Since the events of Joker War, Bruce Wayne has lost his fortune, his company, even his sprawling, hillside mansion. Displaced from his perch outside Gotham, Bruce now has as clear a window as ever into the city’s power brokers and their wealthy backers. How he navigates this new world—and his new neighbors—is one of the many delights of writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Dan Mora’s first issue of Detective Comics.
This creative team—anchored by colorist extraordinaire Jordie Bellaire and letterer Aditya Bidikar—is not new to Gotham. They just wrapped up work on the four-issue Dark Detective series, set during DC’s Future State event, that found Bruce struggling to evade the neo-fascist Magistrate.
Mora and Bellaire’s collaboration was the highlight there, as pages of neon-soaked cityscapes gave Gotham a distinctly cyberpunk vibe. Back in the present of Detective Comics, that pair is still crushing it—sometimes literally. There are a lot of scenes where people crash through ceilings in this issue, and Bellaire’s creative use of light makes sure no detail looks exactly the same. Each action scene benefits from Bidikar’s one-of-a-kind sound effects, though my favorite stylistic tick of his is when he uses different colors for especially serious dialogue. After a wealthy Gothamite finds his wife murdered, his mournful “NO!” is lettered bright red, adding a fine touch on the grief of that moment.
Dark Detective was a story that began slowly and picked up steam as Tamaki assembled her various plot threads ahead of a final confrontation between Batman and the Magistrate. This issue moves at a brisker pace, beginning with a heist and ending with a murder. Along the way, Tamaki drops heavy-handed hints of a villain in the Gotham mayor’s employ and quickly situates Bruce among the city’s elite, or as Bruce dubs them, “the moneyed families of Gotham.”
With public sentiment quickly turning against vigilantes, Bruce oscillates between the swanky Gotham parties he is obligated to attend and the subterranean tunnels where he’s set up a series of “microwaves,” ill-fitting substitutes for the old base under his mansion. For new readers, the colorful cast of characters all seem mostly new, though a boorish dinner guest named Carl seems—at first glance—to be a nod to Carl Bennington, a Gotham executive killed by the Magistrate during Dark Detective.
In only a short time writing Batman, Tamaki has made no secret of her interest in exploring the networks of power and privilege that underpin Gotham’s fragile institutions. Bruce, as arguably the poster child of Old Money in Gotham, is an interesting conduit for these stories, especially now that he is no longer as unimpeachably wealthy as he was pre-Joker War.
It’s especially nice to see Tamaki reference a plot thread involving Wayne Enterprises technology being used to arm Gotham’s criminals. That idea—reminiscent of how US companies produce weapons that are used to kill civilians or even American soldiers—is a stark reminder of Bruce’s culpability in Gotham’s descent into madness.
As with most DC books in the Infinite Frontier era, we get a short backup story here, mostly setting up writer Joshua Williamson and artist Gleb Melnikov’s Robin book. That creative team is straight fire, though I’ll admit to some qualms about yet another story about Damian Wayne choosing between Ra’s al Ghul and Batman. We’ve dealt with this enough times by now!
I’d like to see Damian evolve beyond that binary and become more of an independent character, in the same way Nightwing has. But those reservations aside, Williamson seems to have a terrific first arc set up that has Damian entering some kind of combat tournament. Sounds great to me!
With the Batman books succeeding at this high a level, and stellar creative teams up and down the line, I’m looking forward to being wrong about Robin.
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