Comic Review – Detective Comics #983

Detective Comics #983 Cover

Back in The Dark Age of Comics (roughly 1986 to 2000, by most historians’ reckoning), there was a rather odd divide in the DC Comics Universe. If you read only the comics starring Batman, he was portrayed as a lone Dark Knight and was considered an urban legend by most of the people of Gotham City. Read any other DC Comics’ book, however, and Batman was operating openly as part of The Justice League.

This gave way to an argument, which rages to this day, about what vision of Batman is the “proper” one – the lone vigilante who strikes terror into the hearts of criminals or the patriarch of a like-minded “Batman Family” made up of other masked heroes.

This argument lies at the heart of both subplots in Detective Comics #983 – the first issue by new series’ writer Bryan Hill. Half of the issue’s action concerns itself with Batman seeking out Jefferson Pierce (a.k.a. Black Lightning), whom Bruce wants to recruit as the first member of an elite team he is building who can operate “outside” of The Justice League. The other story concerns a new villain, who is targeting Batman’s sidekicks, due to his belief that Batman has become less powerful as he has come to trust more people with aiding him in his mission.

The story with Black Lightning is fairly standard superheroics. One oddity is that the script identifies Black Lighting as operating out of Metropolis, when his most recent reboot for DC Comics Rebirth depicted him as the defender of Cleveland, Ohio. Despite this glitch, Hill has a solid take on the character and writes Jefferson Pierce true to form.

The subplot involving the new villain is more interesting, if only for the metatextual parallels he suggests. The arguments delivered by this unnamed baddie mirror those of Bat-fans who argue that Batman should be a loner and an urban myth and that the DC Rebirth initiative made a mistake by bringing back characters such as the Cassandra Cain Batgirl, The Spoiler, the Helena Bertinelli version of The Huntress and Batwoman or by introducing new characters such as Gotham Girl and The Signal. Indeed, The Signal – a metahuman with light-based precognitive powers whom Batman recruited specifically to protect Gotham City during the day – is the first target of the new villain, along with a young Bat-Fan who became YouTube-famous for talking about how he thinks Batman is inspiring rather than scary.

Gate-keeping fanboy metaphors aside, it’s a brilliant conceit and one that is remarked upon ironically in the artwork, as Batman listens to the villain’s rantings while chasing another criminal down a busy street in full view of dozens of witnesses, all of whom snap pictures with their phones.  This is but one example of the fine detailing that Miguel Mendonca works into the art. His pencils find a perfect partnership with Dianna Egea’s inks and the colors of Adriano Lucas.

It will be interesting to see how this story develops in the coming issues. For now, it is enough to say that if you’re a fan of Batman looking for a good entry point into the comics or a fan of Black Lightning from the new TV series, this is a book you’ll definitely want on your subscription list.


Detective Comics #983 releases on June 27, 2018!

Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Detective Comics #976

Detective Comics 976 Cover

Tim Drake (a.k.a. Red Robin) had a plan.

Years earlier, he had taken up the mantle of Batman’s sidekick, realizing that Batman functioned best when he had a partner. Tim also realized that Bruce Wayne – much as he might deny it – was mortal and would not be able to be Batman forever. Tim devised a plan – to take all of the many vigilantes operating in Gotham City, and unite them officially as one group, training together and working to watch one another’s backs. This would establish a chain of heroes who could continue Batman’s legacy, generation after generation.

Dubbing this group The Gotham Knights, Tim pitched the idea to Batman, who approved it. He then placed the assembled team – consisting of Red Robin, Stephanie Brown (a.k.a. The Spoiler), Cassandra Cain (a.k.a. The Orphan) and a reformed Basil Karlo (a.k.a. Clayface) – under the control of Kate Kane (a.k.a. Batwoman).

Now, Clayface is dead by Batwoman’s hand and she has left The Gotham Knights to join with The Colony – a militaristic vigilante group established by her father, who aim to protect Gotham City with lethal force. Stephanie Brown has hung up her cowl and broken off her relationship with Tim. And Cassandra – who was never all that stable to begin with – is in an even worse state following the death of Clayface, who was her closest friend.

Tim thinks he knows how he can fix The Gotham Knights but Batman is refusing to give him that chance, retreating into himself as he always does when he loses someone close to him. And as Tim Drake is approached about a new partnership by a most unlikely ally, The Colony moves to recruit more of Batman’s disillusioned trainees.

Detective Comics seems to be the least appreciated of DC Comics’ many Batman comics at present. It lacks the flash of Tom King’s Batman, which has redefined the Batman and Catwoman relationship and has now inspired a wedding between the two. It lacks the weight of Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s Dark Nights: Metal, which has built upon seven years of Batman comics by one of the longest partnerships in American comics. This is unfortunate, because James Tynion IV has done the impossible with little fanfare, restoring many beloved Gotham City vigilantes who were long neglected during The New 52 era to new prominence and introducing them to a new generation of readers.

