Overview: In Detective Comics #1076, Catwoman learns of Batman’s impending execution by hanging and starts gathering a team to save him.
Title: Gotham Nocturne: Intermezzo: Batman, Outlaw, part 1 of 5
Writer: Ram V
Artist: Jason Shawn Alexander
Colors: Dave Stewart
Main Cover: Evan Cagle (and 1:50 variant)
Variant Covers: Liam Sharp (1:25), Jason Shawn Alexander, Christopher Mitten
Release Date: October 31, 2023
In Old Arkham, Prince Arzen tells Batman (struggling with the azmer demon attempting to possess him, and destroying his memories) that the Orghams will hang him in a few hours. Barbatos telepathically communicates with Bruce that it’s only a matter of time before the azmer wins. Bruce tells Arzen the truth about how Arzen’s own mother ordered Ra’s al Ghul to kill his father.
Three days ago, a ninja sneaks into Catwoman’s headquarters at the Trixie hotel and warns her that the Orghams will hang Batman. He tells Catwoman not because he is disloyal to the Orghams, but because he cares about Bruce Wayne.
Catwoman begins recruiting a crew, starting with Jim Gordon.
Jim talks to Commissioner Montoya, and they reflect on the Orgham propaganda/mind control video from Shavod, and the craziness of the city while Azrael fights gangs downtown.
Catwoman also recruits Poison Ivy (Pamela Isely) to make something for her.
This issue sheds a bit of light on the last two issues – the whole revisiting Batman’s memories now seems to be the azmer demon taking control of Bruce’s mind, as Arzen explains in the opening of this issue. Speaking of Arzen, it’s incredibly confusing to have one of the main characters named Arzen and one of the main plot devices called azmer. Anyway, the timeline of this issue is a bit unclear – it appears to start right after Batman’s capture by the Orghams, but then flashes back three days, perhaps indicating that it’s three days after the capture. Catwoman’s team assembling is a bit fun, though she only talks to two people in the issue. It’s quite nice to see Ram V write Selina again, after the incompetent and immature version of Selina in Tini Howard’s run. Even though her status quo is clearly linked to Howard’s run with the Trixie Hotel (a nice, if confusing bit of connection to The Gotham War storyline), Selina acts with heroism and intelligence.
This issue starts the “Outlaw” arc, and two things really start to push from operatic globe-spanning supernatural drama to spooky western – Catwoman’s thoughts of Batman and herself as “outlaws” fleeing from the gallows, and Azrael’s challenge to the gang members, counting to three (though that could also be a V for Vendetta reference, coming up on Guy Fawkes Day after all). As usual, Ram V and his art team definitely nail the atmosphere, even though the plot drags along at an excruciating pace and continues to prompt more questions than provide an engrossing experience.
Renee Montoya’s time as Commissioner of Gotham Police continues to add frustration. She’s a great investigator and has integrity and drive, but her leadership skills and long-term vision continue to make her a terrible fit. The constant teasing or side stories of her as the Question don’t help at all, either. Having her join Jim and Harvey as a PI, and having a secret as Question would fit a lot better than the Top Cop slot.
Jason Shawn Alexander’s art kicks off the Outlaw arc with intensity and drama, beautifully rendered with shadow and light. His style is very distinct from Ivan Reis and the other main artists on the run so far, but still fits stylistically. He definitely understands how to work with Ram V’s moody dialogue and voice-over to create a powerful tonal blend of Western and Noir.
Overall, the main story here trips up the reader with too many questions. A public hanging by the Orghams to change Gotham’s spiritual/historical control doesn’t make intuitive sense, even though all of the visual and emotional tropes are there. Though understandable given how clumsy the crossover, the nebulous connection to Batman/Catwoman: The Gotham War doesn’t help add coherence to the status quo. Lastly, the overall plan of the villains, and the strange defection of the ninja (possibly Arzen himself) further muddy the waters, stringing the reader along with questions that never seem to resolve or provide satisfying plot points.
