Batman + Man-Bat + Bat Queen + Holographic Batman + Batcave + pseudo-Batcave = one hella-batty issue of Detective Comics.
After being relegated to the back-ups of a long line of Detective Comics issues over the past six months, the brewing conflict between the Langstroms finally spills into the main pages of the series. Will Layman and Co. be able to make it all come together and work effectively? Let’s see…
Detective Comics #26 opens on a group of teenagers wandering through a bat cave. No, not ‘The Batcave’, just a random cave around Gotham filled with empty beer cans, graffiti and a colony of bats. The excursion doesn’t end well for the kids though, as they’re attacked and picked clean by a familiar colony of viscous bats.
Batman adds the missing kids to a growing list of unexplained disappearances lately, and draws a connection between them and the recently found body of a bridge jumper (shown in the back-up to #25) who was devoured to the bone by the time he hit the ground. The forensics tells Batman it’s a new breed of highly aggressive bat who almost certainly didn’t develop naturally.
After a quick recap of the Man-Bat’s background and recent exploits, Batman takes down Kirk Langstrom with a high-decibel sound cannon. He knows Langstrom is a problem, but he’s also sure that the serum-deranged scientist isn’t the killer he’s looking for. Langstrom tells Batman it’s his wife, Francine, and that he has a plan to force her to transform back into a human long enough to end her rash of murders-by-proxy. Batman doesn’t like the plan, but he goes along.
On the way, we discover that Francine Langstrom has become so altered by the Man-Bat serum that she no longer needs the elixir to transform and maintain her Woman-Bat form. If only it were that easy. Instead, upon arrival, we discover that Francine has evolved another level, into a creature who calls herself Queen Bat. Langstrom’s plan does go poorly, but Batman is able to salvage enough of it to get both Langstroms detained and back into Arkham Asylum.
On the last page we get the first taste of the wacky-whatsit world that will be ‘Gothamtopia’, as we meet Catwoman, with a distinctly Robin themed suit, in Wayne Manor. She’s upset about being left out, since they’re supposed to be partners and all…. ?!
Holy guano did this issue fall flat. I’m hesitant to lay all of the blame on the creative team, since the delays caused by tie-ins to Zero Year and Villain’s Month disrupted pretty much every issue in the Bat-universe outside of the title series this month. Still, this story felt painfully squeezed into one issue, likely to make way for the New 52’s first non-Snyder led Bat crossover, ‘Gothamtopia’. The death of the four teenagers at the beginning is callously tossed aside after a few pages, then Alfred and Gordon are just sounding boards for the Batman to deliver exposition so clumsily that it reminded me of that character on every episode of Law & Order who appears in one scene to spill out all of the relevant story beats to the detectives, yet can’t be bothered to stop unloading a truck or wiping down tables at an empty bar.
The constant rush, with almost no emotional stakes for the reader, isn’t helped by the art either. Maybe I’m just spoiled by Fabok’s work on Detective Comics of late, but Lopresti’s pencils felt all over the place, and the scattershot use of white space instead of backgrounds fell limp.
Man-Bat stories have never been my favorite, bar a few instances where the serum plays a larger role than the Langstroms, so that could be coloring my opinion. Still, I’d rather they finish this in a back-up, and use this issue’s main arc to set-up Gothamtopia, rather than have this oddball issue stuck between to tie-ins.
Detective Comics #26:
Reviewed by Benjamin Scott