Overview: Part 2 of DC’s Shadows of the Bat event reveals the backstory of a central figure to the storyline. Plus, there’s a new doctor at Arkham Tower. What role does she play in the new project in Detective Comics #1048?
Editor’s Note: Due to the anthology nature of this collection, we will feature a synopsis and analysis for each story, rather than breaking up the synopsis and analysis. Spoilers are sure to be revealed.
Story #1: “The Tower” Part 2 by writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Ivan Reis
Synopsis: Detective Comics #1048 begins years ago, Harriet London is looking for the young Tobias Wear. She finds him sitting alone on a couch with doctors and cops standing around him watching. Harriet speaks with the young child about the recent events in which his mother allegedly committed some extremely heinous acts. She hands him a sucker and promises that the doctors will take care of his mom and that she will find him a place to go.
Years later, it’s Day 12 and Dr. Lisa Frow is having an interview with Dr. Tobias Wear about joining the staff at the Arkham Tower project. As they exchange questions with each other, an urgent call comes in for Dr. Wear, and he asks the candidate to wait outside. Little does he know that Dr. Lisa Frow is actually Batwoman. Batwoman checks in with Oracle, but is interrupted by the returning Dr. Wear, who offers to bring her on a tour of the new facility.
As they walk, Dr. Wear speaks of the patients Arkham is taking on and his plans for the future of the facility if fortunate enough to receive the funding. They step into an elevator where they head… to the basement? The doctor explains it was the easiest level to pass the city’s security guidelines for the patients being held there. Here, Arkham houses all of Gotham’s most unique and dangerous patients. As they step out of the elevator, a familiar figure walks past them – Victor Fries, also known as Mr. Freeze. Dr. Wear stops him and asks how’s he feeling. “I feel… good,” he responds before heading off to get an iced coffee. They walk past others, including Lady Clayface, before reaching a closed-door housing an inmate who believes she’s Harley Quinn. She doesn’t want to be bothered, so the two walk onto Ana Vulsion. The patient claims that she smells something.
Dr. Wear escorts Kate back to the first floor where he departs for another meeting. He’s met by Dr. Chase Meridian, who has been having trouble booking time with some patients she wants to meet. She also wants to meet with Dr. Ocean, who’s apparently in a conference. Dr. Wear promises to take care of everything and get Dr. Meridian in. Before leaving, she mentions the smell Ana Vulsion claims to be having and wonders if it could be a side effect of the medication treatment. Wear promises to look into that as well.
Back at HQ, Kate and Babs discuss the day’s events. From behind, Nightwing asks if she saw someone. Kate confirms that this person is a patient, but that she wasn’t able to see her. The team decides they need to turn their focus to finding more about Dr. Ocean, as it is becoming abundantly clear the “miracles” of the Arkham Tower are anything but…
The story ends with a trip back to the past where the young Tobias Wear leaves the hospital before his ride to the Wayne Home for Boys. He instead reaches out to his friend Rob and gets a pizza before going to hang out. As they sit in front of the TV, Toby’s friend asks him about his mom and whether the hospital will be able to take care of her. The young Wear doesn’t care, however. Fixing what’s wrong with people like his mom is a waste of time…
Analysis: Well, that is a swerve of a backstory. In first creating a sympathetic story for the would-be face of Arkham Tower, Mariko Tamaki throws a curveball in showing that the young Toby might not need that sympathy after all. In learning about the history of Tobias Wear, Tamaki is foreshadowing that the face of the Arkham Tower might be more nefarious than we might expect. He is a scorned child who is definitely mad at the world. This means he’s wearing a charismatic mask in the public. With this knowledge now, it’s a wonder what led to his desk at the hands of his patients. Perhaps part of the reason is being told to us right now. We know that the patients are not only being treated with therapy but also chemically. That’s been confirmed in both issues we’ve read thus far. However, to what extent is the chemical treatment affecting the patient’s behavior? In the last two issues, we’ve seen patients respond the same when asked how they were doing – “I’m… good.” Coincidence, or not?
I love the idea of Kate being the one on the inside. At this point in Detective Comics #1048, we still don’t know Helena’s role in the story, which we see ends with her on top of the elevator in part one. However, I’m pretty certain she is the patient Kate and Dick were speaking about. Kate, however, is front and center as the highly credentialed Dr. Lisa Frow. I’m excited to see her mental prowess as she tries to put the pieces together with the team. And while Kate’s buzzcut is a part of her character, this fan would have no problems if she was to grow it out. Of course, this is due to the great artwork from the team of Ivan Reis and Brad Anderson.
Finally, we now see that there is going to be a focus from various fronts to find and learn more about the mysterious Dr. Ocean. It will be interesting to see who he is and his role in the events at the Tower.
