The Folly Of One Tobias Wear: Reviewing ‘Detective Comics’ #1054
by Scott Redmond
Detective Comics’ slow unraveling of Arkham Tower hits a climactic point as all the pieces on the chessboard have been moved to their corresponding points to match where they were as this event storyline began weeks ago. The publisher’s namesake book continues to prove why it’s one of the best on the shelves with such great character moments, fantastic artwork, and deep stories that drag your right into the action.
Ever since the first issue of Detective Comics event storyline ‘Shadows of the Bat’, we’ve known that everything the then mysterious Doctor Wear had built with Arkham Tower was going to fail in a bloody dangerous way. For the subsequent six issues the path that led to that moment has been laid out, the mystery of Wear and his patient ‘cure’ and what role the Bat-Family plays have been laid out.
Now as act two of the storyline comes to a conclusion, the breaking point has at last been reached and everything is in a state of chaos.
Mariko Tamaki is a fantastic writer and has wrung every ounce of tension out of this story, focusing deeply on character and emotions and building a foundation only to rip it away and send everyone tumbling. This series has featured a massive cast of characters, both major and supporting or minor ones, and not a single one has felt superfluous in any fashion. Every hero, official or regular person, or villain has a part to play in this story and moves it towards the inevitable conclusion.
As stated previously in reviews, the choice to show where things are headed at the beginning and then slowly showcase how they unraveled as we learned more about characters and situations was a smart choice. It took none of the tension away, and I would honestly say it make things even tenser and concerning as we saw just how much things were held together with the barest amount of tape and hope. ‘Doctor’ Wear went from a mysterious character one didn’t know how to feel about once their fate was sealed, to a con-man way over his head that crossed too many people and played with a fire he could not control.
Rather than this book just being a second book featuring Batman, even when he was the focus in previous arcs, it feels like a book that is actually giving life to Gotham as a whole. It feels like we’re back to a point where the city and its people and all the stuff going on is getting as much spotlight and time as the vigilante that protects it. Feels like a good time.
Max Raynor and Luis Guerrero continue to do great work, the energetic well-choreographed scenes and the colors that mix shadows and brightness perfectly help amp up the aforementioned tension that is high here. Comparing comics to other mediums isn’t a preferred thing that I like to do, but there is definitely a lot of ‘cinematic-like qualities within these issues that ramps everything up to the right almost frantic levels as everything collapses.
Raynor captures so many emotions and moments as there are a vast number of close-up style panels in use, while the paneling work brings the focus tighter and tighter the further the issue goes on and the more things crumble apart. All the various hero and villain groups have all the bright colors to them but there are more and more shadows here matching the tone and Guerrero brings even more of a weight to the artwork as a whole.
As with all other parts of the issue, lettering helps set the mood in many ways as well. Ariana Maher is a master of that as even just dialogue is an art form that she bends to fit her will and the story needs so easily. I bring this up all the time, but the simple choice of using bigger/smaller fonts or changes in style to denote yelling or whispering is a huge thing to do as it very much sets the tone of the moment. As the patients mutter about ‘His hold breaking’ over and over it adds to that tension I’ve mentioned quite a few times, leading right into the dramatic moment where it all comes down and one of them shouts ‘His hold is broken’ loud and boldly. How Maher puts the dialogue together 100% makes how the scene is perceived better compared to how it would be if the font sizes and text were the same no matter the implied tone.
Through this event, the tone of the main story and the 12-part backup story, House of Gotham, have been pretty evenly matched. This is seen clearly in this issue as both stories are tense and full of fear and end in painful brutal ways.
Matthew Rosenberg is writing a fantastic story showcasing what Gotham and the eternal war between Batman and the darkness (the rogues being part of that) can have on normal citizens through the POV of one boy. Telling that story in a way that travels through various eras of the Batman saga is an inspired choice and feels 100% earned here rather than being something nostalgic done for nostalgia’s sake as we can often see. Having Tim Drake as the one trying to help the Boy and pitting them both against the John Paul Valley era Batman is great but also very scary.
It’s clear that there is intentional deep thought about how any of these villains or moments in time can fit the story, as they have weight and the Boy’s interactions with them are hefty. This isn’t just a time for easter eggs, and the care in this regard is appreciated and enjoyed.
Going through the eras is a cool thing when it means we get to see Fernando Blanco and Jordie Bellaire as the ones artistically creating that journey. All the same, the energy that permeated their work through the previous issues is there, but every issue’s art still feels unique in its own way. There is the same detail and depth as well as a variety of colors and shadows bringing darkness to the story, but there are slight things that just seem to make it stand apart.
Gotham looks like a city in trouble but also one that brings the trouble, and the choices of sort of color filters over panels that Bellaire chooses to match the action fit so well. At the same time, there are moments where the color seems to be dulled and almost washed out, helping the bits of color around stand out even more and highlighting the brutality and harshness of what is happening. Blood red skies and backgrounds fit with just how utterly terrifying this version of Batman really can be.
Rob Leigh continues to make the various characters’ dialogue and the slew of SFX to dot the page come out differently with their own energy. Even though the fonts are the same and the sizes, the words of Batman just seem to have this harsher energy to them in some way compared to the more scared/tense words of the Boy or even the calm collected ones of Robin. Much like Maher, Leigh makes sure that things like yelling or whispering or words spoken as one is losing consciousness are clear from the sizing or style of the fonts which is a helpful nice touch.
Detective Comics #1054 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.