Overview: In Detective Comics #1069, Batman’s allies, both expected and unexpected, help him recover from his battle against the Orghams, and the Bat-Family begins to come together against this insidious force.
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: “Gotham Nocturne Act 1” Part 4 by writer Ram V and artist Dexter Soy with Stefano Raffaele and Miguel Mendonca
Synopsis: As Detective Comics #1069 begins, Ten-Eyed Man and Two-Face wait over the badly injured Batman as Ten-Eyed Man’s insanity appears to pierce the veil of the future and the spirit. Batman wakes, and Two-Face drives off his fellow madman to speak to Bruce, saying Harvey and Two-Face both know Bruce’s identity and they will help Bruce but threaten his family if he tries to destroy the Two-Face personality again. The Orghams attack, and in a flash forward, the golden-eyed Orgham Shavhod observes the effects of the battle.
Gordon talks to Babs about the two days since Batman was injured, and Batman shows up at his private detective agency door.
Shavhod and the werewolf Gael report to Prince Arzen about the difficulty of fighting Batman, as if he were a virus or addiction. Arzen orders more and more of the Gotham poor turned into Azmer demon-possessed soldiers, forcing Gotham to break her addiction to Batman and come to the Orghams.
Commissioner Montoya feels something is wrong, even though crime is way down despite dramatic terror attacks, but her police chief says to take the win and embrace the Orghams. Renee resists the temptation to put on her Question mask and investigate but calls Eric Wells (parole officer from GCPD: The Blue Wall who quit) to her office instead.
Gordon patches Bruce up, keeping his mask on, but tells him Bruce can’t keep it up, but Bruce says he’ll give everything he has and then give more. Gordon points Batman to Oracle and her discoveries about the sewers. Babs tells Batman there are patterns beneath the city – Freeze has been building a cooling network. Cassandra Cain Batgirl is investigating, and she finds the cages of the poor waiting to be infected with an Azmer demon. One of Catwoman’s pupils, the Stray who calls herself Shoes or Cheshire Cat (Lian Harper, daughter of Roy the Red Arrow), breaks free of the cages. She gets shot in the leg, but Solomon Grundy comes to her aid in the sewers.
Analysis: In the fourth installment of the first act of Gotham Nocturne, Ram V brings in a major development in his complex opera – the Bat-Family. Not only does Batman have support from Jim Gordon (as before), Barbara Gordon and Cassandra Cain make major appearances that promise more to come, much to the delight of any Bat-Family fans who have been waiting for Ram V to use the tools available against such a huge and insidious threat like the Orgham family and their demonic allies.
The art team of primarily Dexter Soy (perhaps best known for his work on Red Hood and the Outlaws and Batman and the Outsiders in the Rebirth era), Stefano Raffaele and Miguel Mendonca proves an excellent artistic mesh with previous series artists Ivan Reis and Rafael Albuquerque – thick, painterly lines, dramatic and bold renderings of character designs. Adriano Lucas’s colors also help maintain a strong continuity of look with Dave Stewart’s past work on this run, full of dark, bloody reds, angry yellows, and pale blues, reflecting the elegiac tone of the story Ram V is playing.
A few notes are odd or clunky in Detective Comics #1069. Jim calling his daughter “Barb,” though not unheard of, does seem odd instead of the fatherly “Barbara” or the friendly “Babs.” The thematic connection between Batman and the City is perhaps overly hammered home in this issue multiple times – and that may be the point of what Ram V is trying to say about Batman, but it feels overly obvious compared to the allusive, sideways way he’s approached his themes for the past seven months. Perhaps a petty detail, but when Jim mentions all he’s lost to Gotham’s cruelty over his life, he omits his second bride, Sarah Essen Gordon. After James Tynion IV brought her memory back in his brilliant The Joker series, it’s frustrating to those of us who loved her and were heartbroken at her fate in No Man’s Land to see her forgotten once again. Lastly, though Ram V carefully includes some action scenes, they are once again distant feeling, almost an afterthought – never where the emotional weight is. Perhaps appropriate to the story he’s telling, but time will tell if this approach to action pays off.
There are several moments where Ram V and his artistic collaborators hit just the right notes. The warm moment between Jim and Batman is beautifully constructed, using timing and silent panels to really highlight the strength of their connection. Seeing Cassandra Cain investigate the terrifying sewers is brilliant, as is the return of Ram V’s version of Lian Harper, first seen in his excellent Catwoman run. Lastly, the image of Batman flying over the city, cut in half with Oracle’s pattern map, is incredibly striking – Ram V’s been blessed with truly excellent artistic collaborators in this run, but there’s room to hope that even when name-brand artists like Reis and Albuquerque aren’t available, Soy, Raffaele and Mendonca and pick up the tone and style beautifully – though hopefully, they won’t have to use three artists per issue regularly.
Story #2: “Absolute” Part 1 by writer Simon Spurrier and artist Caspar Wijngaard
Synopsis: The backup in Detective Comics #1069 sees Dr. Mead, Two-Face’s psychiatrist, thinking about the necessary illusion of choice as she is imprisoned by Mr. Freeze after Two-Face helped/ordered her to flee Gotham. Freeze is running experiments on rats and the strange patterns under Gotham City. Attacked by the Orgham’s azmer army, he freezes them, crushing Mead’s hopes again. He’s obsessing over how Nora hated him when she was unfrozen (in Tomasi’s Detective Comics) and freezes Mead while playing a tune that supposedly will prevent the brain damage he blames for Nora’s hatred. As she freezes, Mead discovers a spiritual entity calling itself Earworm.
Analysis: Continuing to weave threads from his backup run on this title and the work he’s clearly doing to collaborate with Ram V on the main stories, Si Spurrier starts another three-part backup, this one focusing on Mr. Freeze. I have to admit – I’m not a fan of Spurrier in general, but these backups have been improving for me a lot, and this one particularly beautifully picks up threads from Ram V’s run and Peter Tomasi’s run on Detective Comics a few years ago in a way that makes perfect sense and shows the terrifying nature of Batman’s coldest villain. The helplessness of our viewpoint character, Dr. Mead, makes us desperately hope that she can survive her encounter with yet another of Batman’s rogues, and the newly created (probably) villain Earworm is quite an interesting development! Caspar Wijngaard’s art is much clearer than Spurrier’s last two collaborators and is a very nice complement to the art in the main story.
Evan Cagle continues his main cover run with a piece showcasing Batman holding Two-Face’s mask for Detective Comics #1069, surrounded by spooky Cupids – perhaps overstating the importance of Two-Face to this particular issue, but definitely following the threads of Ram V’s story. J. H. Williams III’s variant (also used as an incentive foil variant) presents Batman surrounded by a bloody liquid claw, a more abstract visualization of the battle between Bruce and the Orghams. Ivan Reis’s variant, a beautifully gold-hued portrait of Batman standing over Talia lying in a boat, surrounded by candles, seems an odd choice, given Talia’s pretty small part in the run so far, but perhaps foreshadows more to come! Lastly, Colleen Doran’s 1:25 incentive variant shows Batman ripping open his shirt, Superman style – but an actual bat bursts out of a fiery chest cavity, in a violent twist on the motif.
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.
Detective Comics #1069
Ram V’s first act in his Gotham Nocturne adds the supporting instrumentals of the Batfamily to the opera of Batman vs the Orghams, and those voices definitely raise the story quite nicely.