Batman and belief are run through the ringer.
Detective Comics has been in the hands of James Tynion IV since issue #934, but issue #981 recently wrapped up his long team-based run. Michael Moreci takes over today for a one-shot adventure right before Bryan Hill takes the reins. A one-shot tale is a great way for casual readers to jump on board and for longtime readers to get a new kind of Batman story.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
“The Cursing of Gotham City!” The abduction of a child by a strange, militant, religious sect of Gotham’s homeless takes Batman into the city’s darkest subterranean tunnels… and into the upside-down world of the vicious spirit Deacon Blackfire!
Why does this matter?
This is a story about belief, ghosts, and the forgotten of Gotham.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This issue opens with a homeless man upside down blubbering with Batman speaking through captions as he interrogates him. It sets the stage for a different kind of detective story, one that will ultimately involve a ghost (or is he a meta-human?), and some very trippy moments for Batman in this issue. Moreci pushes Batman in ways we don’t normally see as he questions his role as the Batman, but also reality itself. The story is deeply personal for Batman–and even involves a little boy–which makes the issue more important and meaningful.
The art by Sebastian Fiumara is dark, gritty, and frightening. The vistas of Gotham are gorgeously rendered like some kind of industrial revolution painting. These vistas help give the impression Batman’s city is itself a dreamscape, or maybe a nightmare, that he must navigate figuratively and literally in this story. Fiumara does some interesting things with Batman’s cape as well, using it to wrap Batman and make him inhuman at times. Dave Stewart’s colors play with light very well further creating a visceral experience.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Batman goes through some heavy stuff in this issue and he has trouble realizing what is real and what isn’t, but there’s a moment of weakness that is rather unbecoming of Batman. He’s basically on his knees saying he’s not alone and out pops a few of the bat gang. I’m not sure if they’re really there — probably not, but the visuals don’t make that a certainty. Regardless, even if it was in his head it’s a moment of weakness that comes out of nowhere and seems very unlike Batman (the most resolute hero ever).
Is it good?
This is a good one-shot story that plays around with Batman’s perception and relationship to Gotham very well.