Two Sides Of The Same Coin: Reviewing ‘Detective Comics’ #1068

by Scott Redmond


‘Detective Comics’ #1068 continues its stellar new creative direction that has broken the character and his world down to their basest levels in order to truly explore them, taking us on a beautiful haunting ride in the process. There isn’t one bit of this run that has missed so far, with everyone involved hitting home runs out of the park in order to bring us something that is destined to be one of the all-time great series runs.


Currently, the new creative direction of Detective Comics appears to be quite the success, with social media very much abuzz, and no plan in sight to cut the run short or dimmish it. A gothic opera style that has narrowed its focus tightly on Batman and Gotham and a handful of characters, digging deep into some of them like has never been done before. Batman has been utterly defeated, run ragged, and beaten down to the ground numerous times (once in this very issue) but keeps on going while borrowing an “I can do this all day” style attitude from a star-spangled competitor.

It would have been easy to call that good and coast on that sort of feeling, this Gothic opera style, but this creative team is always looking to keep taking it up another notch. Just when you think there aren’t any more notches, oh there are so many more hidden in the shadows waiting to be upped.

I’ve said this before but what Ram V and Simon Spurrier in the backups have done with Two-Face/Harvey Dent is some of the best writing the character has had in quite some time. It’s a war of duality within this one being, two souls in one body, depicted as a very conflicted and serious character rather than as a gimmick. Harvey is the one struggling to keep control and is indecisive about the path, while Two-Face knows what they want and how to go about it and just needs the control that Harvey keeps such a tight hold upon.

Taking that to the level of giving us a whole issue that is essentially split between the two sides of the proverbial coin, delving into both their minds and their desires, which is reflected within the duality found in the artwork is just genius. This is why this run is so stellar and has been resonating since it began because it takes what we would expect to get from a Batman story at this point and gives us that stripped to its very core and repackaged into something that is also new with so much to say. There are so many moving pieces between the Orghams, the League of Assassins, Batman himself, James Gordon and the unnamed boy, Harvey Dent/Two Face, Mister Freeze, Gotham as a whole, and now we’re throwing in stuff from other series (the very recent Arkham City: Order of the World miniseries).

Even with all that though, it never feels like too much or that anything is tacked on. Ram V is one of the best writers around because not only can he tell great stories, but they are also stories that within the span of a few pages or issues build up entire worlds with moving parts that dance around one another as directed and part ways easily as needed. Nothing is thrown in for the sake of it, everything has a perfectly choreographed reason for being and will play its part when the time comes. In order for that to work though, one has to have a fantastic grasp on characters and how to develop them along the way which is also something he excels at. I’m not one to claim that something is iconic or will be a classic or heavily remembered run so early on, but it seems quite certain that this run will go down as one of the all-time bests.

Employing numerous artists is something that happens quite often in modern comics, sometimes with them switching off arcs or issues but other times it has multiple artists trying to complete one issue. Sometimes those styles gel and it flows beautifully, other times they can be jarring (through no fault of the artists) but still works at the end of the day. With the focus of this issue though the choice to have two artists is not only perfect it’s very much needed. Luckily the series has been using two fantastic artists this whole time who are able to bring their styles together beautifully.

In a previous review, I mentioned that Ivan Reis had made some slight changes to his art style for this series that brought it closer in line with what Rafael Albuquerque had been doing in the first arc of the run. Within this issue, it’s even closer as the two styles very much intermingle and flow together and present this story in a harmonious way that doesn’t push against one another in any way. While there are two artists there is only one inker in the form of Danny Miki, and this speaks to the power of good inking because it helps enhance the work already done by the artists and in this case gives them something in common to bridge them even easier. One can feel the shifts in the art, and you are likely very much meant to with the subject matter, but the work that Miki does across the work makes it feel smooth and earned rather than a jarring change.

Both artists are very detail oriented bringing a lot of depth to the moment, but not afraid to shy away from that detail when the panel/page would benefit more from a centered focus on a moment or individual. They also share a roughness that mixes with a sort of smooth feeling at the same time, allowing us to feel along with the characters as we see their emotions but also feel the darkness and rougher nature of Gotham on every page. There are so many stunning pages that come together, with smart paneling choices that help to focus the action and other moments in ways that keep us engaged and moving along the page as we alongside Batman are pulled ever deeper.

There is also only one colorist which is Dave Stewart, who has also been doing stellar work throughout this series. As I noted this is a rougher and darker story, and the colors help reflect that as well. As Stewart brings the darkness and shadows out to play at every chance, bringing that darkness ever encroaching on the proceedings, while allowing for some pops of vivid color to emerge to break things up. Many of those brighter colors swirl around Batman and the more supernatural/unusual elements at play, sometimes taking over as a background (especially flashes of orange mirroring the fires raging) helping to highlight everything.

Ariana Maher is a lettering wizard and has a lot of elements in play within this issue, able to bring powerful voices to the page in such easy-to-follow ways. The choices made for this run to have Two-Face and Harvey’s caption boxes and dialogue bubbles be different from one another is paramount to helping with this. It allows us to imagine their voices as similar yet different and plays up their duality even more. All the other lettering does similar in how it flows and changes for characters, and dances around, allowing the caption and dialogue bubbles to spread around the page in just the right ways.

All of them together created something so special, I mean just look at the pages with the two faces of Batman and Two-Face/Harvey. Chef kiss for those two pages alone, and everything else is just so darn good too.

It’s not just the main story that is killing it with this series, there are the amazing backup stories as well. Getting two stories in one is always a cool thing, and often the two stories are not fully connected together, or they share a setting or concept but aren’t implicitly connected. That’s not the case here because every one of the backup stories so far is very much connected to the main story, and in fact are often helping fill in some of the spaces or gaps that the main story purposefully leaves.

In this case, we get a return to the dynamic of James Gordon and the boy, as Simon Spurrier, Dani, Lee Loughridge, and Steve Wands dive into a moment between the recent issues. Not only that but we get a focus on the ever-present tune that was introduced in the first issues, as the boy follows it and eventually learns a bit about himself and maybe where he came from.

Spurrier really creates such a dynamic between the characters that speak to so much about what Gordon has been through, without having to implicitly state it. There is part of Gordon still reeling from the loss of his son, no matter how damaged James Jr. was, that leads him to be more protective of this boy even from Batman (love the point of Gordon warning Batman away from a child because he can’t let another one fall into ‘that life’). Everything about this piece of the story just flows and bombards us with tons of information but in a way that is easy to follow and absorb as we begin to piece things together alongside the characters.

Dani’s artwork is just a sight to behold. It’s so grimy and pulpy with some noir-like roughness that makes the characters and their tough world just pop. I still very much am in love with the use of white space here, and how it’s used to allow narration from the story to be put to use, in this case, the varied thoughts of people in Gotham. It frames the panels and keeps things clean and neat in between the rougher qualities. This is just also what the colors from Loughridge are like, very rough and toned down to match the tone of the artwork. Certain colors have a bit more power to them than others, but they swirl and blend and play within the shadows so well.

There is a whole lot for Wands to play with letter-wise here because those aforementioned narration bits in the white space, as well as some of the dialogue on the page, are all so different in style and font. It’s a whole platter full of differing offerings, that speaks to the idea of how everyone’s thoughts are different. Rather than just letting the words tell us that, the visual representation makes the point firmer and gives it some creative juice that is amazing.

Detective Comics #1068 is now available from DC Comics.

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