Overview: In our review of Knight Terrors: Detective Comics #1, Jim Gordon faces two of his worst nightmares – the people of Gotham ripping themselves and the city apart, and powerful demonic entities amusing themselves by accelerating that process.
Synopsis (Spoilers ahead): “The Good People of Gotham” part one:
At the grave of his son, Jim Gordon feels snow in July. After getting a text from Babs, he goes home to the boy Sorrow with pizza. Sorrow senses powerful entities being summoned to Gotham. These three beings see that they are being summoned to Insomnia’s dream world. Sorrow jumps out the window to stop the beings, and Jim follows. They find three masked Gothamites who summoned the beings, asking for gifts to “save” Gotham – might, wealth, and knowledge. The beings grant them gifts, leading to one of the summoners obliterating Sorrow when he attacks.
Jim, distraught, is knocked out but not killed. When he wakes, he calls Harvey about the “Good People of Gotham,” the summoners. Harvey says that Rookie, the Batman armor Jim wore and worked with in the Superheavy storyline, is active in Gotham again. Punching a wall, Jim discovered his body is brittle like glass. Following the trail of seven bodies, he finds the Knight Terror Rookie, but trying to shoot his gun breaks his fragile wrist. Knight Terror Rookie says Jim should help him “save” Gotham, then leaves for more “justice.” Jim tries to follow, but his foot snaps. He sees the Beings, and rages that he didn’t want a gift. This confuses the Beings.
Following the name Knight Terror Rookie gave him, Jim confronts Angelica Vanderbar, wealthy tax evader, but finds that she asked for wealth, and now vomits diamonds, cutting her from the inside out. When Jim tries to clear her airway, his fingers break off. The Beings watch, amused.
After taking over the backup on Detective Comics, Dan Watters is a solid choice to lead the Knight Terrors two-part miniseries for this event. The story he chose to tell in Knight Terrors: Detective Comics #1 is full of layers and ambiguity. Are the “pentapriests” or demonic entities real or part of Jim’s fears – or created by Insomnia himself? Is Jim by himself in this dream? Are Babs, the three “Good People of Gotham,” and Sorrow stuck in there as well? There are signs that could point either way. And how does all this madness connect to the ongoing plot of Insomnia to steal the Nightmare Stone and destroy the superheroes? Overall, a lot of things to think about with regards to the main event.
On its own, Watters plays with many more layers. Reaching back to the Superheavy period of the New 52, he teases out themes that were less prominent in 2015. The worry of a state-sponsored Batman, one willing to slaughter criminals instead of save people confronts Jim as the man inhabiting his former robot suit expects him to be on their side. Contrary to the despairing, drunken Jim Gordon of Si Spurrier’s dreadful backups, it’s nice to see Watters continuing with Ram V’s veteran man of integrity. Jim is committed to doing the right thing, even for those he finds contemptible like Angelica.
To fit with the Knight Terrors theme, Watters also leans HEAVILY on the device of body horror. Multiple different versions of body horror pervade this comic, and the result is deeply, deeply unsettling. Perhaps too effective, as it might lead to a lack of enjoyment of the story. But that could also be just a personal taste element of response. It all depends on what you like and expect from a horror-type mainstream superhero comic!
Riccardo Federici’s detailed, heavily rendered pencil art, colored exquisitely by Brad Anderson, fits perfectly with the horrific, dreamlike theme of Knight Terrors. The three Entities, the Good People of Gotham in their masks and then their transformed fates, and Jim’s cracking flesh all feel all too real, even in the dream.
Federici provides the main cover, featuring the combined “Good Person” and Rookie robot armor, with the grotesque pentapriest entities and creepy clock behind him. Cully Hamner’s skeleton Batman bearing a rose doesn’t fit with what happens in the comic. However, it is perfectly respectable as a nightmare Batman themed image for the 1-in-25 incentive variant. Bernard Chang also provides a version of the evil Rookie armor perched atop a building. He also created a black and white sketch version as a 1-in-50 incentive cover. Dustin Nguyen’s vivid Midnight variant beautifully combines the red, white, and black Batsignal with a bleeding hand in a coat. It either deliberately or accidentally mirrors the splintering flesh of Jim Gordon inside! Kyle Hotz’s variant highlights an even more monstrous vision of the evil Rookie armor, with excess tentacles and bats galore!
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.