The Orghams Take Gotham: Reviewing ‘Detective Comics’ #1067
by Scott Redmond
‘Detective Comics’ gothic horror epic kicks into a new gear as the overall plots begin to collide and a deadly darkness exerts its will upon the already suffering Gotham City in ‘Detective Comics’ #1067. Finding avenues not traveled is tough to do with Batman and his heavily used rogues, but this creative team, both in the main and backup stories, has struck gold to create something powerful and unique. Truly a Batman and Gotham story for the ages, surely destined to be a classic.
One of the defining qualities of Batman the character is that at the end of the day he’s just a normal human. Sure, he’s got fighting training and a keen detective mind, but he’s just a normal flesh-and-blood human that can be beaten and worn down. That’s something that the current run on Detective Comics has perfectly highlighted, a man trying his best and taking his lumps against forces he isn’t even fully aware of quite yet.
Twice now, in back-to-back issues, Ram V has given us a Batman that is taken to the limit and plucked out of the jaws of defeat or death by someone that has been part of his path for many years. While previously it was forever friend and ally James Gordon, this time it is long-time adversary, sometimes something else, Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze. Much like what V is showing us here, I have always preferred the Batman that is struggling and trying his hardest rather than one that is seemingly God-like and a hundred steps ahead of everyone able to do things that rightfully should kill him.
This aspect has been there since the very first issue so many months ago, where Bruce is facing the fact that he is ageing and is likely to miss steps at times. Especially with foes that are not just the usual ones that he knows like the back of his hand. It’s part of the slow burn that has been pulled off so well here. In comics, the slow burn for plots can be tough because often some of the issues in the middle might have elements stretched out so that the story has more length and it can feel like the story doesn’t really move for numerous issues, even if it does. We do not get that at all here because every issue, even those with far more discussion than action, is moving forward rapidly, weaving these plots and characters together.
In fact, this issue is one of the biggest for crashing numerous characters and storylines together as it rockets the Orghams’ plans for Gotham forward. We see Batman at a low point with Freeze laying out how they are similar but also his own struggles, and Gotham is struck in a deadly way as the Orghams go super theatrical (love those masks!) as they begin their manipulation to create the Gotham they wanted to so long ago (check out the Annual issue to see what their old plan was).
Ivan Reis and Danny Miki do such wonders at bringing this act of the story to life, there is such a dark and heavy weight to the somewhat rougher work on display here. There is still a bit of smooth detailed energy to the art, but it has sharper edges befitting the sharpness of this story. So much of it comes from the amazing choices being made in the paneling, allowing the various moments more room to breathe or blend together depending on what they need each moment. Character close-ups give us so much emotional weight next to smaller zoomed-out images with less detail (because that focus isn’t what we need to look at) and characters or panels fully embracing white space to make everything just pop even more.
In fact, that white space tonally plays with the rest of the artwork in a spectacular way, the opposite of so many of the darker, both literally and thematically, elements on the page. We see the characters wrestle with the darkness, in the various forms it takes, with the white space around it speaking to something lighter and purer that is being lost more and more as the Orghams move closer to their dark vision for Gotham and Batman loses his way with each step.
Dave Stewart captures that darkness within the colors, which are dense with a great weight with the right amount of vivid pop to them. This is a gothic sort of story more so than a superhero one, but those more vibrant elements that are natural to superhero stories are found here. There are shadows slipping through all of the panels, making the night scenes as well as the scenes within spaces feel tight and almost confining in nature. All the theatrical elements, such as the Orgham masks or stuff with Freeze, have bright pops of colors as do all the deadly moments that the Orghams visit upon The Narrows. Keeping the other colors very toned down with darker qualities actually makes the more colorful elements stand out even more because it makes them feel even more out of place which is very much the point.
Lettering is a unique part of visuals within a comic book, allowing the letterer to get as creative as the rest of the art team in how they convey the tones and elements of a story. Ariana Maher is so good at doing that, not just making the dialogue and other lettering flow through the issue but giving unique vibrant life to it. Just look at the caption boxes for a great example. We have those of Batman that are white on black with a more serious tone to them, it is Batman, next to the more letter looking like ones that are Arzen Orgham’s written letter to his mother or the icy cool ones we see from Freeze or the starker ones from Shavhod. All of them have power and energy to them that fit the characters they belong to, standing apart visually.
Batman’s rogues are characters that we have generally seen in a variety of stories with so much of their backstories explored over the decades. Yet, with some of them, there is still very fertile ground to be explored. That’s what we’ve gotten from Simon Spurrier, Hayden Sherman, Nick Filardi, and Steve Wands with these Harvey Dent/Two-Face backup stories. The tense relationship between Harvey and Two-Face is even worse with the third entity in that mind, the Orghams Azmer demon, and reaches some interesting points here.
Spurrier has filled in much of the gaps that the main story purposefully has not gone into, giving us depth about what Harvey is going through and taking us deep into the scarred mind that he and Two-Face call home. Mental explorations are such a fun element of these types of stories, as it gives depth to characters or worlds in a unique way. Which allows the artists to do some really inspiring things. Sherman and Filardi do just that once more.
It would have been easy to just do some standard panels with various colors to show off the mind conversations, but they go all out. Elements are far more vibrant with color within the mindscape, with reds and purples, and blues just dominating the space. Sherman throws in panels that are circles and jagged shapes, burrowing flashbacks into actual brain-looking matter or trippy blue swirls that dance around. None of it takes away from the focus of Harvey and Two-Face’s conversation, instead enhancing them in ways that stick with us and give us so much.
Same with how Wands weaves the words through the various pages, from the always darkness feeling white on red boxes and bubbles from Two-Face to the more innocent-seeming regular bubbles of Harvey. Not just that but all the right changes are made to convey the tones of the words, shrinking or enlarging the font so that we know when they are being louder or quieter or emphasizing certain moments.
Overall, between this and the main story, we’re getting some of the best explorations of Harvey Dent/Two-Face that we’ve gotten over the years. There is no looking at the character the same way again, which is the whole point.
Detective Comics #1067 is now available from DC Comics.