After teasing some further details about the Orgham’s past last month, this issue of Detective Comics makes good on its promise and delivers a backstory meant to give depth, and answer at least a few questions about what’s going on. Since we’ve seen so much of the family over this series, does this backstory really do all it sets out to?
I have mixed feelings about this issue. On one hand I am happy we’ve been given some backstory into the Orghams , while on the other I’m not sure I am that big a fan of what we’ve been told. Or how the issue itself was structured.
The majority of this issue is focused on the Orgham family, both on giving readers information about their history, and current events with them. This is told through alternating sections of past and present, and if the reader is not being careful it can get a little confusing. In fact, there are a few aspects of this narrative that feel unclear and muddled. The jumping timelines is a large one, but the lack of a firm time period for the past sections is equally unclear. We as readers are not told just how far back this story Talia is telling goes. Some context can be gained through the fact that it is the story of Arzen’s parents, however many of the elements seem older than his twenty or so years, and the discrepancy with this lore can be a bit frustrating to untangle, especially since we’ve already been told the Orgham’s specifically have been around and meddling with Gotham since before the city was a city itself.
In the present the time line issues are equally frustrating. Just how fast are the Orgham’s moving in Gotham? Over the course of this run they have torn down Arkham, built up a huge multistory building on top of it, kidnapped hundreds of people off the streets, and bought up tons of Gotham land to level and build upon too. This kind of work doesn’t happen overnight, but there’s been frustratingly little to tell us just how fast or slow time has been moving. It’s a small issue, but when compounded with some of the others it stands out as a sign of bigger problems with pacing. Pacing has become a bigger and bigger issue with this run so far, from the story moving too slow, and other elements like the Orgham’s takeover moving too fast. Ram V has layered so many elements onto this story, I’m afraid it’s become too weighed down at this point and the cracks are starting to show.
Looking at the lore itself, the Orgham’s backstory doesn’t really feel all that unique. Especially compared to how they were introduced, steeped in operatic themes and mystery. Instead here we’re treated to a fairly standard tale of two families brought together over a powerful artifact only to be torn apart again by it. The story fills in some blanks as to how they got the strange reality bending machine they’re using on Gotham, and how some of their more unique tools were created. It doesn’t really answer the question of the odd music or the azmer and how that ties in with everything. These holes are a problem, as you’d assume their backstory might answer some of these more specific questions instead of providing generalities.
Another element that bothers me is how Ra’s al Ghul feels shoehorned into the narrative. He’s made to be this old friend of Arzen’s father, and also he’s been at battle with the Orgham women for generations. It brings up the time discrepancy issue again. Ra’s being ancient enemies with them and also a recent ally with Arzen’s father doesn’t quite track. I can’t help but wonder if perhaps the family is simply very long lived like Ra’s himself is. Unfortunately, there is also no firm corroborating evidence of that fact. It also feels like a lazy connection to make. They are an old, magic, family from a nebulous desert country so why not tie Ra’s and Talia in with them to cement them into Batman’s lore? The story didn’t really need that connection. They honestly could have just been their own thing without attempting to tie the two together and I would have accepted them as their own entity just as easily. Especially since Ram V has worked hard to build them into Gotham over the whole course of this run.
I did enjoy the art, Stefano Raffaele, Ivan Reis and Eduardo Pansica work together well on this issue with their styles flowing together through the tales. Nothing felt overly distracting, in fact it all fits the feeling of a story told about an old family well with sweeping double page spreads, well done fight scenes, and even a glowing treasure chamber. Brad Anderson and Adriano Lucas’ colors help add to the ambience in a way that is really nice, giving light to the moon and a lovely glow to some of the treasures.
I also liked how the issue opens with Batman, Nightwing, Batgirl, and Oracle getting ready to actually raid the Orgham’s new building. The opening pages give the story some momentum and keep this issue from feeling totally aside from the main narrative. The issue also wraps up this way, focusing back in on Bruce’s preparations and the first moments of them heading in to fight. It makes me feel like the next issue is going to really push the narrative and pacing forward more than others have.
Backup: Absolute Part 3/3
The Absolute backup wraps up this month, finishing its story focused on Freeze and Doctor Annabel Mead. Annabel takes the lead in this final part, finally freed from the chair she’s been stuck in through the backup. She gets a chance to finally let Freeze know everything she’s been thinking over the course of the backup, and voices her grievances against Freeze, his unwillingness to look at her as a person, and how self centered it is to think he has to fix Nora who left him. It’s a nice moment where she gets to lay into him, and cathartic to read, even if the narrative corrects her in a few places almost instantly.
The art and colors are also lovely, and have been through the whole backup. Caspar Wijngaard is the artists and creates soft lines for the characters. His colors are pastel and fit the cooler colors that fill the panels. He has an emphasis on pinks and reds, highlighting Annabel in particular along with the strange music, and key areas of interest.
As a whole the backup is an interesting look at Freeze, Annabel, and the strange song we’ve been following through the backups. It doesn’t really give any real answers, instead is more of a glimpse into some of these characters. It also feels like it sets Freeze himself up to appear in the main story again, with some clues leading him further into the Orgham’s plot. It is, again, another element that adds to the greater story going on in Detective Comics.
- The Orgham’s ties with Ra’s and Talia had you curious
- A little made up mythology in your Batman is your cup of tea
- You like a well rounded backup that enhances the main plot
This month we get a close look at the Orgham family, their history, and present status. While Ram V does a good job laying out their history, and some present events going on with the family, the structure can be a little confusing. The answers also create more questions, as time frames aren’t made clear, and there are elements that quite simply don’t feel like they fit like Ra’s al Ghul’s part in the story. While I enjoy learning some of this backstory, I can’t help but be frustrated by how the many elements of this whole arc aren’t flowing together as well as they should for as long as this run has been going.
Overall Score: 6/10
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.