Title: The Question in The Scream
Writer: Dan Watters
Artist: Christopher Mitten
Colors: Trionna Farrell
Commissioner Montoya listens to a woman terrified of her scream-recording-collecting husband, and follows the man as the Question. She visits his haunts, finding his child-murder room at his job at an elementary school. He confronts her, but she beats him, cuffs him, and leaves him overnight for the police, her police, to find. Frustrated at her torn loyalties, Renee tears off her mask and screams on the rooftops.
Dan Watters demonstrates, perhaps unintentionally, the frustrating nature of Renee’s editorial status quo. She really should have rotated out of the Commissioner slot after Harvey Bullock did the same, and someone else (preferably Akins, since he’s around!) take that spot. Her investigation is nicely done, though too truncated due to the short page count. Unusually, this particular backup doesn’t directly connect to the ongoing plot, though of course it does develop Renee’s internal problems and status quo nicely. Christopher Mitten’s art feels a bit too cartoony for the dark, operatic tone of the rest of the stories, but doesn’t fall down in storytelling or emotion.
Title: Azrael in The Sword of Batman
Writer: Dan Watters
Art & colors: Liam Sharp
Azrael tries to create a motherbox from the System implanted by another of New Genesis’ machines, but fails. His team, Father Karl Valley and Vengeance, daughter of Bane, are gone when he wakes from his trance, and he seeks them in the city. They seek venom to help Vengeance’s addiction but get in over their heads. Azrael saves them from Venom-heads, but offers even them mercy, though they reject it. Azrael apologizes for not hearing them and returns to a new trance…this time to build a suit of Batman armor.
After the very cool scene of Azrael fighting gangs in the main story, Dan Watters continues the story he spotlighted brilliantly in Sword of Azrael this year. Using Ram V’s Father Valley and James Tynion’s Vengeance, he’s given Azrael followers a team with intense personalities to match his own tormented but gentle psyche. The conflict and development from what we saw in the main story makes this particular Jean Paul fan both very happy and very hopeful to see more of this trio as the story develops. Liam Sharp’s gothic, painterly art captures the knotted muscles and emotions of the characters beautifully – a great match of artist and subject.
Title: The Summoner’s Lament
Writer, art & colors: Ram V
Dr. Simon Hurt dresses and speechifies his glee at the coming death of Batman and following transformation.
Though it’s kind of fun getting two additional stories in Detective Comics, matching what Action Comics has been doing, unlike Action, DC has raised the price an additional dollar at least for this issue. It’s a bit strange they’re making this a bigger issue and not Detective Comics #1075, though that’s perhaps to celebrate and promote the start of this new mini-event/arc, five issues in two months. All in all, the issue feels both chaotic, overly long, and exhausting. Perhaps it’s my dislike of the anthology format at this point after innumerable forgettable holiday anthologies and the absolute trashfires of Urban Legends and Brave and the Bold. But this issue slogs along until it just kicks out of the book with the “surprise” reveal of Dr. Hurt returning for another death of Batman. After Tim Seeley got rid of at least “A” Dr. Hurt in his enjoyable Rebirth Nightwing run, I’d hoped we’d seen the last of this obnoxious twit. But perhaps because of the connections to RIP in Barbatos in this run and Chip Zdarsky’s use of Zur En Arrh in the main Batman title, Ram V’s decided to bring Hurt back too. I await the Black Glove, the Three Batmen (one of which became Azrael 2, Michael Lane), and even more Grant Morrison-isms before we’re done with this interminable story. It’s kind of cool seeing Ram V take over art for this very, very short story, though it’s much more a design piece than a penciling or storytelling one. Quite simply, the story is an overly wordy monologue in Dr. Hurt’s tedious voice announcing Batman’s death and rebirth. Again.
Evan Cagle continues his main covers with Batman, surrounded by vultures and rendered in red against a white sky and pale sun, the city of Gotham underneath it all.
Liam Sharp does the Wanted poster 1 in 25 incentive variant, fittingly of Azrael, since he illustrated the Azrael backup story.
Main story artist Alexander does a dramatic, Kelley Jones inspired (with the long ears!) Batman in super-handcuffs against a yellow sun and gallows.
Backup artist Christopher Mitten, using the same handcuff design as Alexander, shows a Batman chained up against a red sky and giant wolf background.
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.