Batman: Detective Comics #988 – James Robinson, Writer; Stephen Segovia, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Ray: James Robinson is one of the most frustrating writers in comics. Sometimes, he pulls out something like The Golden Age, Starman, or The Shade, one of the most brilliant works in comics. Then he’ll do something like Justice League: Cry for Justice or his recent Wonder Woman run, which takes its place as an iconically bad work in comic book history. So on which side does his new Detective Comics arc, Deface the Face, fall? Neither, and that may be just as frustrating. His previous work on Batman, right after One Year Later, was a compelling arc focusing on Two-Face and Tim Drake. Based on the title and some of the clues dropped, this arc may be a sequel but we get little of that so far. This first issue is a very fast-paced story where very little happens, as Batman tries to distract himself from his recent matrimonial disaster by throwing himself into solving a single murder. The references to the wedding trouble feel a bit awkward as if it doesn’t really work to have anyone but Tom King write this story. Alfred’s dialogue, in particular, feels off in places.
The victim, Harold Frank, was shot twice in a seemingly random shooting, but an investigation picks up evidence of a conspiracy. First, he was shot by two different guns, which instantly points to Two-Face. But then he has a wall full of mysterious targets and a sniper rifle in his house. Before Batman can investigate, he comes under attack by a raging fire – set by Firefly, or at least one of them. This issue introduces Bridgit Pike, the Firefly from the Gotham TV series, who I don’t think anyone was really asking for. The fight between her and Batman is tense and action-packed, but it feels ultimately like a distraction. Nothing is really revealed, and it seems like an elaborate way to throw Batman off the trail. Stephen Segovia’s art is the highlight of the issue, with a great sense of perspective and good use of Batman’s gadgets. What doesn’t quite work is the mystery, which just throws one surprise fact after another at us until finally revealing the main villain of the arc. That would be…Kobra? There’s little to nothing leading to that, and it’s more of a puzzle than anything. It’s a competent Batman comic, but one that leaves virtually no impression compared to Bryan Hill’s previous arc.
Corrina: Hi. I’m back. Seems fitting that I begin again on a Batman story, as Gotham is my favorite fictional place. (But, no, I don’t want to actually live there. That would be suicidal.)
But this story doesn’t quite work. All the elements of a classic Gotham story are there: a body, a mystery, banter between Batman and Gordon, and even clues so Batman can be a detective. But it seems a note out of tune or a step too late. Gordon and Batman bantering usually works but Gordon is less curmudgeon and more nasty than usual, and the same for Alfred. (Would Gordon ever say ‘just a murder?’) Bruce himself is mopey and that’s not an adjective I usually associate with him. Repressed, depressed, angry, yes. Mopey, no. But he is this issue.
But this is not nearly as bad as Robinson’s Wonder Woman. Which, admittedly, is a bar so low that anything coherent would be better.
And I did love the art depiction the inferno created by the Fireflies. Segovia adds in a great deal of detail and the colorist Plascensia creates many vivid shades for the fire.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.