Review – Batman: Detective Comics #985: Karma Strikes

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Detective Comics #985 variant cover, credit to DC Comics.

Batman: Detective Comics #985 – Bryan Hill, Writer; Philippe Briones, Artist; Adriano Lucas, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: Bryan Hill’s gritty Batman arc continues to unfold in Detective Comics #985, as Karma’s war on Gotham escalates. This is one of the darkest Batman arcs I can remember, as Batman faces off against a villain who understands him all too well and is completely willing to weaponize his obsession with protecting the citizens of Gotham against him. It’s also full of disturbing visuals that often distract from the great character work at play. The issue kicks off with Alfred trying to talk Bruce (who looks oddly young in this segment) down from his determination to go after Karma himself and bench his young proteges, but once Karma’s origin is revealed, it makes a lot more sense. Karma was apparently a war criminal that Bruce encountered in Markovia years ago, likely during his first stint with the Outsiders. Rather than simply apprehending him, Batman tortured him with a modified fear gas. How this led to Karma learning his secret identity, we don’t know, but he has a deeply personal grudge based on one of Batman’s greatest mistakes.

Who is Karma? Credit to DC Comics.

The segments involving Black Lightning and the younger heroes are very well done, although I’m puzzled by Barbara Gordon being involved here – she’s an independent vigilante in her early 20s who never answered to Bruce, and she doesn’t live in Gotham. What’s she doing essentially under house arrest with the teenage Cass and Duke? Her sniping at Jefferson as he essentially tries to babysit made sense on that front. Jefferson slipping into teacher more was interesting, but it was his conversation with Alfred about the way Bruce operates that was the issue’s best segment. However, in between these scenes, there are a lot of genuinely brutal segments. A school bus driver gets assassinated, sending a bus full of students careening into danger. A reporter is kidnapped, forced to read Karma’s manifesto, and then set on fire on Gotham TV. There is a bit of mood whiplash, as the issue veers between being a compelling character based drama and a high-octane thriller with an incredibly sadistic villain. There’s a little bit of clumsiness in how the tone shifts, but overall Hill is continuing to deliver a highly compelling Batman arc with a terrifying enemy.

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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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