We live in a world where old readers are constantly bombarded with new issue #1’s and new readers are promised “great jumping-on points”. Ultimately, the end result is that someone is usually left unhappy. However, readers both old and new will have lots to write home about as Major Spoilers reviews Detective Comics #934.
IT’S ALL IN THE BAT FAMILY
This story is about Batman and the returning Batwoman, Kate Kane, recruiting a team to combat a mysterious new threat in Gotham. It’s a song and dance we’ve seen many times before but this time, the threat seems to have taken a fancy to the Caped Crusader’s likeness. We are introduced to the individual team members as the story progresses and the final ensemble includes the likes of Tim Drake, aka Red Robin, Stephanie Brown, aka Spoiler, and Cassandra Cain, aka Orphan. Perhaps the most surprising inclusion, though, is Basil Karlo, more commonly known as Clayface, but more on him later. Male and female, straight and gay, skin and clay – if nothing else, this team is certainly diverse. James Tynion IV does a superb job at blending nostalgic elements from previous Batman lore with new elements that set the stage for what’s to come. Batman’s monologue in the context of the story provides insight as to why he has chosen each of the recruits while simultaneously introducing them to those who might not be familiar, which makes this story incredibly accessible to new readers while also appealing to long-time Bat-fans.
There are some great moments between Batman and Batwoman throughout the story, including Bruce Wayne finally letting his guard down enough to reveal his true identity to his cousin, Kate Kane, who unsurprisingly had already come to this conclusion. This is one of several instances in the issue that help to establish Batwoman as Batman’s equal, rather than a subordinate under his wing (no pun intended), which is great to see. Kate Kane’s military background makes her the perfect fit for the role of drill sergeant and the stoic Dark Knight acknowledges the dichotomy between them by coming to her for help.
When I first learned that Clayface was going to play the role of reformed villain in this series, I was a bit skeptical and I still have some concerns. From a story point perspective, it makes perfect sense to add him into the mix. Having a former baddie on the team is sure to add an interesting dynamic to the team’s overall functionality. My issue is that I don’t really understand Batman’s motivation for turning to him in the first place. As far as Clayface’s motivations, those were made abundantly clear as Tynion plucked at my heartstrings with the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ style scene in the movie theater. The depiction of Clayface as the reluctant monster created as the result of an accident, wanting nothing more than to see one last glimpse of his former self, was beautifully executed, despite being a little out of left field. The issue ends with a final tease of the big bad, although the true identity of the mastermind behind the army of “Batmen” is still a mystery.
GRITTY MEETS GORGEOUS
The art… where do I begin with the art? Eddy Barrows is an artist that any DC Comics fan should be more than familiar with, given his tenure on titles such as Teen Titans, Action Comics and Justice League of America. His work in this issue is absolutely stunning and his scrutinizingly sharp attention to the most minute details is nothing short of astonishing. Just look at the panel where Orphan sends a thug crashing into a wall and tell me this guy isn’t meticulous. Barrows’ depiction of Gotham, a city no one in their right mind should want to live in, is gorgeous, while still maintaining the dark and brooding grittiness we all know and love. Much of that is thanks to inker, Eber Ferreira. One thing I haven’t seen in a Batman book in a while is colors that truly pop off the page. The color artist, Adriano Lucas, uses a warm palette of reds, purples, blues, yellows and greens to contrast with the dark and wintery Gotham laid out by Barrows and Ferreira. The three of them come together like a holy trinity to construct the theater scene, which, partnered with Tynion’s writing, makes for one of the most emotional moments in the book, both from a visual and verbal perspective.
BOTTOM LINE: THE BAT-BOOK TO BEAT
The bar for future creative teams working on Detective Comics has been set high above the tallest towers of Gotham City. Tynion has crafted a phenomenal first issue and partnered with the exquisite artwork, this is by far the best Bat-book to follow the epic run by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. I give this a 5 out of 5 for writing, art and colors, and highly recommend picking up this issue.