Review – Batman: Detective Comics #998: Hellbats and Demons

Comic Books DC This Week
Detective Comics #998 variant cover, via DC Comics.

Batman: Detective Comics #998 – Peter J. Tomasi, Writer; Doug Mahnke, Penciller; Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, Inkers; David Baron, Colorist


Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Enter the Demon Etrigan

Ray: The countdown to Peter Tomasi’s main story in Detective Comics #1000 continues, as Batman goes on a global journey that also doubles as a dark night (knight) of the soul in Detective Comics #998. Confronting specters of his past as he tries to solve the murders of Leslie Thompkins and Henri Ducard, this arc often feels like a greatest-hits collection mixed in with some odd diversions (like last issue’s team-up with the obscure first Mister Miracle). This issue, it’s time to bring back an element created by Grant Morrison and used to great effect by Tomasi in his Batman and Robin run – the Hellbat. This super-suit designed to stand up to the fires of Apokalips is a last-ditch weapon used by Batman against supernatural threats – and it comes in handy when he’s called into action to help Etrigan against a powerful demon. That is, after he attempts to intimidate Dr. Hugo Strange into answers about the recent attacks. He comes up empty, and Batman really seems to be in a mood to intimidate villains lately.

The Etrigan segment is Mahnke’s forte, as he’s always excelled at drawing the strange and grotesque. The Demon is intimidating here, and the strange neon demon they fight is a compelling foe. It’s also apparently tied into the crisis Batman’s been facing, a manifestation of his self-doubts. I’m still not sure that whole plot works, and after a brief parlay with Jason Blood, Batman is off to his next stop. That would be Silas Stone, another previously unknown mentor of a young Batman. Tomasi does some interesting things with Stone’s role in developing Batman’s tech, but the strange ending leaves it ambiguous if this was actually him or if he was even there at all. Thus far, this arc is raising some interesting questions, but it feels more like a series of strange vignettes than a full story. Given how many characters it’s killed off,

I’m still not sold that it’s doing anything that the other “Batman is targeted personally by a villain” arcs in recent memory haven’t done already.

Detective Comics #998
Batman vs. Strange. Via DC Comics.

Corrina: The history of Bruce becoming Batman is interesting. The use the plot is making of that history is less so.

First, with killing off Leslie, then with segments with the mentors that don’t end well for them either. I want this story to have resonance besides the basic serial killer plot of “I’m going to kill everyone who meant something to you.” (Well, so long as they’re not fully able to defend themselves apparently. Easier to go after Leslie than, say, Jason Todd or Tim Drake.) That missing emotional resonance hurts the story.

Silas Stone did not ring a bell initially and that’s because he came out of left field, as my mind connected him to Cyborg, not anything to do with Batman. It’s an interesting choice for a tech mentor but, again, it doesn’t seem to do much for the overall plot. It simply adds a familiar DC figure.

I guess we’ll see how this all comes out in a couple of issues.

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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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