We’re back with another installment in the “Shadows of the Bat” storyline, currently running in DC’s Detective Comics. As always, for the main story we have Mariko Tamaki writing, Ivan Reis on art, and Matthew Rosenberg handling writing on the backup story with Fernando Blanco’s pencils. It’s a meaty issue this time, so let’s get into it, shall we?
SPOILERS AHEAD for Detective Comics #1049!
We pick up where we left off, with Batwoman further infiltrating the Arkham Tower staff to find out just what exactly is going on there. Not only do we find out that many of the staff there are former henchman of Gotham City rogues, but none other than the Huntress herself, Helena Bertinelli, is willingly staying there as a patient. Not only does she completely shy away Batwoman’s rescue attempt, she also sets up the stinger for the next issue, revealing she’s still suffering from the effects of Vile’s parasite from earlier in the run. There are a lot more minor details I’m skimming over, but suffice to say it’s added plenty of further intrigue to keep us asking where this is all going and how it will connect. That can be a difficult balance to hit, but thus far it’s doing a good job juggling everything without losing my attention.
The character stuff is pretty solid yet again, though I had to roll my eyes slightly at Cassandra Cain’s abnormal speech pattern, something the current Batgirls run actually excels at being consistent with. Despite that minor hiccup, everybody else feels very on point and well characterized — no shock, considering how great Tamaki has been at that her entire run. I’m still enjoying having Kate as the central POV character, despite us not getting much inner monologue from her, or really anybody else. It almost feels like a Batman: TAS episode in that regard, with most exposition being carried out verbally between characters. It’s a simple trick, but it’s tried and true, and effective when it’s done well.
The backup felt very robust this time around, packing a lot of story and some very solid character work in despite being shorter overall. We continue to get some backstory for Nero Xix, and his close encounters with various Gotham rogues, this time Scarecrow. Rosenberg did a good job making him feel somewhat heartwarming in how he stands up for the young Xix, and also a creepy weirdo when the mask is on (or rather off, in the case of his unhinged stares when he removes it while literally gassing an orphanage. Real standup guy, that Scarecrow). Xix is a very sympathetic character in his childhood, and this build to seeing how he got his eventual turn to super-villainy has been interesting to see thus far.
The artwork is great, but that’s no surprise by now. Reis and Blanco are both fantastic in their respective sections, with expressive artwork that really sells what the characters are thinking and feeling in any given panel. I wouldn’t even be able to really choose which one I like better for the book if you asked me, since they both bring different strengths to the table for the stories being told here.
Overall, this issue is is a solid entry in the storyline. While there’s no wildly crazy revelation or hook like the first issue, as I said in the last review, that’s totally fine. We’re already here and hooked, it’s just a matter of keeping us, which I think this issue did with what information it doles out. The Huntress cliffhanger alone is a nice little shock to keep us wondering. There was a slight hiccup with Cassandra’s writing, but given how minor she is in the overall narrative of this book so far, that’s a forgivable flaw. Besides, Kate’s a fun protagonist to follow, and fills in just fine in Batman’s absence. With a very robust backup that feels nearly the same length as the main story, some consistent and solid artwork, you’re getting a good bang for your buck when you pick up this one.
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