We’re continuing the story started last week with another issue of Detective Comics and the “Shadows of the Bat” storyline, written by Mariko Tamaki with art by Ivan Reis, and a backup by Matthew Rosenberg with art by Fernando Blanco. This is another step in a larger story, so let’s not waste time and talk about what we got this week.
Like the previous issue, this week’s entry is all about furthering the plot, and not quite as much is spent on the characters, for the Bat family anyway. Instead of carrying directly after the punchy ending to the last issue, we start with a flashback to not only some time prior, but entire years back to Dr. Wear’s childhood. The pullback is actually a pretty clever move in my opinion, drawing us in with a cliffhanger before spending time in the past and building up to the present, being given little details that help paint a wider picture of the narrative. It’s a good way to hook you and keep you wanting for more, while still giving the story the room it needs to breathe.
The character stuff once again takes a small backseat, as I said, but everybody is still done fairly well here. The new insight into Tobias Wear in the flashback is interesting, showing a complicated upbringing by an institutionalized mother that left him bitter and resentful, casting plenty of doubt on his claims of wanting to help the mentally ill in the present. The underlying un-settlement at Arkham is also pretty good, with the eerily subdued “I’m okay”s from former super criminals selling the idea that something far more sinister is going on beneath the surface.
The backup on the whole was solid too, just as it was last time. It’s always fun to live in the world of the past for a bit — I’ve never not enjoyed the vibe of stories set during Batman’s early years. The modern era of Batman is also starved for Bruce and Alfred interacting since the latter’s death during Tom King’s run a few years ago, so this being set in the past is a great chance of bringing that dynamic back for a bit (until Alfred finally comes back to life again at some point). Even things like Bruce’s compassion for the young Nero Xix, the lack of compassion from Dr. Quinzel, and the gentle monster angle for Clayface all feel very real to the characters despite the story having a much shorter page length to work with.
The artwork is still stellar, but a little subdued due to this being a talk-heavy issue without much crazy action set pieces or the like. Not that that’s a bad thing, since you need that time to develop stuff and let the story breathe before you get right back into the thick of things. Reis’s style is still appropriately realistic to match the tone, and Blanco’s art in the backup still pops very nicely.
Overall, I liked this issue a lot. Like I said previously, it’s a bit low-key in comparison to the explosive start we got last issue, but that ends up working quite well in the book’s favor. Drawing you in only to pull back and tease more of what brought us to that point is a fun narrative structure, and all the information you need is being given so you’re never really in the dark for long if you haven’t been keeping eagle eyed focus on the Bat books as of late. That combined with some really stellar artwork, and a really great backup story that’s just as good as the main one, you’re definitely not gonna wanna skip out on this issue if you want the full story.
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