The Deadliest Of Dances: Reviewing ‘Detective Comics’ #1064
by Scott Redmond
‘Detective Comics’ new story arc and creative team continue to bring new elements to the table while bringing out the best in those that have been part of the mythos for decades. Gotham is at its best when the city feels like a living breathing companion to the dark knight detective and allies rather than just a back drop for their adventures.
Over the decades, there have been so many takes on who and what Batman should be that one would tire out greatly before they even came close to counting them all. Many of those versions have been the modern take where Batman is fifty steps ahead of everything and everyone and even when he’s being beat around, he’s actually winning. On the other side is the version I’m more partial to: the smart detective who also just a human man trying his best to live up to the mission and do what is right.
That is the version we’re getting in Detective Comics right now, and it’s fantastic.
Even just a brief dalliance within the resume of Ram V would tell someone that even a Batman story from him is going to be something that is deep with mystery and character (and lore and story) rather than being just a full-on action piece or action being the major draw. Sure, there is action here, including a stunning fight that moves like a dance between Batman and Talia al Ghul, but it’s not the focal point.
Not only is this a great mystery being adequately stretched out with enough crumbs and reveals for us the readers to keep it going, but it’s a fantastic exploration of Bruce Wayne/Batman and what time does to us all. The worries about getting older, a doctor suggesting he seek therapy, and how he’s still a keen detective but isn’t fully ahead of everything are all great notions to explore with this heavily explored character.
I mean I was so engrossed in the overall story, especially the story Talia was telling Damian, and the human element as well as the gorgeous well-flowing artwork, that it didn’t even dawn on me to the end that the Orgham hadn’t even gotten to Gotham yet.
Slow-burn stories can get a bad rap, even from myself when it comes to some series, but when they are done right, they can be quite delightful. To me, that right way is in a format that keeps you fed and doesn’t let you realize that a plot has taken a ton of issues and hasn’t moved any closer to resolution yet. Once the audience realizes that a story is taking its time and not giving them much back or stringing a mystery out for far too long, it’s easy for their interest to begin to wane. I’m not worried about that happening with this series at any point.
What also sets the tone perfectly is the artwork from Rafael Albuquerque and Dave Stewart as they hit all the right notes for the desired story tone. Albuquerque has a knack for creating artwork that is both heavily detailed and full yet sparse at the same time. An example would be the opening scenes with Talia and Damian, as their surroundings are light and have little visual distinction but there is so much going on and so much to focus on at the same time, including their dynamic on the page. We get this sort of effect through the whole issue as the focus shifts to give us panels that are close-ups of items or faces to highlight something or allow emotion to enter the picture and keep things sparse in a very deliberately focused way.
In much the same way, this is sort of how one can describe the color work that Stewart brings to the page. There are plenty of really bright or vivid colors but they are also all toned down for a shadowed and grounded feeling. Some panels have full uses of color while others go sparse — especially in the background — to allow a certain item to be the center of attention even more. Unlike a slick or smooth superhero story, this is a gothic horror story taking place within the street-level world of a hero, giving it different needs to make its presence fully known.
I have to mention that there is a lot of great light work going on here, where the darkness or light sources are used perfectly to accurately convey what any situation would look like. Such as a darkened room being semi-flooded by the simple lights from the hallway outside, or a darkened theater with one spotlight providing light over an area in the background. Even the differences between dusk scenes and night scenes, all just feel accurate and have a great weight to them at the same time.
Ariana Maher was a perfect choice for this story as her lettering style fits so perfectly into the world of gothic horror because she’s able to morph it to fit anything without ever losing her trademark energy. The previous issues gave room to play with lettering in singing or operatic ways, and here it’s simpler but still effective when diving into the story Talia is telling or any other dialogue. Captions and dialogue bubbles that make the personality and the volume/tone of a character clear, while also spreading out the exposition in a way that never bogs down or distracts.
In the backup space the three-part tale from Simon Spurrier, Dani, Stewart, and Steve Wands comes to an end as James Gordon steps into the next portion of his Gotham journey. Spurrier writes a fantastic Gordon, the grizzled old former cop that just wants to help still and do good and gets in over his head in the process. There are a lot of human elements at play here following a character that is lost and doesn’t know his place in an ever-changing world but ends up finding a way to help and survive once more.
Dani’s artwork is just so creative and different, giving the right levels of rough and gritty to this street-level detective story. All the ways that the panels are set up to give us space for some of the caption/dialogue/narration to take up some of the white space is a great, unique choice, giving this story an even greater visual appeal. Under Dani’s watch, Gotham is the rough and tumble dark but also the hopeful place that it’s meant to be and, hopefully, this is not the last time we see them tackle stories in this world.
It’s interesting to see how Stewart can handle two different styles and types of heavy darkness across the two stories in the book, going even deeper for this backup story. Plenty of brightness but tons of dark shadows and fewer highlights that let the world sit perfectly within its own darkness while providing something more on the outside. The same goes for the work that Wands brings, making the caption boxes and narration pop out and offer so much more to the story, while also making sure that the dialogue flows around the page in the best ways possible.
Detective Comics #1064 is now available from DC Comics.