The World’s Greatest Detective isn’t one to play second fiddle to anyone else, but he’ll have to rely on the help of his team to get out of the jam he’s in as your Major Spoilers review of Detective Comics #937 begins!
Previously in Detective Comics: Batman’s uncle, Batwoman’s father, Colonel Jacob Kane has betrayed his family and revealed himself to be the leader of the mysterious Colony. Now, with Batman in custody and the rest of the team having narrowly escaped, there’s no place to go from here but up… right?
BY THE SKIN OF HIS TEETH
This issue of Detective Comics begins with a couple of Colony soldiers taking inventory of the items found within the recently captured Caped Crusader’s iconic utility belt. James Tynion IV flexes his muscles in terms of Batman history with the inclusion of Easter eggs such as the rebreather, which we’ll see in the upcoming ‘Suicide Squad’ movie. There is also an array of Joker anti-toxins, a small shard of Kryptonite (for insurance purposes), and of course a plethora of Batarangs. What I love the most about this is that we learn all of this Bat-swag only accounts for 30% of the contents of the utility belt, a true testament to Bruce Wayne’s lower body strength considering it never seems to slow him down. Another moment I really appreciated was Tynion’s outstanding demonstration of how Batman is a character who truly has a contingency plan for every possible scenario. At some point in his caped career (SPOILER ALERT), Bruce Wayne felt it might be beneficial to have a smoke bomb implanted in one of his teeth (because why not?). Whether or not the tooth was knocked loose when Batman was captured in the last issue or if he actually dislodged it with just the strength of his tongue is best left to the reader’s imagination but regardless, having him spit out a Detonating Dental Device (Copyright Major Spoilers) and make his escape is perhaps the greatest Batman moment I’ve witnessed in years.
Tynion still managed to deliver with the rest of the issue, even after his curtain-jerking opening sequence. We learn that Batwoman, Red Robin, Spoiler, Orphan and Clayface, who escaped The Colony in the last issue, made their way to an underground subway tunnel that Red Robin commissioned as an escape route. Any time a writer adds a new layer to the expansive history of Gotham, I always meet it with open arms. It’s one of the things I loved the most from Scott Snyder’s run on Batman so I enjoyed Tynion using Red Robin’s dialogue to provide a brief backstory on the tunnels. This was also a great moment of character development for Tim Drake that shifted some of the focus away from his tech knowledge and allowed other parallels between him and his former mentor to shine through. He also further establishes the fact that he’s no low man on the totem. His interaction with Batwoman where he refuses to take no for an answer helps strengthen the overall team dynamic as he reminds Kate that despite her familial ties on both sides of the battle, they are all in this together.
The Colony’s motivations are also revealed as the issue progresses, beginning with a fun exchange between Batman and The Colony’s star-struck computer hacker, Ulysses Hadrian Armstrong. His fanboy reaction to meeting Batman, including an attempted selfie with the Dark Knight, adds a subtle dose of light-heartedness to the story and is a welcomed change of pace before we get back to business. As far as Tynion’s explanation for the existence of The Colony, I think it makes perfect sense. In a nice callback to Zero Year, we are reminded that Batman, on his own, did what the U.S. military couldn’t by taking down The Riddler (though I’ll argue that Lucius Fox and Jim Gordon provided some assistance). It seems natural, then, that the military would be chomping at the bit at the mere thought of an entire army of men that were just as capable as the Caped Crusader. The idea of the U.S. Government and/or military as the bad guy is a cliché that we’ve seen in just about all forms of media at one point or another but just because it’s a trope doesn’t mean it’s bad. I really like Tynion’s take on this classic premise and after the reveal, the final pages give us a clear direction of where the relationship between Batwoman and her father is heading and there’s the promise of a big battle in the next issue.
I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE COLONY
We’re treated to some truly gorgeous art in this issue thanks to the pencils of Alvaro Martinez, with inks by Raul Fernandez and colors by Brad Anderson. Martinez displays an impeccable level of precision with his line work. His tight, intricate cross-hatching is executed to absolute perfection and a lot of love was put into details both large and small in the double-page spread showcasing The Colony’s base of operations. The level of scrutiny in everything from the stars and stripes of the American flag to the rigid rock formations is nothing short of impressive. Some less discernible details also caught my eye, such as Batman’s stubble. In recent years, it’s not uncommon for Batman to be depicted with a slight five o’clock shadow but considering he has been held captive for presumably one to two days, I appreciated that Martinez dialed up the scruffiness just a bit. I loved the pin-up featuring the iconic Batman pose from “The Dark Knight Returns” at Ulysses’ desk and much like the Easter eggs in the beginning of the issue, I’m sure this was called for in Tynion’s script. Nevertheless, I credit Martinez for scaling it down yet still managing to make it pop off the page.
Speaking of popping off the page, Anderson’s colors add a whole new layer of dimension to the framework Martinez lays out. The deep shadows add a level of contrast that helps set the mood when the team is working their way through the tunnel and when Batman comes face to face with his uncle. Martinez’s clean lines are transcended by the depth introduced through Fernandez’s inks that are heavy-handed in just the right places. If you want to see the best example of the pencils, inks and colors working in perfect harmony, the final page is a stunning display of each element shining at its absolute brightest.
BOTTOM LINE: THERE IS NO ESCAPE
James Tynion IV has taken Detective Comics and transformed it from a secondary Bat-book to an absolute can’t-miss title. This has been a consistently great read and with all the momentum it’s gathered so far, I don’t see things slowing down anytime soon.