Overview: In Detective Comics #1075, The Orghams find Batman, but Prince Arzen Orgham finds himself unexpectedly troubled by the dreadful next step he must take.
Title: “Gotham Nocturne: Act II – Out of Hell, Part 2” & “Take My Hand”
Writers: Ram V & Dan Watters
Art: Francesco Francavilla & Aaron Campbell
Colors: Francesco Francavilla & Patricia Delpeche
Main Cover: Evan Cagle
Variant Covers: Kelley Jones, Bruno Redondo, Sebastian Fiumara
Release Date: October 24, 2023
This comic book review contains spoilers.
As Detectives Fielding and Nash search for Batman, Fielding talks about an encounter with Scarecrow and how Batman saved him. Meanwhile, Batman, in Crime Alley, tells his younger self of his vow, then says goodbye as a Bat-Demon shape escorts his younger self away. Prince Arzen and his Orgham henchmen also search for Batman.
Fielding reveals to Nash that he believes Bruce Wayne is Batman, and they head to Wayne Manor. They find a broken Batman at Alfred Pennyworth’s grave, but before Fielding can call it in, Nash shoots and kills his partner. Nash then calls Shavod to report Batman’s location. When the Orghams arrive, they beat Batman, while Shavod mind controls him to kill himself in one week. Arzen arrives, pulls off Batman’s mask, revealing Bruce Wayne. He says he must hang Batman but finds himself very conflicted.
Ram V’s two-part “Out of Hell” arc closes with the Orghams capturing Batman and planning to hang him. He also closes the door on the three-part tale he’s told of Detective Fielding, starting with his Batman Secret Files story many years ago. Now Ram V kills him off just as he discovers the truth about Batman’s identity. Perhaps a bit too neat, revealing the potential reason behind the general lack of interest most writers have in making secret identities a major part of their storytelling these days. Either you have to find a way to kill off or neutralize anyone who learns the truth, or you have to spend an excessive and often ludicrous amount of energy hiding every sign from the characters. Or you can just act like no one knows, and that’s the way it is, as most writers do for the past 10 years. It’s a bit of a bummer to see a character with some cool potential and a nice connection to Batman like Fielding get murdered. It does remove that potential problem from the story…while the Orghams learning the truth adds a whole extra layer to the problem of how Ram V will resolve the problem.
All in all, this issue continues the problem of Detective Comics #1074 in that nothing happens in these two issues, 40 pages, that justifies those pages. Of course, the idea is that Batman and Barbatos are fighting the Azmer, while Gotham worries about its Dark Knight. However, the actual action of the story could have been taken care of in less than a full issue. Both Dustin Nguyen last issue and Franco Francavilla this issue produce excellent work. They both capture the extreme emotions beautifully. But there’s a sense of self indulgence and spinning wheels that continues to make this arc grind ever more to a halt. The lack of investment in the Orghams as both characters and villains presents the largest problem in this grinding. Shavod’s powers are cool, but she just keeps murdering people with her mind control and sadism. This evil of course increases our desire to see her defeated and hopefully destroyed, but it reveals nothing of WHY she does these things. Or where she got these powers. Prince Arzen’s backstory gives us a tiny bit more connection to him, but there’s still no real understanding of why the Orghams want to own Gotham’s soul. The haziness of motivation and mechanics of the story make me think that, in a few years, this run won’t be remembered nearly as much as the last time Francavilla was on Detective Comics, all the way back in “The Black Mirror” by Scott Snyder. But perhaps time will tell differently.
How is there no anti-tamper mechanism on the cowl?
How Does The “Take My Hand” Backup Story Fit?
In the “Take My Hand” backup story by Dan Watters and Aaron Campbell, Alfred remembers the night Bruce was brought home, after his parents were killed. Barbatos remembers finding Bruce’s soul, absolutely still after his loss.
Alfred tells young Bruce that this tragedy will change him, but it does not have to change him for the worse. Barbatos promises Bruce’s soul strength.
Alfred remembers Bruce, days later, finally reaching out his hand and holding Alfred’s. Barbatos remembers Bruce’s soul reaching out to him.
Alfred remembers Bruce walking away alone. Barbatos knows Bruce held part of his heart back, but knows one day Bruce will be wholly his.
Dan Watters’ works with Ram V’s single line of Alfred pulling Bruce in from the rain the night his parents died and turns it into a dual narrative. Alfred and Barbatos both look back at Bruce and how their relationship with him changes in those fateful days. Aaron Campbell’s art is very abstract yet hyper real – not dynamic, reminiscent of Alex Ross or Artgerm. It definitely evokes the emotions Watters pulls out with his careful writing. The backup definitely isn’t a standalone story, but more of a thematic variation on the piece taken from Ram V’s main story – very fitting for a musically conceived story like Gotham Nocturne.
Evan Cagle’s main cover, beautifully rendered as usual, shows a young, teary Bruce, bats flying past him out of the cover, as a terrifying hand grips his shoulder (the black and white art serves as the 1 in 50 incentive variant cover). Kelley Jones provides a snowy cover, Batman trapped in a low-hanging Gotham streetlamp, a body behind him in the next pool of light. Nightwing artist Bruno Redondo provides an appealing, semi-abstract Batman hurtling towards the viewer, surrounded by a giant moon in a red sky full of bats. Sebastian Fiumara’s 1 in 25 incentive shows a maskless Batman looking down at his own severed head in a cowl, staring up at him in horror.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with an advanced copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue digitally on Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title through Things From Another World.