Detective Comics #1050 is a jam-packed celebration of not only the legacy and history of the generally-Batman-centric series but of a number of other characters that are part of Batman’s world. Shadows of the Bat continues to present a character-driven gorgeous but terrifying story full of twists and turns while the two backups showcase far different but tied-together takes on Batman and his presence in the world.
No matter how it started, Detective Comics has long been synonymous with Batman at this point as it has served as a secondary book featuring the character with a few deviations here or there. Reaching 1050 issues is a pretty big milestone, especially since there was a brief period of time where those large numbers were wiped out for reboots. As a book normally about Batman this landmark issue could have found a way to focus on the character despite him being out of the country and not part of the current ‘Shadows of the Bat’ storyline.
Correctly and wonderfully though, the issue’s main story instead focuses on the legacy of the character by putting the spotlight almost fully on Helena Bettinelli the Huntress and somewhat on Dick Grayson/Nightwing.
One thing I love about how Mariko Tamaki is handling this event is that any time we have something added to the story we do not have to wait long at all to see it explained. The last issue brought the reveal that Helena was one of the patients within this new Arkham Tower, and here we get the hows and whys. After what Vile did to her a few arcs ago, Huntress is plagued with precog visions of the vile violence that so many men are carrying out against women.
Driven to the breaking point, she decides to be the person on the inside of Arkham (something Batwoman supports, and Nightwing does not) but also potentially because she needs help but is like Batman in that she won’t admit it. Another thing that really worked well here was how Tamaki perfectly hit upon the fact that out of all the Bat-family, Huntress is the one that is the most like Batman in so many ways and was one of the few that didn’t choose Batman’s path because she was already on the same path before even crossing paths with him.
We see that explained as we get a flashback opening that goes all the way back to ‘No Man’s Land’ from the late ’90s/early 2000s which had a moment where Huntress stood against Joker and his army alone because she didn’t care that Batman didn’t trust in her. She was going to complete the mission and save lives.
Also, while the Psycho-Pirate reveal isn’t a shocker with solicits and covers being shown, it’s still a good reveal, and having him be in a spot where he’s pals with Wear and behind Arkham’s ‘treatment’ still works so well. Again, it gets the reveal out of the way to move the story forward rather than needlessly dragging mystery out forever.
Ivan Reis, Danny Miki, and Brad Anderson really nail it for this last issue in their portion of the crossover before we get some artistic changes with the next four issues. With the aforementioned flashback scene, rather than go with filters or muted colors to show that it’s a flashback they took a different tack. The whole artistic package is very similar to the present-day stuff but where it differs is the framing and some other aspects that help with the differentiating past from the present.
The heaviness/weight that Miki and Anderson bring with the inks and colors respectively really help bring the atmosphere to the right spot for this book. It goes from shiny to “too good to be true” to terrifying back and forth through the issue like a roller coaster but never feels disjointed in how it looks. Actually, the quick changes make it more exciting and horrifying to behold. The last page reveal of Psycho-Pirate is striking and brings chills down the spine because while he’s being ‘kind’ at the moment the overall aspect of the ‘faceless’ character brings more fearful emotions out.
I’ve mentioned it before but the way that Reis chooses to layout panels within these issues is something I’m a very big fan of. The action and even quieter moments just flow smoothly, and they add even more energy to the proceedings.
Emotions are raw and heavy in this issue, and we see that both in the facial expressions/body language of the art but also ‘hear’ it from Ariana Maher’s lettering. All the yelling feels like yelling while the normal conversation feels completely normal, alongside all the little colors and shifts to make certain bits of dialogue stand out. Like when Psycho-Pirate uses his powers, the red outline added to his bubbles. One of my favorites was the letter-shaped word balloon that follows Mister Freeze shushing the undercover Nightwing, as it feels adequately creepy.
There are a few other examples of that type of balloon which have the same sort of energy and presence as Maher’s SFX. They shift from more innocuous background types to big bold in-your-face ones depending on the moment. Lettering is an art form that people need to notice more because there are a lot of letterers that are doing some visually great stuff that adds so many different dimensions to the comics.
The backup ‘House of Gotham’ story is just such a gorgeous terrifying and sad experience that is adding a lot of depth to established characters. Scarecrow launches an attack on Wayne Manor with kids from the orphanage, and the protagonist boy sneaks along and confronts Robin and his fear of Batman.
We think of Batman as a hero and savior from the point of view that his stories give us, but Matthew Rosenberg gives a totally different perspective here through the boy’s eyes. Someone that lost everything because of the constant battle between Batman and Joker and sees Batman as a thing to fear rather than cheer or accept. We know that Gotham is a broken place, but we see it even more here and see how even those trying to make it less broken can be part of the problem. Getting to see a more coherent and earlier version of Scarecrow also is very intriguing so far.
It’s hard to keep putting into words just what amazing work Fernando Blanco and Jordie Bellaire are pulling off with this story. It’s just so gorgeous and handles so many things in different ways but is fully cohesive. So detailed, but also willing to forego details to focus on a singular character or moment as needed. The colors are so eerie in many cases as the levels of green are high here, fitting with the fear gas-induced violence that fills these pages. Even some panels foregoing most other colors to strip back to just one bright color (such as red) just land so effectively.
Lettering is still Rob Leigh’s domain, and it brings all the right energy here. Scarecrow’s bubbles are sufficiently creepy as the shape changes and the lettering gets a little distorted to match. There are noticeable differences between Robin’s dialogue and that of the boy and other children, which is such a great detail since he’s in a different place than these kids which is going to lead to more authority and confidence within his voice. All the SFX also follow with shifting fonts that often take on a visual appearance to match the thing they are the sound for.
Because it’s an anniversary issue there is a second backup, this one from Mark Waid, Dan Mora, Tamra Bonvillain, and Aditya Bidikar that sets up the upcoming Batman/Superman: World’s Finest series coming in March. While on the surface it seems a simple story of Batman and Robin coming to Metropolis to stop Poison Ivy and thereby teaming up with Superman, there is a lot more to it. This seemingly sets up the problem that will be dealt with in the main book once it launches which is an interesting route to take.
There is a lot of classic energy from this story, set at some point in the not-so-distant past (as Batman is in a very classic costume and the Robin with him seems to be Dick Grayson) rather than being stories taking place now. Mora makes anything look gorgeous and amazingly superheroic and that is the case here, and his work together with Bonvillain’s colors is always a winning formula. This is a bright and colorful story (befitting its ‘classic’ influence) even though it takes a somewhat darker turn towards the end.
In that same vein, Bidikar is having a lot of fun with the letters here as we get a lot of bold colorful dialogue and logo names dropped into conversations and the font just has a classic sort of energy to it as well. A whole lot of powerful and fun SFX dotting the pages here too which is a joy. All around this is a painful but also timeless sort of feeling story which fits the theme the book is appearing to be shooting for.
Detective Comics #1050 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.