Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Eddie Barrows
Here’s that “other” non-“Rebirth” book that’s “reborn” this week under its old numbering. Showing its age at issue #934 (and also incorporating the 52 issues that came before it), Detective Comics stands poised to once again be DC’s “other” Batman book. In theory, this should be Batman’s premiere book, since it’s the title he premiered in back in 1939. Then again, when the name “Batman” is on that other book, how do you make it stand out, particularly when that book gets all the good press? (Seriously, name me one supremely standout story from the New 52 Detective run.)
The answer is by making Detective the Batman ensemble book. As the Batman family appears to have temporarily condensed in the “Rebirth” era, all those Batmen and Robins and other supporting characters have to go somewhere, and DC doesn’t seem to have any more weekly Eternal series on the horizon right now. So for the time being, veteran Bat-writer James Tynion IV has crafter a plot that brings together Batman, Red Robin, Batwoman, Spoiler, Azrael, Orphan (Cassandra Cain), and the semi-reformed Clayface. It seems there’s a mystery of a second Batman who nearly killed Azrael, and an army of drones spying on Gotham’s vigilantes. Batman recruits Batwoman—specifically for her military leadership—to train these crimefighters for whatever’s coming.
This is a good start to Tynion’s latest solo outing, and I say that as someone who’s found his previous Bat-work a little dry. At this point, he’s got a good feel for the characters: Azrael is a hardcase, Clayface is actually sympathetic, and there’s a surprise moment between Batman and Batwoman that makes the latter come off equally tough and yet loveable. Not a lot happens in this issue (though there’s plenty of action sequences), but Tynion is at least putting the chess pieces into place such that the ride ahead could be fun. The one potential worry is that the final page suggests we may be in for a plot element similar to “Court of Owls” or the first part of “Zero Year,” so let’s hope that this story finds a way to distinguish itself.
The art is great here. Eddie Barrows’ art (along with Eber Ferreira on inks and Andriano Lucas) is the right mix of detailed and moody to convey a proper mass-market Batman story. There’s some great shots of Robin and Spoiler fighting in a warehouse, Clayface moodily sitting by himself in a movie theater, and close-ups of Batwoman’s sly grin which, as a whole, really capture a classic Gotham feel for this story. The art team conveys a wonderful contrast of dark and light, with the bleak, snowy darkness of the city juxtaposed against the bright colors of the heroes’ costumes. Let’s hope this art team sticks through at least the first arc, because it’s good.
If this quality of story keeps up, then hopefully readers will keep up with the reborn Detective in addition to Tom King’s main Batman book. Batman will almost certainly be the focal point for the big Bat-stories, but Detective just may be the title to read for some good, clean Bat-fun.
Rating: Four and a half stars out of five.