Walking A Mighty Fine Line: Reviewing ‘Detective Comics’ #1053
by Scott Redmond
Detective Comics’ main and backup stories both perfectly work to ramp up the tension as the moments where the characters are close to reaching breaking points or making big choices move closer and closer to reality. Every bit of these stories feels important and emotional and real with such depth on all levels. The art teams are bringing their A-game every time and knocking it out of the park.
When one builds a house out of cards, they can’t be all that surprised when said house begins to wobble, headed for an inevitable collapse. This is where one ‘Doctor’ Wear finds himself as the unstable situation surrounding Arkham Tower becomes worse and worse as ‘Shadows of the Bat’ continues.
In stories building of tension can leave one on the edge of their seat waiting to see whether the thing they fear or look forward to will happen. On the other hand, when one shows what will happen and then jumps back to show the tension-filled path that gets to this outcome, it can be even juicier. Mariko Tamaki’s choice to show us how things crumble apart in the Tower in the first issue only to go back and ramp up the tension as we head towards that fateful day was a brilliant one.
In the beginning ‘Doctor’ Tobias Wear seemed like a collected and calm guy with maybe some secret, but through these issues, we’ve come to find just how slimy and broken he is. A con man that is steadily getting pulled deeper and deeper into darkness because he tried to reach outside his means with this particular con job.
After getting two issues that furthered the plot but had semi spotlights on Psycho-Pirate and Chase Meridian respectively, this one brings the focus back to the vast cast of characters as they begin to put more pieces together. With the third and final act of this event clearly being focused on what happens when the Tower does fail, the frantic nature in this one is dialed up to 11 as it all starts to crumble. Tamaki has an amazing skill at being able to juggle so many characters where none of them feel like they aren’t getting enough attention or feel ‘out of character’ in any way.
Max Raynor and Luis Guerrero have been doing a tremendous job the past two issues, but it goes up another notch here. There are some really stunning pages here where the action has tons of kinetic energy, and the paneling is top-notch. There are a number of pages where the character entrances or the motion are carried out so smoothly and are some pretty iconic type shots that you just love to see.
We get a Gotham here that is a beautiful blend of dark and light, with a smattering of bright colors being reserved for the overly bright costumed shenanigans that goes down. Pages like Batgirl’s entrance and Nightwing climbing the Tower are just gorgeous and have such a weight to them. Bright colors and dark highlighting shadows make it all pop.
Ariana Maher continues the lettering magic with the usual energy and personality that makes words just jump off the page. Full of personality and accuracy (the font size and shape give away the volume and tone of the words perfectly), with all sorts of quirks and flairs to make it stand out. I’m a huge fan of when the speech bubbles change color and shape to allow the font within to expand into either big giant letters or logos or anything else that makes them stand out. Just like all the SFX that have their own personality and style that are right up front and part of the scene adding depth to what they are bringing sound to on the page.
Everything about the backup story House of Gotham is sad and tragic as we follow the slow descent of this unnamed Boy, as it shows what can happen to those in this city that aren’t lucky enough to be saved in some way. I appreciate the way that Matthew Rosenberg has been able to weave this tale in a way that lets it naturally touch upon so many aspects of Batman’s world and eras without feeling forced or done just for nostalgia/pandering type of reasons.
We get Bane here and it feels correct and the interaction between the Boy and Bane and Victor Zsasz is spot on and so intriguing. After all the time that has passed we see how this is starting to truly break the kid, as he reconnects with an old friend and seeks a fresh start.
Fernando Blanco and Jordie Bellaire are hitting home runs with every single issue of this story. It’s gorgeous and energetic and visually distinctive, setting it apart from so many other stories out there. The choice to have the entire jailbreak sequence and confrontation between the Boy and Zsasz with a red filter with flashes of yellow at times was perfect. It helps keep the tension at the highest possible level while fitting with the idea that red alert alarms are going off and everything is a danger.
Which all fades as soon as the Boy escapes and is outside, where Gotham takes on so many shapes and forms and colors as the Boy moves around. Each area shown feels unique. Blanco has a great paneling sense and the use of repeating setting panels with the characters or things appearing or disappearing to depict motion is such a cool trick.
Bane’s words feel and look like one might expect that Bane’s voice would look if it were in the text, thanks to Rob Leigh. Even though the fonts and bubbles are similar for various characters, there is inherent energy that makes them feel different. Like how Zsasz’s words have the same creepy energy that would come with how the character truly is. That same energy and feeling are carried over into the SFX that aren’t just there as sounds of things on-page, but they emphasize what is happening and have a life of their own and bring more to the overall scenes.
Detective Comics #1053 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.