When a grassroots movement of anti-vigilantes sprouts up in Gotham City, Batman and the rest of the Bat-Family find themselves at odds with the very citizens they seek to protect. Complicating matters, the disappearance of Batman’s Black Casebook alludes to the covert return of Damien Wayne. With more questions than answers, and his son lurking in every shadow, will Batman be able to uncover Damien’s plans for the Black Casebook before the entire city turns against him?
SPOILERS AHEAD for Detective Comics #1030!
“This is what happens when you put yourself in the middle of vigilantes and villains.”
Powerfully written and beautifully illustrated, Detective Comics #1030 is a perfect union of Tomasi, Evely, Lopes, and Leigh’s work. Every creator’s effort within this issue is strengthened by the rest of the team. As a result, it is impossible to discuss one member of the creative team without mentioning the others.
Detective Comics #1030 features one of the most compelling opening sequences that I have read in a book all year. Tomasi’s choice to open the book with Detective Nakano’s nightmare is entirely enthralling and gives the reader insight into the character’s motivations. With the building burning down around him, and his partner, Bart, engulfed in flames, we discover that Chris Nakano is suffering from a severe case survivor’s guilt in the aftermath of The Joker War.
Bart calls out to Nakano, “It’s your skin that should be cooking in these flames. Your flesh dripping off the bone.” Despite Chris’ protests, Bart’s voice is unrelenting. “You let me go through first. You wanted to be the hero. You wanted to save me.” In these pages, the deceased Bart serves as a Nakano’s guilty conscience. As a result, it is quite clear that Nakano blames himself for his partner’s death and feels that he should have taken Bart’s place.
Moreover, Batman’s arrival in this sequence does an excellent job conveying Chris’s perception of the hero. In his nightmare, Batman emerges like a specter from the flames not to save the two officers but to take Nakano’s eye. In this moment, Batman lectures the detective: “This is what happens when you put yourself in the middle of vigilantes and villains…I’d say Gotham will remember you and your partner’s sacrifice, but then I’d be lying, wouldn’t I?” This dialogue reveals Nakano’s belief that Batman, and by extension, all vigilantes, feels superior to law enforcement.
Tomasi’s work with characterization is one of the greatest strengths of Detective Comics #1030. Although Chris Nakano is taking on an antagonistic role to the entire Bat Family, this nightmare sequence does an excellent job making the detective relatable. As a result of this character work, the reader can understand his perspective and why he was dismissive of Nightwing’s assistance in the previous issue.
Additionally, Tomasi’s words are powerful at the conclusion of this sequence as Nakano discusses his nightmare and the grassroots anti-vigilante movement with his wife. He says, “The seeds of this movement have already taken root, and my voice needs to be louder and clearer to help push it past the fringe… so each and every soul in this city comes to understand that vigilantes are dangerous, and without transparency this city will burn.” This is the perfect punctuation to this moment as Nakano’s words call back to his nightmare and the fear that everyone will burn.
No moment in this opening sequence would be as perfect without Bilquis Evely’s artwork, Mat Lopes’ colors, and Rob Leigh’s letters. Each panel of Evely’s art is gorgeous and perfectly matches the tone of each sequence. However, the nightmare sequence is my favorite from Detective Comics #1030.
The page with Batman emerging from the flames holding Nakano’s eye is hauntingly beautiful. Without a doubt, it is one of my favorite pages from a book this year. Lopes’s choice to bathe every panel in this sequence in black and orange hues is perfection. These colors give this sequence the nightmare feeling that left me poring over each panel multiple times. Additionally, Rob Leigh’s lettering in this sequence is perfection as they convey the haunting effect that Bart and Batman have on Nakano.
“We have to get ahead of this. Defuse this growing grassroots group by convincing them we’re not the bad people simply because we wear masks.”
From here, Tomasi and the rest of the creative team give us more character building as Batman reminisces about his fight with Damien on the way to meet with the rest of the family. In these pages, Tomasi gives us the reflection of a father who realizes that his expectations need to be tempered from time to time. It is a moment that strikes an emotional chord with me as it is a lesson that I remind myself about my two sons on a near-daily basis.
The real superstar of this entire narrative thread is the art team. In these flashbacks, Evely constructs some of the cleverest panels that perfectly illustrate Batman’s narration. One of my favorites has to be the one with Batman saying, “Nothing new in a thirteen-year-old boy pushing his father away with one hand… and reaching out to keep the relationship alive with the other.” In this panel, Damien is punching Batman with his closed right fist while his left hand remains open, almost reaching out to his father. These subtle details make Evely’s artwork so perfect through Detective Comics #1030.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Mat Lopes’ coloring throughout this sequence as well. As Batman travels across the city to meet with the Bat-Family, each panel is colored in dark tones. This is juxtaposed against the brighter tones of Batman’s memory. Here the colors are more vivid, illustrating that Batman’s memory of their fight is as clear as day. His memory is not dark and muddied like the night.
Tomasi wisely uses this flashback sequence as a through-line to connect the disparate narrative beats within the story. After Batman’s meeting with the rest of the Bat-Family is ambushed by the Mirror and the rest of his grassroots movement, we quickly transition to Damien’s investigation into the Black Casebook. Here we see Damien investigating a series of attacks on a thirteen-year-old Bruce Wayne. Without the narrative through-line, this quick transition might have been too jarring.
It is difficult to see how these disparate plot points will connect at this time. However, making these connections is the most fun part of any mystery. As a result, I am excited to see if and how all of these plot points will connect in upcoming issues.
Powerfully written and beautifully illustrated, Detective Comics #1030 is a perfect union of Tomasi, Evely, Lopes, and Leigh’s work. Tomasi’s work developing each character is a strength of this issue, as he allows us to understand each perspective. Additionally, Evely’s artwork and Lopes’s colors are a massive selling point for this issue as they expertly render each sequence with subtle details. The entire creative team’s opening sequence is some of the best work that I have seen in a book this year.
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