Time for another look at an issue of Detective Comics from DC, written by Mariko Tamaki, with art handled by Max Raynor and Jorge Fornes. The backup story is also, as per usual, done by Matthew Rosenberg and Fernando Blanco. This is of course another entry in the “Shadows of the Bat” story line, but let’s skip the preamble and talk about what happened.
SPOILERS AHEAD for Detective Comics #1051
We pick up pretty hard and fast from last issue’s reveal, which told us the secret to Arkham Tower is none other than the work of the infamous Psycho Pirate. He’s a hell of a classic to be sure, made famous for his involvement in cosmic scale events like the legendary Crisis on Infinite Earths, but he’s playing a much more humble role in this story, comparatively. We learn of his connected past to Dr. Wear, and that the medication he’s been feeding people is nothing but simple salt pills; the real magic being done is none other than the Pirate’s emotional manipulation powers at work. Wear’s continued breakdown as his careful plan starts falling apart is tense and exciting, getting more in over his head trying to swindle Gotham’s criminal populace. Between all that, the Bat Family getting closer to the truth, and the overworked Psycho Pirate’s control starting to slip, you really get the sense that everything is going to come crashing down, and very soon.
The character stuff in here is about as solid as you’d expect from Tamaki by now. Wear’s wild swings from conman composure to a complete blind rage is believable, and also entertaining. He and the Psycho Pirate are really the only major focused on characters here, with a minor moment for Helena near the end. It’s a good moment, mind you, and it didn’t need to overstate itself.
The backup is really good too, but that’s also been standard with this storyline. Xix is adopted by none other than the Penguin, and we get a look into how he treats the young boy, and by extension, others under his employ. He’s fair, but also ruthless and cruel, and it’s an interesting dichotomy. These backups have definitely been a good opportunity to explore a more human side of the Batman rogues gallery, albeit with their twisted sense of humanity on full display. It’s just another showcase of why these bad guys are some of the most beloved in all of fiction — they have so many layers that make them tick.
I enjoyed the art a lot this time, with the two new artists mentioned above filling in from the usual Ivan Reis in the main story. They’re both quite good, and I think their work suits the story quite well. I especially like how expressive and manic the expressions can get on Wear and the Psycho Pirate, and as I said before, watching characters wildly flip between emotions is expressed very well and leads to some very funny panels. The backup’s art by Blanco is just as good as usual of course, with some really good panel layouts and sequencing.
All in all, a pretty standard, but very good entry. The highlight for me here is just enjoying a classic villain like Psycho Pirate in action. He may not be here for the cosmic-level stuff that made him more than just a D-list nobody bad guy in the first place, but that doesn’t mean his gimmick isn’t interesting and well utilized here, perfect for this kind of story. Between that, great illustrations and some good character bits here and there, the backup was a fun side story and helps make the issue feel worth the investment. I think this one is absolutely worth picking up.
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