A Harley Ace Up The Sleeve: Reviewing ‘Detective Comics’ #1056
by Scott Redmond
Shadows of the Bat has been a non-stop emotional character-driven roller coaster from the first issue, in all the best ways possible. Despite things falling apart in many respects that Bat-Family proves just how good they are as they are two steps ahead, and even when things get to their worst their mentor returns to have their back in such a time of need.
There are a number of things that Batman is well known for — from the costume, to the mission, to the car, to the city he calls home, to the villains he fights over and over again. No matter the universe, though, and no matter the direction of an adaptation, one thing remains quite true: he’s got a flair for the dramatic entrance.
For the first nine issues of this twelve-issue event, Shadows of the Bat, Batman was nowhere to be found (out of the country dealing with Lex Luthor and more) as the rest of the Bat-family dealt with the rise of Arkham Tower. The way Mariko Tamaki has written that family and their process has been stellar. Far too often Batman is the end-all-be-all of things and those around him are made lesser in order to let him save the day. Everything they did here was logical and things only backfired because of the hidden pieces on the board that didn’t make themselves known until now.
Yet, at the same time, the Bat-family’s own piece hidden in plain sight (Harley Quinn) tipped things heavily in their favor, showing that they were still ahead of all things even before Batman came to a dramatic rescue of his first son.
Writing a variety of characters and matching their given personalities and traits can be quite tough, especially with a cast this size, yet Tamaki makes it look easy. Not only do we get a lot of solid moments with Huntress returning to form, but we get a greater look at Koyuki Nakano and her struggles, more about how Psycho Pirate feels following his friend’s death, some great Harley Quinn stuff, and more.
As noted above, there are a lot of emotional beats that are delivered here, and Amancay Nahuelpan nails all of them. There is a great depth and smoothness to the art but also the paneling choices really help sell this. Lots of close-up shots that really allow for great shows of emotion along with panels over other panels, such as the page where we see the struggle that Koyuki is going through with her mental health.
There is an overwhelming sense of dread and terror, but also some hope which is all clear in the story; some of the choices made in the art and panels sell it even more. A perfect example is when the Partycrashers find Doctor Meridian, and we see their reflection in her eyes which amplifies the terror that is meant to be felt in this moment.
All the great bold colors mixed with shadows that Jordie Bellaire always brings helps with meeting these feelings. Such vivid and fitting colors help enhance every single scene and never feeling out of place. The same can always be said for the energy that Ariana Maher brings with lettering, hitting all the right notes to make the dialogue flow and feel real and weighty. Alongside all the SFX that have their own colorful personality flairs as they seamlessly blend into any given moment.
Also, I’ll never ever tire of seeing the work down to include a character’s logo in dialogue for when their name is spoken. It’s such a comic book thing, and I love it. And that final ending ‘Blam’ panel was bloody and horrifying and such a perfect cliffhanger piece.
Quite a journey has been taken in the “House of Gotham” backup storyline, and it takes even more of a turn when the Boy (more of a man it seems at this point) and Batman are reunited.
Matthew Rosenberg choosing to showcase what aspects of Gotham can do to a person when there is not the billionaire vigilante or other safety nets around was an interesting choice. Generally, we’ve seen that sort of thing from the perspective of the rogues/supervillains, but not so much like here just a normal person that got swept up into their world and failed by the system. Where this will end up is anyone’s guess, but the moment between the hero and the affected young man was powerful on so many levels.
No matter what state it is in, Fernando Blanco and Bellaire make Gotham City look unique and lived in — and a mix of safe and dangerous at the same time. There are a lot of really kinetic action scenes in the latter half of the issue, but overall there are a ton of great people-focused shots oozing with all the right emotions and feelings.
Gotham is broken right now, but there are still bright spots, which Bellaire highlights quite well. All the underground scenes are dark and dangerous, but there is an almost quiet beauty to the moments such as the conversation in front of Poison Ivy’s lush park territory.
Rob Leigh keeps it going with another issue of stellar lettering work, getting to bring a lot more really stylish deep-in-the-action personality-filled SFX to the pages. All the aforementioned emotions that are meant to be felt here are clear in the dialogue of each character, their angst and pain and anger or confusion are easy to spot in the way their dialogue is put together.
Detective Comics #1056 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.