Falling Two Steps Behind: Reviewing ‘Detective Comics’ #1065
by Scott Redmond
Batman stories should come in many varieties, and they should stand out amongst the pack when it comes to this close to a century-old character, and that is exactly what ‘Detective Comics’ brings to the table each month. A fully unique energetic powerful and memorable story, pitting Batman against a variety of usual but also new and even supernatural forces in a tale that is still very much street-level or grounded. Coupled with a series of backup stories that are doing their own thing while adding to the tapestry of the main story in meaningful ways.
Finding ways to tell Batman-related stories that haven’t been done, or been done to death, becomes increasingly harder to do with DC Comics seemingly pumping out giant stacks of Batman-titled books every month. From the main books to alternate realities to corporate crossover tie-in books, there are so many flavors of Batman, often repeating, it can be over or underwhelming depending on the individual.
That’s what makes this current run of Detective Comics so interesting.
There are elements we’ve seen before such as the notion that Batman is getting older and this job is taking its toll, League of Assassins, supernatural threats to Gotham City, and foes that are many steps ahead of the Dark Knight who isn’t even aware of what the threat is yet. What makes the story unique is how they are mixed up and played out, attaching the operatic gothic flavor along the way.
No matter the characters or realm, something that Ram V always brings to a comic is depth and weight for the characters and the world. This is a Batman story of course, but Gotham and everyone within it is just as much a character. As they should be because those are when these stories are at their best. We remember Gotham not just because we’re bombarded with Batman-related media from every angle, but also because it’s a living breathing character in its own right. That city’s got personality.
I really like how the threads are being weaved together here, not all of them are quite at the same spot yet but barreling right at one another. We get clarification about how Talia and Ubu and the rest of the League members with them are not official League of Assassins anymore (following the Shadow War) event but are a splinter group following the ways of Ra’s, the old ways.
A big giant standing ovation here for the Gordon moment that Ram V adds in here. No, not the moment of him showing up to save Batman, which is a cool moment but isn’t the one that I loved so much. In fact, it’s the moment where he bandages Batman’s face in complete darkness as he notes that he has an idea of who is behind the cowl but he does not want to confirm it as reality at any point. Perfect! Gordon is a detective, a pretty damn good one, so of course, he knows who Batman is but the reality of who Batman is behind the mask is not important as what Batman stands for and means as a symbol.
Secret identities are cool and the whole thing where no one around them realizes who they actually are is fine at times, but that hit of someone knowing and not caring because it’s not important is what I want.
Creating a certain type of mood within a story takes the right artistic team to bring it to fruition, and for this series that is just what Rafael Albuquerque and Dave Stewart do. While the operatic and even gothic elements are lesser in this action-heavier issue, the tone and feel they have created haven’t changed one bit. Albuquerque is the type that can do more with less, creating panels with nothing but figures (maybe a few simplistic elements in the background) and making them powerful and taking all the focus as they move the story along. Yet, in other panels there is a far more heavy bit of detail given to really bring life to whatever space is needed for the story, making it feel weighty and actually lived in.
As noted there is more action here, and it all just flows as it shifts between wider and closer shots, making sure we see a variety of angles and keep or focus on the elements that matter at any given point. Batman’s movements can be both light and almost like a dance while in other moments they are hard and fast, all of it is depicted realistically and we can even see the pain and struggle etched upon his face the longer it goes on.
Instantly Stewart’s color choices elevate what is on the page, in these night scenes, which feel accurately night-like, the shadows and darkness with streaks of brighter/more vivid colors have great weight and depth to them. Part of what makes the night feel realistic is that the aforementioned weight/depth gives heaviness to that darkness, making it feel like it’s pressing in, which is how night can often feel especially in tense situations.
One element that really got me thinking is how all of the characters in these scenes here are wearing darker shades of color, for the most part, even the blues, and greens, where they do not stand out from the night in many cases. It’s a grounded sort of story, in that the darkness and type of light that is here don’t make things brighter. In fact, in some scenes Batman’s costume is the most ‘colorful’ thing in brightness which is intriguing, making the vigilante of the night the actual light keeping the darkness at bay.
Lettering helps set the mood of any story as well, and setting the mood is very much something you’ll get from Ariana Maher. Some of the work takes on a more ‘standard’ sort of appearance here with the gothic opera sort of feeling taking a backseat for the moment, but it loses non of the energy or power that we’ve seen. Per usual there is a great energy and feeling of personality within the words, with the right flares to make sure that volume/tone is always clear for us to hear as we read. There is still room to have some outside-the-box fun with the SFX, as well as the Barbatos bits of captioning that pop into play.
Looping back to Gordon, if there was any thought that the previous three issues’ Gordon-centric backups were just separate stories this issue put that to rest. What happened in there was integral to the overall story of this run, and the same goes for the new Two-Face/Harvey Dent-centered backups.
I love that the backups here are ways to flesh out characters or moments that are part of this storyline but might not factor into every part of the overall narrative. We get to see more of what is happening with Harvey, without slowing down the main story but also giving more space and spotlight to Harvey at this moment. It’s a win-win type of situation all around.
Those captions of Two-Face calling out Harvey, who is under the Orgham’s control, for playing a poor Two-Face impersonation were so good. Harvey/Two-Face is a character that can swing wildly depending on the creators involved or medium, but this man torn between various worlds and feelings are some of his most intriguing times. One thing that is never of any doubt is how well Simon Spurrier can capture a mood and a character voice, as we move from the noirish realm of the Gordon backups here to a more horror/mindscape sort of realm with Harvey/Two-Face. Both parts of Harvey have such distinct voices, and both are trapped in their own ways, and the way it’s handled and presented is very intriguing.
Holy crap, what Hayden Sherman brings to the page is trippy and gorgeous, and wild all at the same time. All the ‘real world’ pages are neat and have great off-beat energy to them, things being kept shadowed and out of focus as we are mostly seeing through Harvey’s perspective, the world fuzzier for him as he moves through it under control. Then come the mindscape pages, and they are just a whole other story. Buildings at odd angles, giant structures, things are wavy and uneven, and the mind-scape version of the scarred Two-Face is terrifying to behold.
Nick Filardi’s colors help create these moods by throwing in every wild color possible into the mindscape pages, making Two-Face a hellish sort of red, which stand in contrast to the darker and more shadow-heavy first pages of the real world and the crime stuff that Harvey is getting into. The same goes for Steve Wands who brings the power of lettering into play, where we see all sorts of font changes and deviations present in Two-Faces narration captions (which are the same hell red as his appearance and his speech bubbles). Alongside some great things like fading the font for whispers and super bolding exclamations and important notes.
Detective Comics #1065 is now available from DC Comics.