Sadly, Detective Comics #976 – the first chapter of the Batman Eternal arc – is not the best issue of this series to start with. While all of the new arc openings on this series to date have been good entry points for new readers, the mythology James Tynion IV has established has finally become too involved to be easily summarized and absorbed. While a new reader could pick up this issue, it would lack the punch that is felt by those who are, much like Cassandra, still coping with the loss of Clayface. There’s also a distinct lack of explanation regarding who certain characters are and why they are significant to the story.

A larger problem is the artwork by guest artist Javier Fernandez, which is incredibly inconsistent. Fernandez’ style is largely sketchy and thinly outlined, save for the occasional panel that is drowned in black ink with shading that almost seems to be randomly applied. This leaves the book with an odd look that is further distinguished by the muted colors chosen by John Kalisz. Those who have been reading Detective Comics since the start of DC Rebirth won’t have much trouble muddling through the artwork for the sake of the story, but new readers would do better to start with Vol. 1: Rise Of The Batmen and work their way up to this issue.


Detective Comics #976 releases March 14, 2018.

Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.


Comic Review – Detective Comics #965

Detective Comics #965 CoverTim Drake was something of an anomaly among the many people who came to work alongside The Batman in protecting Gotham City. Unlike Dick Grayson and Duke Thomas, he was not chosen as a protege because of a tragedy. Unlike Barbara Gordon and Stephanie Brown, he did not choose to don a costume because of some desperate desire to help while rebelling against a parent. He had not been trained from birth to be a living weapon like Jean-Paul Valley or Cassandra Cain. In the end, Tim became a superhero because he realized the truth that no one else had – that Batman needs a Robin to keep from giving into the darkness completely – and in the absence of any other candidates, Tim had to become Red Robin to save his city and The Batman’s soul.

Had it not been for that fact, Tim would never have chosen the vigilante’s life. Indeed, he planned to leave it, thinking he could do more to help the world by going to college. Yet when a madman’s plan to kill millions of people almost came to pass, Tim Drake chose to make the ultimate sacrifice without complaint. Unable to shut down the killer’s lethal drones, Tim hacked them and sent them after a single target – himself!

That should have been the end of Tim Drake. Everyone, even Batman, thought it was. The truth was far more shocking. Tim had been pulled from reality just seconds before his certain death, imprisoned by Mr. Oz – a mysterious figure with an interest in Superman, who had been interfering with the lives of The Man of Steel and everyone around him. Mr. Oz explained that Tim was far too close to connecting threads that must remain severed and had to be taken off the board.

Who is Mr. Oz? What secret was Tim Drake about to uncover that Mr. Oz had to act to cover up? Why did Mr. Oz bother to save Tim Drake at all, when Tim’s death should have ensured his silence? All these questions and more will be addressed, as the tale is told of a boy who solved the mystery that defied Gotham City’s greatest criminal minds and became the hero his city deserved in the bargain.

Detective Comics #965 Page 1 Detective Comics #965 Page 2-3 Detective Comics #965 Page 4-5

(Click To View The Full Image In Another Window.)

When DC Comics rebooted their universe in 2011, creating what became known as The New 52 Reality, there were several oddities as various creators began to pick and choose which parts of the old universe would remain as a new five-year timeline was created. One of the bigger incongruities was the fact that Batman had acquired four Robins in this five-year span. It was unclear, given the origin stories unique to each Robin, how this was possible. As a result, the story of just how Tim Drake had become Robin in the new reality was completely ignored… until now.

James Tynion IV’s script for Detective Comics #965 draws deeply on the original Tim Drake origin story by Chuck Dixon, updating the details sparingly while keeping the focus firmly on Tim’s character and unique personality. Those unfamiliar with Tim’s backstory can relax, however, as this story is as friendly to new readers as it is conscientious in acknowledging what came before. The details of the events leading to Tim’s “death” are also explained with a minimum of exposition, so those who haven’t been reading Detective Comics can easily jump into the action with this issue. Like, say, those Action Comics readers anxious to learn the identity of Mr. Oz?

Regarding that mystery; the reveal is well-handled and a bit of a stunner that truly will change things in the Superman books. The revelation is largely meaningless within the context of the on-going story of Detective Comics, however, but does hint at big things to come regarding the DC Rebirth story-line as a whole.

Detective Comics has some of the best artists in the business working on it and the team of Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira and Adriano Lucas continue to impress with every passing issue. Barrows’ pencil-work is crisp and clean. Ferreira goes beyond merely outlining Barrow’s pencils, crafting stunning shadows around the original art without drowning the page in ink. Lucas’ colors showing amazing variety, using different tints to subtly note the switch between flashbacks and the present.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.