Tom Taylor and Andy Kubert’s first foray into the world of an older Batman was a great success in Batman: the Detective #1. He’s got a doozy of a mystery to solve, and people could be dying by the minute. There are many questions to be answered — who are the white-clad Batman characters, why do they have such a bone to pick with Batman, and how much globe-trotting will this story get into? Based on the second issue, probably a lot as Batman heads to France!
This issue opens with Batman tossing a baddie off of Big Ben. Nice that he gets a chance to see the sights. He’s trying to get information, but he’s too tight-lipped to give any. If they don’t talk, let them walk, and more importantly, let them walk you to where more baddies might be laying in wait. This opening is fantastic, utilizing the vertical page in ways that add tension. Will the bad guy fall to his death? The colors by Brad Anderson help inform Kubert’s art, and the cool reds and oranges in the sky add to the dramatic effect of the scene.
This leads to Batman giving Squire a bit of advice as he attempts to figure out how she came to be Beryl Hutchinson aka Knight’s second hand. This aspect of the story seems to be a subplot that’s just under the surface a mystery in itself. We’ll see if Taylor continues to tug at that thread, but don’t be surprised if Squire ends up being somehow connected to the bigger mystery.
As the story goes, Taylor weaves in a familiar face and he’s introduced via a cool train sequence. Amazing that even with Batman not in his costume it’s still riveting to see him chase down someone thanks to Kubert’s art. There’s one panel on the roof of the train, with rain spattering Batman, that’s straight out of the Frank Miller playbook. It’s a cool nod. This familiar face ends up playing a bigger part in drawing out the baddies and ends the story in a tense climax. Also, props to Anderson for casting the night sky in purple. You can never go wrong with purple!
There are some familiar tropes at work here, as well as a scene or two that don’t quite work. How Batman tracks down the villains, for instance, has been done before, which plays counter to the first issue dropping new ideas on us on every page. There’s a somewhat strange downtime scene at an underground hospital that seems to linger too long, though it does set up the character to be introduced next.
Outside of the mystery, Taylor and Kubert do a great job establishing how sleek Batman is via his gadgetry, and his cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor. Of course, Batman has Batmobiles stored in every major city, right? The costuming and Batmobile in this book look super cool too, but they also give him a unique look we’ve never seen before. That uniqueness plays out in a way that makes the story feel altogether new visually and for that reason I wouldn’t be surprised to see this story end up in a DC Animated film.
Batman: The Detective continues to be a masterclass in visual storytelling. The opening Big Ben interrogation is proof of that. There’s also an interesting mystery afoot with story seeds being planted that you can already tell will pay off later.
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