time and building a good foundation for the stories within it. In fact, a lack of foundation is usually one of my main points of complaint with a number of books.
I can’t even really say nothing of note has happened. The Orghams have done a lot. They’ve moved into the city, torn down Arkham, rebuilt it, have nestled themselves deep within Gotham’s upper elite, and in this issue kidnapped hundreds of Gothamites to turn into azmer zombies. It’s really only with them we get any plot movement. Character wise Ram V hasn’t really given us a ton with them, but he has used them to push the plot along.
It’s everything around the Orghams that doesn’t feel like it’s moving. Bruce is still grappling with the same internal struggle he was in the opening issue, facing off against the Barbatos inside him and the fact that he is an aging human facing off against threat after threat in Gotham. Jim and Barbara are really just there for him to lean on. Freeze has shown up a handful of times and is apparently acting –Oracle tells us he’s laid quite the foundation underground following the Orgham’s tracks. The narrative made a big deal about Talia and her shadows, but they’ve been almost as absent as Freeze.
Even Harvey, who arguably has had equal page time with Batman, hasn’t really moved forward. It took him seven issues to decide to tell Two-Face Bruce’s identity, and what does Ram V do with that information? Almost nothing. Two-Face threatens a half conscious Batman briefly, then sinks back into Harvey’s psyche. There is so much that could have happened, especially with the build up to whether or not Harvey was going to let Two-Face in on the truth, and all that tension falls flat almost as soon as it could have turned into something interesting just so Bruce could rush off to sleep for days and have a quiet conversation with Jim.
There is an ebb and flow to Ram V’s narrative, he picks up characters and their stories frequently to give us glimpses of them. His Gotham feels full and alive, but I’m afraid the drawback to so much focus on so many characters is starting to show. These brief glimpses of characters, Talia, the Ten-Eyed-Man, Freeze, Commissioner Montoya. They are alive, and have their own reasons for being here, but they also don’t get to move much forward. These are glimpses, and even when they have enough time to grow, the pacing doesn’t let us get many big moments.
Before I dive into the backup let’s look at the art as well. I said that Detective Comics is lovely, and I also mean the art. Dexter Soy, Stefano Raffaele, and Miguel Mendonca are on art this month and their styles blend well. Compared to the way multiple artists felt a little jarring last month, the styles flow better here. Where they shift feels natural, mostly between scenes and time of day.
I’ve mentioned character moments that work well like Renee and Jim’s and these really work because of the art tied with the story. One of my favorites is the scene where Jim is worried about Batman’s whereabouts and finally sees him. The stark lighting in the scene where Batman shows up at Jim’s PI agency highlights the “miracle” nature of Batman constantly defying expectations, and the hope of his arrival even when he’s been through the wringer.
As I wrap up the main portion of the review I want to say that all of this comes from a place of genuinely enjoying the series. I think that all together this will read really well. I’ve even said it before, but as a trade I can see myself enjoying Detective Comics more than I’ve enjoyed it so far. I mean it when I say that Ram V is doing a good job focusing on the characters. He does a good job highlighting Montoya’s desire to ditch the desk and get back out as the Question with just a few panels, and showcases Batman and Gordon’s relationship every time they’re together. But I would like to see more momentum in the main series itself soon.
Backup: Absolute, Part 1 of 3
The backup this issue focuses on Freeze and Dr. Annabel Mead, and promises to be the first of three parts focused on Freeze’s own investigations into both the azmer and Nora. It gives readers further insight into events going on in Gotham around the main conflict of Batman and the Orghams.
The azmer infected minions of the Orghams make an appearance here, but the story is more focused on Dr. Mead. She has been having a rough time of it, after being almost killed by Harvey under orders from the Orghams, she was let go and by a series of unfortunate events ended up with Freeze.
The backup works twofold, giving insight into character motivations for Freeze and his current dealings in Gotham, and informing readers further of the strange song that has flowed through various backups. Together, these help further flesh out events in the greater Detective Comics story. Again, it makes itself more of a must read as a part of this run, rather than a fun bonus, and helps make the overall story, backup and main title, stronger.
- Batman and Gordon interactions are your thing
- You like more measured narratives
- A Gotham full of life is your kind of Gotham
This issue is another example of good character work. Batman’s relationship with Jim Gordon, and the various other figures highlighted through this run gain depth through the issue. However, while Ram V does an excellent job building his characters and their interactions, the narrative feels like it’s really struggling to keep up its momentum. While I’m really enjoying this series, and think it’ll work well in a trade format I would also like to see it pick up the pace a little more in upcoming issues.
Overall Score: 7/10
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.