Today I’m going to start looking at DC’s Detective Comics, currently handled by writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Dan Mora, and backup story by Stephanie Phillips and David Lapham. I’m a big fan of this run and its take on DC’s dark knight, so talking about it here is a real treat for me.
The plot is about what you’d expect as an entry in a larger narrative: it’s just here to keep the pieces moving towards the end goal of the story. We see that the mysterious bug-like creates birthed from the eggs left behind by Vile have spread far, and even begun to hatch. Batwoman also enters the story by liberating City Hall while Bruce searches for the mayor in the sewers and learns of Vile’s creatures. It’s simple moving-the-plot-along stuff, but it’s paced very well, and the dialogue feels snappy and natural.
The ending is certainly looking like there will undoubtedly be an escalation, which I believe this run has earned by taking its time to get there. In recent years, I’ve felt Batman stories (especially in the primary title) have been weighed down by cataclysmic stakes and exceedingly flashy gadgets; this has none of that, and is not only surviving, but thriving under that lifted weight.
What I really wish to highlight is how much I love Tamaki’s take on Bruce Wayne. I wasn’t the biggest fan of her work with him during Future State, but this run has entirely won me over. This is a Batman that feels very down to Earth, classic even, returned to his roots as a calculating crime solver as much as a fighter. He’s a Batman that, despite losing much of his wealth and therefore his arsenal, is still Batman through and through. While he has his misgivings about Mayor Nakano, he still doesn’t hesitate for a moment to try something risky to save him from a worse fate, tossing every priority aside to preserve a human life. What Tamaki does in this run is highlight just how human Bruce is, how much he cares about everybody and everything around him. That, to me, is the quintessential essence of Batman.
The backup story is similarly well done. While it’s a bit wordier and therefore a bit slower in pace, it’s still fun for me as a fan of this character to see Bruce tackle the social issues of Gotham. I like seeing him still try and lobby for a more sensitive and caring mental health facility that forgoes the reviled “Arkham” name, and only getting involved as Batman when stonewalled as Bruce Wayne. The mystery of what’s driving people near Arkham Tower to violent outbursts is enticing, and leaves off on a good cliffhanger to keep you wanting more for next time.
The art is phenomenal. I’m a big fan of Dan Mora’s work over in Once & Future, so having him on my all-time favorite character, in a book where I’m loving the writing, is nothing less than Christmas as far as I’m concerned. His style is so appealing to look at, with dynamic and interesting pencils and panel layouts that make each page super fun to soak in. The backup story’s art, by David Lapham, is also quite good. I enjoy the detail injected into certain panels to make them stand out, and extra expressiveness on the character’s faces is used in the right places.
Overall, I can only say that I adore this book, if that wasn’t obvious enough. It’s been a long time since I’ve truly loved a Batman title like I love this run, and that’s no small praise from me. Tamaki’s Bruce feels like my Bruce, and paired with a truly superb artist like Dan Mora, and other extremely talented folks for the backups, I couldn’t ask for a better DC book right now. Now I just have to hope it lasts the rest of my natural life, or until the creatives feel it’s right to end.
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