Overview: In this review of Detective Comics #1074, the Azmer demon chases Bruce through his mind and through Gotham, as Commissioner Montoya and her men try to find Batman, running into the Ten-Eyed Man along the way.
Note: This Review Contains Spoilers
Detective Comics #1074 “Out of Hell, part 1”
Writer: Ram V
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Colors: John Kalisz
Main Cover: Evan Cagle
Variant Covers: Kelley Jones, Mike Perkins, Pablo Villalobos, Sebastian Fiumara, Mikel Janin, and Evan Cagle
Release Date: September 26, 2023
Detective Comics #1074 begins as the police collect statements from low level criminals in the aftermath of an explosive Batman attack. But the Dark Knight isn’t himself. Renee Montoya is troubled, and has Batman followed by Detective Fielding (from Batman Secret Files #1 “The Nature of Fear”, by Ram V as well).
In Batman’s mind, he’s a boy again, talking to his father on a bridge. Thomas tells his son about his own father, and about valuing the small things. Bruce finds himself as a man again, and Thomas tells him to run, fading to a skull, devoured by a building-sized wolf.
Detective Fielding interrogates Killer Croc, who says Batman is, indeed, not himself. And that Shavod and the Orgham troops are searching for the Bat too. They end up at the old Haley’s Circus, on fire.
In flashback, Bruce tells Dick that he bought Haley’s Circus so Dick would have a place to return to. But Dick falls into the building-sized wolf’s jaws, too.
Batman finds himself in Crime Alley. The wolf stalks him, and the demon Barbatos says that only Bruce can stop the wolf (actually an Azmer demon). But Barbatos can hold him off.
Detective Fielding and his partner Nash head towards Crime Alley, as Fielding realizes the pattern of Batman connected to the Wayne Family.
Ram V’s “Gotham Nocturne” dives deep into Batman’s history with this issue, which is both effective and a bit disappointing. Effective because for any Batman fan, revisiting Crime Alley or Haley’s Circus with Dick, or seeing Thomas Wayne, has a guaranteed emotional impact. Ram V does not disappoint in those moments at all – strong dialogue and effective calculated impact work. However, nothing new is really added to Bruce’s character or the story, as we end this issue pretty much where we began – with Barbatos promising to help Bruce fight the Azmer demon.
The B-plotline does not progress much, either, with Commission Montoya and Ram V’s Detective Fielding (a nice returning figure from the haunting story Ram V wrote for Batman: Secret Files #1) chasing Batman through the city, taking notes from Gotham’s criminals. I do wonder if Batman and the Azmer killed a woman with grenades in the opening narrative – a bit of an oversight, if so.
Despite the frustrating wheel-spinning feeling of this issue, Ram V works powerfully with expert and veteran Batfamily artist Dustin Nguyen to produce a very emotional issue. Nguyen’s rendering of Batman, his memories, the Azmer-wolf, and the GCPD investigation show just why he’s a master Batman talent. The scenes of Bruce’s mind, child-Bruce and Thomas, Bruce and Dick, and of course Crime Alley, though each has been done over and over again, have new powerful life under Nguyen’s pencils, and perfectly rendered by John Kalisz’s colors. And it’s really excellent to see a single artist handle the whole art duties on a Detective Comics issue, after months of two or three or even four-man teams on the main story.
Title: “Ten-Eyed Man in The Hole in the Skull of the World”
Writer: Dan Watters
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Colors: Triona Farrell
The backup story of Detective Comics #1074 begins as Ten-Eyed Man sits on the rooftops in the rain, trying to figure out what is happening. His normal pizza place was closed, and he accidentally drills a hole in the pizza man’s head. Taking pizza man to the hospital, Ten-Eyed Man accidentally stops a mentally ill nurse from murdering many babies with ricin poison. Captured and put in jail, Ten-Eyed Man is interrogated by Montoya, who trades a pizza for information…and Ten-Eyed Man disappears from the cell. We see him again on the rooftops, this time eating the pizza he sought all along.
Dan Watters, like Si Spurrier before him on Detective Comics backups, ties his story expertly to Ram V’s main story. In addition, he also connects to his Arkham City: Order of the World miniseries which starred Ten-Eyed Man. Though I still don’t really like the affection Watters evokes for this deadly destructive figure, the affection does come from expect writing. The way Ten-Eyed Man shows no malice, obsesses about pizza, and gets his accidental victim to the hospital as well as saving many babies, take the reader through a journey of confusion, hunger, humor, and even heroism.
The connection to Montoya’s hunt for Batman brilliantly shows the coordination of the writers on this book (even as it highlights how Detective Comics might as well be in another universe from the main Batman title, as Gotham War has no trace in Gotham Nocturne, nor vice versa). Hayden Sherman’s art provides lovely and evocative – and fittingly mad – imagery for Ten-Eyed Man’s world. The neon drenched colors of Triona Farrell fit the tone perfectly, wrapping up a very expertly crafted backup.
As usual, Evan Cagle provides the main cover (and the black and white art is used for the 1 in 50 incentive variant), featuring Batman clawing off his mask as ghostly wolf jawbones close around his head – a beautiful reflection of the story inside. Well done. Kelley Jones’s variant shows a bloody fisted Batman menacing some kids in an alley, surrounded by bright blue steam from a manhole – very evocative and powerful use of negative space. Mike Perkins’ variant plays on the Opera theme, with the Bat-Cowl and cape acting as a stage curtain, the Bat-signal shining over a demon walking next to young Bruce Wayne.
Pablo Villalobos provides the Hispanic Heritage Month variant, showing a slickly rendered Renee Montoya Question, a nice nod to Montoya’s alter ego (though it’d be nice to actually see her in the comics again). The cover is a bit sexier than expected, with Montoya’s vest left open for some pretty impressive cleavage, but the coloring, background, and linework still works pretty well. Sebastian Fiumara’s painterly 1 in 25 incentive variant features Batman holding a pale child Bruce, draped in his mother’s pearls, as bats flap all around them. Lastly, Mikel Janin’s Justice League vs. Godzilla vs. Kong variant highlights Batman and the rest of the League as they stand against the two gigantic beasts in a red-skyed city.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with an advanced 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.