We’re now on the second issue of this “Outlaw” intermission arc, and the story still feels very comfortable just setting the stage. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s often at its best when focusing on atmosphere rather than the grandiose plot. However, with only five chapters in total before we jump into the next act of this operatic story, things need to start kicking off soon.
What makes this prolonged prologue work is just how immersive it can be reading it from moment to moment. The sense of dread that permeates every page of the story is palpable, and that’s no easy task with a status quo like Gotham’s. Whatever light of hope may have been present before is gone. The Orghams seem to be the only de facto rulers of the city, and it’s left to people on the fringes of the law to oppose them. If there’s one word that encompasses the tone, it would be desperation.
All of this is reinforced by Jason Shawn Alexander’s impressive visuals. Everything you see is drenched in a morose, grungy aesthetic. The dirt and grime lends itself to the dystopian vision of Gotham that the Orghams have created. Without their hero, the city itself becomes a distorted nightmare version of itself. Dave Stewart’s colors are rough and uneven, further adding to this disorienting effect. From the letter to the illustrations, every page of this story is dripping with ambience.
Where the story stumbles is when it starts getting into its specifics. Most of the issue is yet again devoted to setting up the team that will be needed for the “heist” of rescuing Batman. It creates a sense of déjà vu given that it’s what last issue was about as well. What little narrative progression we do get raises a number of questions about the internal logic.
Most everyone involved, especially Catwoman, make a big deal about how they work on the outskirts of the law, but they’re the only ones left who can get the job done. Why? Gotham is bursting at the seams with vigilantes and sidekicks that would love nothing more than to rescue Batman. And yet, the only one of the bat family that shows up is Cass. Yeah they’ll technically be breaking the law to free him, but heroes do that all the time. It’s literally the definition of vigilante. I suppose you could argue that it’s because of the events of Gotham War, but if we start acknowledging that these two stories are happening concurrently, it opens a huge can of worms regarding the timeline and how it’s supposed to all fit together. At least the team that ends up getting put together is an interesting one.
It would also be worth interrogating some of the claims made by the Orghams about their plan. As I said before, much of it centers around demoralizing Batman and Gotham in general, a key part of which involves turning the city against him. At one point Erhad tells Batman that the “abstract” heroics he’s done don’t matter in the face of immediate fears. What? Batman has personally saved the city dozens of times in very direct and visible ways. There’s clearly a commentary being made here about populism and the fickleness of the crowd, but this feels like a poor choice of example to make that point with. The only way I can see this sort of massive shift in opinion working is if you handwave it away with “reality engine magic did it”, in which case any applicability to society in general is lost.
Backup: Toxic Love
While Cheshire and Lian (who goes by Cheshire Cat, but I will avoid that name so this doesn’t get too confusing) nominally appear in the main story, it’s here that they’re really fleshed out. We’re offered a glimpse into just how Lian was able to recruit her to help them in their plan to save Gotham. That’s the plot relevancy, but it’s not really what matters. What rests at the heart of the story is a confrontation between mother and daughter that has been a long time coming.
Lian’s history is filled with the usual convoluted comics nonsense , but suffice it to say that she is the daughter of Cheshire and Arsenal before being kidnapped at the age of five, going through time travel shenanigans, and wound up on the streets of Gotham as a teen. As the title suggests, Cheshire’s relationship with Lian is strained at best. As an assassin, she had no interest in raising a daughter, and doesn’t feel as though she could if she wanted to. Despite that, she can’t help but express care and concern for Lian, urging her to find safety as things get more dangerous.
Watters writes the struggles of Cheshire coming to terms with her human side beautifully. At every step, Cheshire questions her morality and tries to convince herself that it’s for the best for everyone that she not have any connection with her daughter. She pushes Lian and any personal connections away because she sees them as a vulnerability, as Lian points out. The story is almost entirely just eight pages of two people talking about their relationship, but it digs down into how they’re able to connect despite everything pushing them apart. As a result, what we get is a heartwarming story of family and the broken situations it can help us survive.
Caspar Wijngaard’s bright colors and simple style contrast sharply with Alexander’s art in the main story, but at no point does it feel out of place. Rather than the depression of Gotham at large, Lian and Cheshire’s story is one of heightened emotion and energy. Even in the darkest stories, there are still moments of life.
- You want a story filled with atmospheric art and dialog
- You’ve been wanting to see the fallout from the Orgham plot
- Stories centered around familial strife are something you enjoy
Detective Comics #1077 is an atmospheric story that drags its feet delivering anything but atmosphere. The art and writing do a wonderful job immersing you in the desperate city of Gotham on the brink of collapse, but the story is content to cover largely the same ground as the previous issue. What plot we do get raises questions about the details of how and why everything is supposed to work. Watters’ backup provides a refreshing tale of family and the struggles that come with letting yourself be close to the ones you love.
Overall score: 7.5/10
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.