Overview: In Detective Comics #1041, Batman faces Mr. Worth, Penguin, and other villains calling themselves “The Jury,” as Deb Donovan discovers something called “Task Force Z.”
Editor’s Note: Due to the nature of this comic, we will feature a synopsis and analysis for each story featured, to ensure each story gets the focus it requires. Spoilers are sure to be revealed.
Story #1: “The Jury” Part 1 by writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Dan Mora
Synopsis: As Detective Comics #1041 begins, Mayor Nakano receives a briefing on the disasters of the last few days, including the Vile parasite (though his staff does not know Hue Vile is behind it) and Mr. Worth’s rampage of revenge. Bruce Wayne emerges from the sewers, contacts Oracle at a cafe, and Babs helps him gather an old suit, and go to meet a new threat, calling itself “the Jury”, advertising all over Gotham. Batman arrives at Worth’s warehouse, and finds Worth, Penguin, some Falcones, all accusing Bruce Wayne of murdering Sarah Worth. Batman tells the Jury the truth about Worth’s murder, but Worth refuses to be swayed from his conviction of Wayne’s guilt, and a firefight ensues. We see a flashback of Hue Vile’s parasite being extracted by mysterious scientists, then flashing back to the fight in the warehouse, where the parasite is fired directly at Batman, infecting him. Elsewhere, Huntress (after her fight with the parasite in Batman Secret Origins: Huntress #1) tells Oracle that Batman has been infected, her connection to the parasite giving her insight.
Analysis: Though it might seem like a small element, Dan Mora revives a desire sparked in my 90s and early 2000s loving Batman heart to see Batman use the blue and grey costume with the yellow oval on the chest again – we saw it recently in Batman #101, drawn by Guillem March in a flashback, and there as here, it was so delightful seeing the classic colors and suit design. Though the recent news that James Tynion is leaving the Batman title immediately following Fear State has thrown our ideas about the future of the Batman Universe of comics into disarray, Tynion did express a desire to see the classic suit become the main look for a while again recently and his desire goes back at least a couple of years.
With that bit of exciting nostalgia out of the way, to the heart of the review – Mariko Tamaki provides what feels like a bit of a linking issue between her “Neighborhood” opening arc and her Fear State plans, which seem to involve the continuation of the parasite plot. I wonder how Tamaki’s storyline fits into what’s happening with the Unsanity Collective and the Magistrate over in Tynion’s Batman – does this all happen days or weeks before the campaign against Peacekeeper 01, or is it simultaneous? The idea of the parasite infecting Batman seems like it could work well into Batman’s panicked state during, well, Fear State, but we’ll see if Tynion or Tamaki make direct connections to each other’s stories – I hope so, as the sense that everything is happening in the same universe again has been Tynion’s greatest gift to the Batman Universe of comics, ably assisted by writers like Tamaki, Ram V, Tom Taylor, etc.
Dan Mora provides his usually amazing art – and the fact that we’ve come to expect this level of excellence is a testament to his consistency and brilliance. Little moments like Barbara’s coordination of Batman and Huntress as Oracle, Batman’s fight against the jury – are so full of light, color, nuance, character, and appeal, there’s no wonder that Tamaki and Mora’s run on Detective Comics is so beloved for the art alone, though the writing supports it fully with rich characterizations, thoughtful themes, and exciting adventures.
For covers, Dan Mora provides a stunning Pieta-inspired piece (Pieta being the traditional pose of Mary and the crucified Jesus after his death), with Batman broken and bloody being held by Lady Justice, with a sword and Bat-scales of justice providing lovely details in this emotional composition. Lee Bermejo’s cardstock variant shows Batman removing his cowl, playing with the idea planted in the last issue that some civilians know Batman’s secret identity. Though beautifully rendered as all Bermejo’s pieces are, Mora’s work provides so much more symbolic and emotional resonance this time around.
Story #2: “What the #!$% is Task Force Z” Part 1 by writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Darick Robertson
Synopsis: The backup in Detective Comics #1041 sees Deb Donovan investigating the Gotham subway, chasing down the transit authority president for comment on rumored corruption and rising costs thrust onto consumers. Getting a mysterious note, she then heads to the morgue, views Bane and Man-Bat’s corpses, and discovers that Astrid Arkham, the Arkham Knight, has been body-napped. Batman saves her when an armed thug warns her not to investigate A-Day, but then warns her himself the same thing. Meeting up with Vicki Vale, who agrees with Batman (after trying to scoop the story herself), Donovan heads home, only to find Red Hood in her kitchen, eating her cereal.
Analysis: Matthew Rosenberg and The Boys artist Darick Robertson create a complicated prologue to Rosenberg’s upcoming Task Force Z series (which may or may not be a miniseries or ongoing, solicitations are unclear), using Tamaki’s character of Deb Donovan investigating A-Day to lead to the discovery of disappearing corpses. While neither Rosenberg nor Robertson’s work in Gotham is my particular favorite, it was truly delightful to see new grizzled reporter character Donovan face up against Gotham’s version of Lois Lane, Vicki Vale, and see how Vale’s history with Batman conflicts with Donovan’s more traditional cynicism. The appearance of Jason Todd at the end of Detective Comics #1041 is clever, if a bit cliched, and I’m interested to learn more about this storyline, even as I find the idea of a zombie team headed by Jason and written by Rosenberg a tad underwhelming.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic digitally and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue either through Comixology or Amazon.