Overview: Having attempted to sacrifice himself for Gotham in Detective Comics #1073, Batman faces something almost worse than death – the Orgham’s terrifying Azmer demon.
Story #1: “Gotham Nocturne, Act II: Condemned” by writer Ram V and artists Ivan Reis and Goran Sudzuka Synopsis (Spoilers ahead): As Orgham Place explodes, Oracle (Barbara Gordon) checks the team. Nightwing (Dick Grayson) and Batgirl (Cassandra Cain) got out. Jim Gordon investigates, but Batman goes silent. Prince Arzen Orgham and Batman fight in the tunnels, since Batman chose to save everyone everyone else instead of himself. Orgham’s many eyed lady Shavod, the Serpent, broadcasts a video blaming Batman for the explosion. Arzen says that the supernatural powers of his “serpent” and the Reality Engine will reshape Gotham City to be free of Batman.
Arclight from the Vigil visits Oracle again, saving her from the Serpent’s mind control. Two-Face (Harvey Dent) plans for the war. Ten-Eyed Man senses the changes, as Azrael (Jean-Paul Valley) prays. Meanwhile, Jim snaps Commissioner Renee Montoya out of the mind control.
Batman tells Arzen his father wouldn’t want him to become a supernatural dictator. Arzen swells with supernatural power and anger, then tricks Batman by releasing an Azmer demon. Batman flees, and inside his mind/soul, Barbatos offers to save him if Bruce lets the demon control him. Bruce refuses and flees in his mind. Barbatos waits.
Analysis: Is Batman right to make himself essential to Gotham’s future? Ram V makes the theme he’s mentioned in interviews more explicit with this issue. Unfortunately, the person making the argument against Batman is a bit too obviously evil. If the Orgham family didn’t rely so much on murder and demonic control, the argument against Batman wouldn’t feel like so much of a strawman. As it stands, Batman’s heroism stands in clear contrast to the Orghams’ brutality, making the reader’s choice clear. Perhaps expecting antagonists who don’t resort to murder and mind control in a Batman comic is too much? After all, Batman is a dark knight, fighting archetypes that represent his own worst nature. The Orghams have potential to represent his desire for control and a better future.
It’s odd how both Ram V and Chip Zdarsky are focusing on the same basic narrative device for Bruce’s character. For Ram V, it’s Barbatos. Zdarsky gives us the Batman of Zur En Arrh. Both a dangerous, unhinged side of Batman, warring with Bruce’s soul for possession of his dangerous body. How Zdarsky and V resolve the conflict presents exciting possibilities. Of course, Batman will win, but how he wins reveals what the writer thinks about what makes Batman a hero. Hopefully the internal conflict in Detective Comics won’t last too long – but probably at least two issues.
Ram V’s use of the supporting characters continues to be a bit frustrating. Dick and Cass both tell us what they did, instead of showing us. Meanwhile, Oracle gets punked again by the Vigil characters. None of them demonstrate much actual character, just showing up for a panel or two. While it’s great seeing the characters used, it’d be nice if their parts weren’t so generic. And even better if Babs wasn’t undermined as much to prop up Ram V’s original characters.
Ivan Reis and Goran Sudzuka provide art for this story in Detective Comics #1073, Danny Miki inking Reis. Not to beat a dead horse, but DC’s failure to schedule this title with just one artist per issue continues. Brad Anderson’s colors bathe the issue in lurid reds of explosion and vivid supernatural glows. Sudzuka’s art doesn’t mesh quite as well with Reis’s as other collaborators like Stefano Raffaele or Dexter Soy, but it is still high quality.
Story #2: “Things That Must Die Part II” by writer Dan Watters and artist Stefano Raffaele
Synopsis: The boy Prince Arzen flees from the assassins who killed his bodyguard. Shavod saves him, as the assassins claim to work for Ra’s Al Ghul. In rage, Arzen sets the garden on fire to immolate the last killer. Weeks later, as Arzen trains brutally in combat, his mother smiles. She gives him a box made from his father’s tree, containing a severed tongue and eyeball. Shavod reveals to the audience that the queen hired the assassins and killed their entire families for silence. All to train Arzen to ruthless brutality and revenge.
Backup Analysis: Dan Watters and Stefano Raffaele close their two-part story exploring Prince Arzen’s backstory powerfully. Though Shavod’s reveal is perhaps a bit predictable, it’s perfectly timed to fit with Ram V’s main story. The shift from Si Spurrier’s backups to Dan Watters’ backups continues the excellent collaboration on Detective Comics. Main story and backup continue to develop characters and themes in ways that perfectly reinforce each other. Additionally, Raffaele’s art, with Lee Loughridge’s colors, strongly conveys the brutality and horror of Arzen’s training.
Evan Cagle’s main cover shows a beautifully rendered Batman wrapped in huge black batwings, nicely symbolizing the trap Batman finds himself in this issue. Mike Perkins’ variant shows Batman in the grasp of Barbatos with the Orgham masks above, also nicely reflecting the issue. Pete Woods’ Swimsuit variant cheerfully depicts Batman diving below the water to avoid a hail of bullets. Amy Reeder’s Pride variant shows Batwoman and Renee Montoya Question posing dramatically in front of a brushstroke rainbow. Martin Simmonds’ 1 in 25 variant shows Batman holding a broken golden mask, while the eyes and tentacles of Shavod swirl above his head. Kelley Jones’ variant and 1 in 50 foil variant gives his big-eared Batman a garish yellow cityscape across which Batman dangles a thug. In general, a really excellent set of covers that reflects the interior of the comic a lot better than past issues have.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of Detective Comics #1073 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.