This month Detective Comics continues to work its way steadily deeper into the web of intrigue it’s built around the Orghams, and into Bruce’s own struggle with his continuing mission as Batman.
Reading Detective Comics has begun to feel like a lesson in patience. I enjoy it, and each issue does take time to focus on elements of character and add to the layers of depth Ram V has been building. But it’s pacing is becoming a problem, especially since each issue feels like it only manages to move the plot forward incrementally. As I’ve said before, I don’t think this approach would be bad in a collected graphic novel format, but monthly it’s growing tiresome and frustrating. Even while enjoying the writing, I want something more to happen than the story is willing to give me. This issue feels no different than the last few, providing bits of plot and character at a gradual pace.
I’ll start with the aspects of the story I enjoyed. The two big ones are: the focus on Bruce as a person and in getting our first real look at the history of the Orgham family. Both elements work well and are long awaited, especially the Orgham’s history.
We’re treated to an introduction to their history, and Arzen’s reasons for being in Gotham first by Arzen as he explains it to Bruce, and then towards the end, teased by Talia. The family has a history of sending their leader out to find a place worth saving, and save it. Arzen has chosen Gotham, though his methods leave a lot to be desired in how he’s been treating Gotham. I’m left wondering how much is true about his own desire to help, since the family has deep roots there anyway, and we’ve seen that they’ve had designs on Gotham for a long time now. We’re not given the full history yet, as that’s teased to come further in the next issue, but I am interested to see just what else there is to learn about Arzen and the Orghams. I’m happy we’ve finally gotten something concreate with their actual history as well, since up until this point they’ve been mysterious and powerful, but we’ve known very little about where they came from or why.
Bruce is another aspect I enjoyed quite a bit. I’ve liked how Ram V has taken a closer look at him through the series, and next to the focus on Harvey I’ve most looked forward to the glimpses of Bruce’s own struggle we’ve been getting. This issue gives us Bruce reflecting on the variety of people who have told him he’s made a mistake, and just what that might mean for his and Gotham’s future. We also get some reflecting on his distant and recent past, including his almost marriage to Selina and this long history Ram V has been building between Bruce and Barbatos. While this element is not the bulk of the issue, it is something I do enjoy getting through the series, and honestly something I’d like to see focused on more. But as I’m learning reading this run, Ram V seems to prefer building the story in thin layers, folding elements on top of themselves through each issue.
I also really enjoyed the art. With the Orgham history, and Bruce’s own trip down memory lane Stefano Raffaele gets a number of opportunities to showcase some lovely scenes. He does a great job highlighting the scenes from Bruce’s past as he reflects on them, like his near marriage to Selina, and how Barbatos is a spooky looming figure in Bruce’s past.
Adriano Lucas’ colors further add to the lovely scenes, especially in moments like when Arzen is beginning to talk about his family’s history. Honestly the whole dusk scene where Bruce and Arzen are talking is lovely, the sky painted in really beautiful colors, and the shades are even prettier when the story shifts to him telling the story of his father.
What frustrates me about this issue is the fact that the elements outside of Orgham lore and Bruce seem focused on introducing a totally new team to Gotham, the Vigil. This team has supposedly been watching what’s going on, can hack Oracle’s network, snuck into the Clocktower, and are willing to fix the mess going on in Gotham if Batman won’t do it. Their introduction bookends the actual plot of the narrative opening up the story, and coming in right at the end. Unfortunately they feel less like an actual part of the narrative, and more a McGuffin to point Oracle in the right direction, and an ad for the upcoming series. That last point feels especially direct since their introduction comes with an editors note on where to find more stories with them near the end of their introduction.
Unfortunately, in a book that has pacing issues, spending time introducing characters who might not have any real bearing on this book causes more frustration than anything. At this point, it feels disingenuous to the readers, taking up time better spent actually moving the plot forward. These characters may play an important role later on, but I’m both not sure I want them to, and doubtful they will. There’s already enough going on in the Orgham plot I don’t want more elements, just some answers.
That said, I did generally enjoy this issue. As I’ve mentioned already I like the work done with Bruce and in learning more about the Orghams. I am frustrated by the pacing, and do wish this series would move faster, but I am invested in this narrative and still interested to see where it’s going in the future.
Backup: Absolute, Part 2 of 3
This month Simon Spurrier gives readers the second entry in Freeze’s latest attempts at winning Nora back. The story focuses on his attempt to control mental reactions to being frozen. And while it states that it’s focused on Freeze himself, it actually feels more like a story about Dr. Annabel Mead. She is the narrator of the story, and so we see everything through her point of view.
The narrative feels a little disjointed since Annabel is in the middle of a traumatic event, having been kidnapped and partially frozen by Freeze. She’s both reacting to what’s going on, and analyzing Freeze himself through it all.
The biggest reaction I have to it however, is that it feels a bit like a longer story that has been cut up into three different parts to cover three backup issues. That also makes it hard to comment on, as it’s the middle segment of something larger. It does continue the trend of giving readers a little further insight into the strange music associated with the azmer, and with some of the other characters appearing within Detective Comics and its backups making it relevant to the greater story as a whole.
- The Orgham’s past is of interest to you
- Character focused entries are something you want more of here
- You don’t mind getting introduced to another new Gotham based team
At last we’ve gotten some backstory on the Orgham family, and their deeper motivations for being in Gotham. This telling, and Arzen’s interactions with Bruce are both the best part of the issue and the focus. Bruce’s own personal struggles come into play again, giving readers further insight into how he is faring during this whole affair. However, the slower pacing and time spent introducing even more characters takes away from the overall enjoyment of the issue a bit. I’m hopeful these elements will all work together in the future, but experience is saying that nothing will change the structure of the pacing. Still, if you don’t mind a more gradual structure to narrative pacing, the issue is a fun read.
Overall Score: 6/10
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.