Batman: Detective Comics #997 – Peter J. Tomasi, Writer; Doug Mahnke, Penciller; Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Inkers; David Baron, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Nice Death Trap Escape
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: I haven’t been all that favorable towards Tomasi and Mahnke’s run on Detective Comics so far, being annoyed by the repeated killing of Batman supporting characters and a plot we’ve seen before. But Detective Comics #997, a focused issue, shows the creative team at their best, and digs up one of the most obscure pieces of DC continuity I’ve ever seen. That would be Thaddeus Brown, the old escape artist who was briefly the first Mister Miracle and taught Scott Free his escape tricks before dying. This version taught Batman as well, and clearly isn’t dead – at least for now, because when we first see him and Bruce this issue, they’ve both been captured and are chained up in an underwater tank filled with sharks. And if the sharks weren’t enough, a school of piranhas are soon released into the tank to make sure the sharks have a reason to go into a blood frenzy. It’s very reminiscent of the recent Professor Pyg issue of Batman, a close-up look into Batman escaping from an impossible trap.
The difference is, Batman isn’t alone this time and he’s facing far more immediate peril for both of them. The story is divided into seconds, with Batman and Brown using every trick at their disposal to stave off death. This includes strategic use of blood to derail the carnivorous fish, and in one case tricking the piranhas into eating their bonds. Once the tense escape segment concludes, the issue takes a dip for me as the mutated villain responsible for the previous attacks shows up again and taunts Batman with visions of his allies, enemies, and the people he’s failed to save as it attacks them. This ongoing plot isn’t compelling yet, but the unlikely team-up between Batman and Brown is a fun dynamic we haven’t seen before, and Doug Mahnke’s art here looks the best it has since his Green Lantern heyday. As we count down to Detective Comics #1000 in less than two months, I’m hoping this core mystery develops and we get more issues like this one.
Corrina: Yes, any Batman story with a clever escape from a death trap is usually going to be good, and this is no exception, especially how Brown–a mystery to most Batman readers–is given such a vibrant personality in his short appearance. Mahnke’s panel by panel depiction of the trap and the escape are his best work in this run.
The problem remains the overall storyline which, only two issues from the big anniversary event, makes too little sense, with too many dangling plotlines. The mutated villain attacking at the end of the issue is symbolic of this.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.