In this review of Detective Comics #1078, there’s a hanging scheduled in Gotham City as Batman has been condemned. Can Catwoman and her team pull off her biggest heist to save him before the public hanging?
Note: This review contains spoilers
Title: Detective Comics #1078
Gotham Nocturne: Intermezzo – Batman, Outlaw Part 3
Writer: Ram V
Artist: Jason Shawn Alexander
Colors: Dave Stewart
Main Cover: Evan Cagle
Variant Covers: Jason Shawn Alexander, Sebastian Fiumara, Liam Sharp
Release Date: November 28, 2023
Detective Comics #1078 begins on the scaffold, as the Orghams proclaim Batman’s guilt because of his mask, usurping the power of the people. The azmer demon forces Batman to agree with them, but the crowd pleas for mercy. In a restaurant, the Joker laughs.
Hours earlier, Shoes confronts the Orgham soldiers. Her mother, Cheshire, defeats them all, but spares at least some of them for her daughter’s sake. Oracle’s drones blanket the city sky. Gordon’s contacts with the GCPD surround the gallows.
Catwoman leaps off the roof, attacking from above, while Cassandra Cain Batgirl attacks from below. Mr. Freeze assists, freezing several soldiers, but leaving them alive, telling the leader to call it in.
Gordon tells the team that half of the Orgham soldiers have left the hanging. They send in a truck to crash, with Azrael (wearing his Az-bat suit) inside to face the Orgham werewolf.
Selina leaps, threatening to slit Prince Arzen’s throat to save Batman, but he and his mother refuse. Selina hesitates, and the guard pulls the gallows lever.
The middle issue of Ram V’s Intermezzo heist tale for his Gotham Nocturne continues with the much stronger focus on both action and Ram V’s excellent handling of classic characters. There’s still a lot of unanswered questions about what the “average Gothamite” is actually thinking about Batman and the Orghams, but the structure of Catwoman and her team doing everything “right” and still seeming to lose as Batman is hanged leads to a perfect heist cliffhanger. Ram V especially gets Catwoman, Jim Gordon, Azrael, and Cassandra Cain brilliantly, giving each really characteristic actions and voicing. I am really curious about whether the Orghams will become part of the Batman mythology like Ra’s Al Ghul did, or if they’ll go the way of Whisper A’dair or other potential additions which have faded away over the decades. It seems to me that Ram V might have created a run to rival James Tynion’s on Detective, full of rich characterization of beloved characters. But instead, he chose to structure the whole story around the Orghams without truly making them interesting or plausible. I get the intention to make them a huge threat to Batman, but their powers are too vague and convenient, and their rise is too fast for them to feel like anything more than “another disaster in Gotham”.
In addition to internal questions about the story’s logic, the appearance of the Joker also prompts questions of continuity. Is this THE Joker? Or one of The Man Who Stopped Laughing duplicates? Or one of the Three Jokers that Geoff Johns invented and Chip Zdarsky is repurposing and recontextualizing? Is this the Joker who founded Joker Inc? How does this fit at all into the world of Gotham War, in which Catwoman has faked her death? Did the Orgham rise to power just coincidentally fit into the middle of that event, or was it before, or after? It’s all just frustrating. One could say “just read it as if it’s in trade, not connected to other runs happening at the same time” – and to them I’d direct them to the numerous questions of internal coherence. But quite aside from the unfathomable mistake by Ben Abernathy of greenlighting two “Batman fights an internal darker version of himself” storylines at the same time, it just doesn’t seem like these books can happen in any time period close to each other. And that’s an unfair situation, to some extent – if DC is going to have two “important” Batman titles, it’s not fair for one to get all the epic storylines and the other to have to be monster of the week. But such is the situation we have. Either one writer gets to take the lead, or you have to actually have writers working together. (Cue my oft repeated mourning for James Tynion’s departure from DC, as his Batman run is marked by cooperation not seen in a long, long time.)
Jason Shawn Alexander continues to provide powerful, if sometimes a bit smudgy, art for this work. On the Comic Podcast, my co-host and I remarked that it’s funny that a heist is often light and sparkling, even with dark themes and plotlines, but the art for this heist is very moody. While a nice continuation of the dark operatic work of this run, it might have been nice to see the Intermezzo characterized by a lighter, crisper style to match the moving parts of a heist. That being said, Alexander’s work brilliantly matches Ram V’s tone and emotional evocation.
Writer: Dan Watters
Artist: Caspar Wijngaard
Colors: Caspar Wijngaard
Eiko Hasigawa, leader of the Yakuza in Gotham, goes on a date at the Gotham zoo with low level gangster Bette. Bette brags about her upcoming drug sale at a private school, and bullies Eiko into accepting their mutual ethical bankruptcy. Later, though, Eiko dons her Catwoman costume and takes down all of Bette’s organization, then calls her and breaks off their romance.
Though this story isn’t quite as tightly connected to the main story as previous pieces by Watters in the run, it nonetheless maintains a very high level of quality. Eiko’s characterization hearkens back to Genevieve Valentine’s brilliant creation of her in the n52. The woman of two worlds – torn between the evil her family and organization commits, and her desire to be better. It might have been a bit less confusing if Bette didn’t have the same name as the first Bat-Girl with somewhat similar coloration, but the relationship sketched out between Eiko and Bette was very well judged. The mini-heist structure both mirrors the macro-heist in the main story (both run by Catwomen!), and provides a nicely satisfying structure to the backup itself. Caspar Wijngaard’s art continues to be extremely appealing and assured. And possibly a bit more fitting for a heist story, with its clean lines and clear action beats!
Evan Cagle’s main cover shows a seemingly dead Batman being dragged along by three arms – very moody, but a bit less evocative than some of his previous pieces for the run (the same art in black and white is used for the 1 in 50 variant). Interior artist Jason Shawn Alexander’s variant shows Batman staring at the sun with vultures circling – very western, perfectly fitting the vibes of the concept – and the huge ears and curling bat-claw wings emphasize Alexander’s artistic heritage from Kelley Jones. Sebastian Fiumara’s variant shows a nude Bruce from the back, leathery bat-wings surrounding him – a powerful image, though a bit disconnected from what’s happening inside. The McFarlane Toys action figure variant shows the Batman action figure in the sewers – a fun piece, no doubt, and more interesting than Marvel’s Boxed Action Figure variant line, but still a bit head-scratching on the appeal. Lastly, Liam Sharp’s 1 in 25 incentive variant Wanted poster series features Cassandra Cain Batgirl glaring out at the reader from its sepia tones panel.
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.