A Shadows Of The Bat Appetizer: Reviewing ‘Detective Comics’ #1046
by Scott Redmond
With this issue we’re delivered an ending that is also a solid beginning, casting an eye towards what is to come in Detective Comics for 2022. The character-centric street-level focus of this book continues to make it one of the best runs of this book in quite some time, and should only get better as it delves deeper into the bat-family as a whole very soon.
While ‘Fear State‘ might have come to an end, things aren’t going any easier for the citizens or heroes of Gotham City. There is no calm before the storm in this city because the next storm is always right behind the last one.
Starting in January Detective Comics is starting a twelve-part storyline called ‘Shadows of the Bat‘ which deals with Batman being gone and the new Arkham Tower posing issues that the rest of the bat-family must deal with. Because that is so close after the aforementioned ‘Fear State‘ story, with this issue we get sort of a middle ground story that is meant to bridge the two.
While it’s billed as a ‘Fear State‘ aftermath issue, overall, the issue is a bit more about what is to come rather than what has already happened. On the surface it might seem like a skippable issue to some, being wedged between two events, but that’s far from the case. This run has been awesome all around, but truly to me some of the best issues that Mariko Tamaki has done since taking over this series are the ones where she is able to really focus down on a few characters doing street-level stuff.
Overall, the story focuses on the serial killer, Ana Vulsion, who the team managed to capture before but got off thanks to an anonymous donor and new lawyer. As noted before Batman is heading away from Gotham (he’s already left in his own solo book) and while he appears in this book, in many ways he’s already left. His appearances here dealing with Ana Vulsion are detached, as he doesn’t interact with Batgirl (Stephanie) who also was there to try and bring her down, and he only really talks with Doctor Chase Meridian at the end about her being his eyes and ears in the tower while he’s gone.
We get a ton of focus on Batgirl and Chase as well as Huntress, Batwoman, Mayor Nakano and his wife Koyuki, and Deb Donovan in this issue as Batman (who was the main character of this book too in the previous issues) fades to the background. We learn a ton here about these characters and what they are going through and using this issue to shift the focus ahead of the big weekly event that will focus on these characters, and more was a perfect choice.
All through this run, I’ve mentioned that Tamaki has a wonderful grasp on writing a great Bruce Wayne and Batman, and here we get to see more just how far that character grasp she has extends. We’ve already seen Huntress and Oracle here as well as Nakano, but even the appearing Stephanie Brown feels spot on. It’s also a good time when we get to actually see the connections and relationships between these characters, rather than them always being separated or vaguely interacting as we got in the past.
There are a ton of great artists coming aboard for that weekly event, but it would be a lie to say that I’m not going to miss the pairing of Dan Mora and Jordie Bellaire in those issues. Hands down these two have created a truly stunning vision of Gotham in every issue of this run they’ve done together. This city looks alive and bright and colorful but also dark and chaotic all at the same time. There is a level of detailed sharpness that can’t be matched, and together they bring such personality to just about every single part of the city.
Not to mention there is an overall cinematic quality to the work not just from the action, which is so energetic it threatens to fly right off the page every single time, but the paneling. No two pages really look alike, and Mora knows just what sections need the given focus in the moment and gives us that view.
While the city might look real and beautiful, Bellaire makes sure to bring in a variety of colors to really make things pop and fit the tones of the story. Gotham isn’t a regular city, so it needs these pops and flashes of the outlandish or super, and we get that.
Sadly, this is also the last issue for Aditya Bidikar who has brought so much energy to the book on the lettering side of things. Through this run, they have done a stellar job at matching the energy of this book step for step. From the placement of the bubbles to the stylistic flairs used to emphasize the dialogue in those bubbles to the SFX that perfectly allow you to feel and hear the action that is flashing before our eyes.
It seems so simple when saying it but the use of bigger and smaller text to accurately depict yelling or whispering, as well as changes to the balloons to match, is a game-changer when employed. It makes sure that the audience is very aware of what emotion or sound, or thing is happening in that moment rather than them having to assume or potentially guess.
Also concluding here is the last part of the Arkham Asylum/Arkham Tower backup story from Stephanie Phillips, David Lapham, Trish Mulvihill, and Rob Leigh.
Overall, this has been a solid, almost classic feeling, story that perfectly sets up the trouble that we know for certain will likely be coming out of the Arkham Tower. Far too often the story of Arkham focuses on the super criminals that are placed there by the city despite most of them being just evil, and not suffering from a mental illness. Here the old man who is a former Arkham patient is our window not only into the curses of Arkham that have persisted for years but the effect placing those super-criminals there has on those who actually would benefit from mental health help.
Phillips kicked off this backup storyline with references to the stories of Edgar Allen Poe and bookends it here with those same references pointing to the uncertainty of what Arkham Tower will be for the city and those within it.
Lapham and Mulvihill get to do some more really engaging dream sequence type artwork, and the action is solid here too. As noted above this looks and feels very classic Batman-like in many ways, in the best way possible. Having the panels and the white borders are shifted and almost liquid-like for the dreams only to snap back to normal for reality is a great touch. We get some colorful work here from Mulvihill that is also muted with enough darkness to give it more weight and fit the darker tone of the story.
Leigh nails all the lettering work, bringing some very fun word visuals to the page in those dream sequences while also making sure the dialogue from each person is similar but a bit of personality still does leak out. Along with some popping SFX that are dropped in to enhance several of the pages.
Detective Comics #1046 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.