Batman: Detective Comics #995 – Peter J. Tomasi, Writer; Doug Mahnke, Penciller; Jaime Mendoza, Inker; David Baron, Colorist
Ray – 5/10
Corrina: Everybody Dies! (Okay, not, but my hopes for this arc sure did.)
Ray: The first issue of Pete Tomasi’s return to the world of Gotham was a competent, effective mystery that wasn’t really going to get anyone talking. The second issue is definitely going to get people talking from early on, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Detective Comics #995 picks up immediately after the cliffhanger, which saw a monster of some sort dose Leslie Thompkins with Joker gas. Leslie, the closest thing Bruce has to a mother figure (this issue brings back into continuity the period where she briefly raised him before Alfred took custody), is dying fast from the poison and Mahnke doesn’t shy away from showing the horrific effects of the gas. Bruce races her back to the Batcave where he has the antidotes – and none of them work because this is a modified strain. Leslie dies in the Batcave after begging Bruce not to let his war destroy him, and like that one of the most important female characters in Batman’s history is unceremoniously shuffled off-panel forever. Gross, and this story isn’t good enough yet to justify that loss.
From there, as Bruce and Alfred mourn, it becomes clear that this is about someone targeting Bruce Wayne on a deeply personal level. Alfred barely has time to cry over his old friend (and love interest, in some versions) before a knock at the door greets him with an assassin dressed in the garb of Zorro. Clearly, we all know the significance of Zorro to Bruce, and the assassin proceeds to insert a sword directly into Alfred’s lung. This doesn’t exactly make sense – if the villain wants to kill everyone Bruce loves and destroy him, he has Alfred dead to rights. Why attack to wound? We know why – because Alfred can’t actually die. By the end of the issue, Alfred is recovering and Batman is on the warpath like we’ve rarely seen him (except, you know, in Batman less than a month ago). Unlike that book, when he enters Arkham Asylum to interrogate the villains he has time to make an elaborate speech. But none of this feels original enough to justify the major loss that opened the issue.
Corrina: Oh, here’s yet another story with Batman going nutty in Arkham Asylum. Didn’t he just do that? One would hope Bat-editorial would better coordinate the timing of these psychotic breaks for our hero.
Basically, I have the same objection to this incursion into Arkham as I did in Batman. One, this is lousy investigative technique and Batman should know that, even if he’s unhinged. Two, why does he believe the people locked up know more than, say, somebody who might be running around free? This is brute force, like Jason Todd, not investigating like the World’s Greatest Detective. (And the title on the book itself.)
No, I don’t like Leslie’s death, especially since she seems to have been brought back only to be killed off after using her dying breath to tell Bruce what he should be. That’s an overused plot device, to re-introduce a character only to toss them aside for a main character’s angst, and it feels the same when applied to Alfred too. (Though I fully expect him to survive.)
It’s also probably the wrong time to talk about the many ways Arkham Asylum as an institution in DC Comics bothers me and how it perpetuates so many horrible stereotypes of the mentally ill, but when Batman goes in to beat up a bunch of people who are supposedly mentally ill, I can’t help thinking about it. Can’t we at least make this a regular prison?
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.