Detective Comics returned from Knight Terrors last month with an an impressive and introspective look into Bruce’s psyche. Rather than focusing on the ongoing plot, it used a series of vignettes and dream sequences to great success. This month sees a return to a more traditional narrative as we follow up on the fallout of Batman’s erratic trek through Gotham. Both his internal journey and the manhunt to track him down reach their conclusion, and the Orghams resume their very long running plan to control Gotham.
The first thing you notice when reading this issue is the art. Contrary to Nguyen’s stylized simplicity from last month, here it’s basic to the point of losing any and all atmosphere or visual tone. This is made especially bad when your opening sequence is meant to be a fear gas induced nightmare. That’s when you really let artists shine with how creative they can get. Instead the hastily sketched lines and flat colors do the opposite. It’s uninteresting to look at and does nothing for the story.
The sad thing is I know Francesco Francavilla is capable of producing much better work. In fact I’ve seen him produce great art for Detective Comics back when he was doing backups in Snyder’s “The Black Mirror”. What I think might have happened is that he was handed this job at the last minute with not enough time to give it his best. The original solicitation lists Nguyen as the artist, which means something happened behind the scenes that necessitated a fill in.
Following up from Bruce’s internal journey from last month, we get a scene you’ve probably seen before: a young Bruce Wayne standing over the dead bodies of his parents. I actually was at one point going to make an article cataloging all of the instances of this scene in comics, but eventually gave up when it became clear that they numbered in the hundreds and it got way too long to be worth it or even be an interesting article. My point is, there is little ground more well trodden than this. If you’re going to include it yet again, it needs to be made worth while.
Does this manage to set itself apart? Well, somewhat. Much of the conversation focuses on how alone Bruce felt at that moment, and how he needs to remember that there are always those he can reach out to, like Alfred. It’s not exactly the most unique take on his childhood trauma. Even the Nolan movie trilogy tackled it from that angle. What does add an interesting twist is the visual of Bruce being led away by the bat avatar in place of Alfred. It implies a darkness to how he has coped with this moment, replacing human connection with his mission, and ties in with the rest of the narrative.
The highlight of the story for me is between two of the police who’ve been trailing Batman. Since last issue, the GCPD have been trying to find a pattern in Batman’s erratic behavior. After following a lead on Batman uttering the name of an old candy store, one detective thinks he’s figured it out: Batman is Bruce Wayne. This is a discovery that always has the possibility of majorly upsetting the status quo. We know it probably won’t, but it immediately starts raising questions of how the new conflict will be resolved. It’s a promising new plot thread that leaves you unprepared for when the other shoe drops.
I was so engrossed in figuring out what the detective found out, I did not expect his partner to suddenly just shoot him. It’s a shocking moment that almost gives you whiplash as you realize just how omnipresent the Orghams are. They have agents in every thread of society’s fabric. It effectively sells them as a threat, though that threat tends to work better as an abstract rather than when the specifics are reintroduced.
The back and forth internal politics of the various Orgham leaders continues to be wholly uninteresting. Every conversation between them is filled with so much grandiose and cryptic language that it all starts to blur together. Even remembering their names or what sets them apart can be a challenge over the course of this 14-part-plus-annuals-and-counting story. Your ancient and clandestine organization can only have one person who talks like Ra’s al Ghul. When they all do, they become interchangeable. The heart of a story is the characters who act like human beings, so more of those are needed.
Backup: Take My Hand
“Take My Hand” takes a small part of the main story, Bruce’s flashback to his parents getting shot, and expands upon it. While V’s version suffered from retreading old ground, Watters offers a fresh new perspective by looking not at the immediate aftermath, but the post trauma in the days and weeks that followed. This allows the story to explore the same themes of coping and recovery, but from a different perspective that the one we’ve seen so many times before. The way Alfred speaks to Bruce to have him understand the ways to get through an experience like this feel so heartfelt and genuine, like the way a real life parent would speak to their child.
The best part of the main story’s dead Waynes sequence was the implication as the bat avatar led young Bruce away in place of Alfred. This takes that same concept and expands upon with extended scenes of Bruce struggling against his influence. The art by Aaron Campbell does an incredible job. There is initially an almost photoreal quality to the shots of Bruce being consoled by Alfred. As the story progresses, the colors become harsher and vibrant to the point of almost being straining to look at. It emulates the feeling of an oncoming migraine, which perfectly emulates the anxiety and panic Bruce himself feels. The confrontation inside Bruce’s mind repeatedly cuts between Alfred and the demon to signify where they stand as two paths out of pain.
Overall just an incredible short story that explores Bruce’s emotional trauma in a poetic and visually beautiful way.
- You want to hear about Bruce’s parents getting shot some more
- What happens when a police officer gets a bit too close to the truth of Batman?
- You’re invested in the ever changing Orgham plans
Detective Comics #1075 does not quite live up to the high bar set last month. The art is a significant step down, often going so far as to detract from the rest of the story. The plot itself pivots back towards focusing on the Orghams and their influence on Gotham, which can be both interesting yet frustrating when their Byzantine internal politics come to the fore. The backup story by Dan Watters continues to be nothing but excellent, with gorgeous art and poetic writing.
Overall score: 7.5/10
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.