All in all, this part of Detective Comics #1048 was a great story. After the dramatic start with part one, Tamaki now slows things down to begin putting the pieces into place. In the past two issues, she’s introduced some key figures in the event. It’s likely that the next issue will have some more character-building as there were several other inmates in the panel from Wear’s death who haven’t been introduced yet. Hopefully, we will get more of a backstory on Neo-Harley as well (yes, that’s what I’m going to call her).
Other than myself, who else seems to think everything is about to go downhill with the Bat-Family from here? It seems so obvious. There’s the man watching Kate and Tobias on the security camera as they walk through the facility. There’s the constant interruption of Dr. Wear as he meets with her. But the most obvious indication of this was the introduction of the undercover Batwoman to Ana Vulsion. That reaction tells that Kate might already be made, if not by Ana Vulsion, at least someone of authority, likely Dr. Ocean.
Let me also mention, unless I read things wrong, that there seems to be a small editorial faux pas. At the beginning of Detective Comics #1048, the scene is apparently set at Gotham City Children’s Services. The setting, however, is obviously at a hospital, as there are medical staff and cops all around. How did Fries get out of the cryo-stasis (seen in Detective Comics #1016)? And wasn’t he somewhat already redeemed from Tomasi’s run in Detective Comics? Didn’t Lady Clayface die as a result of the chemicals used in A-Day, as seen in “The Neighborhood” arc (Editor’s Note: as seen in Detective Comics #1036, though the character was last shown in Detective Comics #1038 and wasn’t referenced afterward what exactly happened to her after being poisoned)? They are minor issues (unless they’re not). But it is something that caught my attention.
What can’t be ignored, however, is time. As we see in the beginning panels, Tobias Wear is a very young child. He’s treated as such with the social worker handing him a sucker. Yet the magazine cover has a picture of a seemingly grown Bruce Wayne. How old is Tobias Wear on the day he held that press conference? Unfortunately, just like other issues in comics, it’s something we just have to deal with. Thanks, DC.
Speaking of art, there’s not much that can be said about Ivan Reis’ art that hasn’t been said since my last review. I will say this. Reis has such command of the page. He could easily tell a story without a word of dialogue. That’s the sign of great artwork.
Story #2: “House of Gotham” Part 2 by writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Fernando Blanco
Synopsis: As the backup for Detective Comics #1048 begins, Alfred pulls up to Wayne Manor with an injured Bruce Wayne in the back seat. As he exits the car, Bruce tells Alfred of the trap the Joker laid for him. Despite this, however, his biggest concern was finding the boy who lost his parents. In the Batcave, Batman searches for the whereabouts of the dead victims’ son as Alfred sews a wound. Bruce finds out that Joker is now at Arkham Asylum for observation while they look to find a next of kin. Bruce tells Alfred to bring him a suit… and some cover-up for his face.
At Arkham Asylum, Dr. Harleen Quinzel speaks with the young patient about the events leading to the death of his parents. He’s not too interested in talking, but he answers her questions about the men he feels are responsible for his parents’ death. He asks to use the restroom, which is down the hall on the right. Instead, he follows a trail of clay and heads to the left where he finds Clayface doing his worst impression of mopping the floor. From the right, Bruce Wayne enters Dr. Quinzel’s office, looking to speak with the young man. The Martha Wayne Foundation has a new facility that has space for the young child to stay. He goes to look for the child, only to find the child playing with Clayface. Guards arrive and tear the boy away before turning their angst towards Clayface. Bruce Wayne takes the boy away from Arkham, taking him to the Martha Wayne Orphanage, promising him that he would be safe.
It’s bedtime and the boy lays in bed, but he can’t sleep. Something’s watching him outside. It’s Batman…
Analysis: Once again, the backup story has pulled down the overall rating of the issue. In no way am I looking for Rosenberg’s tale to outdo what is happening in the main story. In fact, I enjoyed this chapter more than the last one. What we see here in Detective Comics #1048, however, is the problem with backup stories, especially when written by different writers. For all of Detective Comics’ backup stories, the best ones have always been those written by Tamaki herself. Granted, I’m not wanting to drive Mariko Tamaki crazy by asking her to write a backup story while producing a weekly book. However, I wouldn’t complain if it was possible. Tamaki has shown great skill in telling a singular story from multiple viewpoints.
As mentioned, I enjoyed the second chapter better than the first, specifically because of the interaction between Clayface and the young boy. I’m pleased this Clayface appears to be the same character that has graced the pages of Batman of late. It’s interesting that we still don’t know the kid’s name, however. I truly believe this is on purpose. As I mentioned before, I have an idea who the kid might be (hint: we’ve seen him quite a bit in the pages of TBU of late). Interesting to see what happens next now that he’s been moved from Arkham to the orphanage. Hope you don’t really expect things to be better now that he’s been moved away from the Asylum. As with the last issue, Blanco’s art with the colors from Jodie Bellaire works well for the story we’ve been getting. While I see a little of David Lapham in these pages (maybe I’m scarred), the heavy lines and dark tones just work here.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a 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.