Batman: Detective Comics Annual #2 – Peter J. Tomasi, Writer; Travis Moore, Max Raynor, Artists; Tamra Bonvillain, Nick Filardi, Colorists
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Batman: Year Two?
Ray: This is probably the most compelling issue of Tomasi’s run so far, but it’s also an issue that suffers from some bad timing. Coming in the middle of the big Arkham Knight arc, it’s another “anti-Batman” arc bringing in a more ruthless, villainous masked vigilante. This one brings back the original, the Reaper, who famously appeared in the Batman: Year Two arc that inspired what many consider the greatest Batman story of all time – the animated movie Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. But the original Reaper died in his first story, so the character’s return – viciously cutting down petty crooks in the opening segment of the issue – raises a lot of questions and sends Bruce back to the Black Casebook. Tomasi is overall a good Batman writer, it’s just his plots have let him down so far in this run. This back-to-basics story serves him really well and offers good opportunities for banter with both Alfred and Gordon. It even comes up with an excuse for getting Bruce back into his “Brucie Wayne, playboy” persona.
There’s a bit of an infodump as the issue starts because the tale of the Reaper is a complicated one that most readers might have forgotten. It does a good job with the “dark mirror” concept, creating a figure for whom a tragic loss triggered a spiral into darkness, and it sends Bruce off to Europe on a multi-pronged mission that involves undercover work and some tense fights. Moore and Raynor do a great job art-wise with Reaper’s design and there’s a few great jump scares, but I was a little disappointed with the reveal. It fell back on a surprise twist that wasn’t exactly telegraphed, and the reveal of another evil clone like the Heretic felt out of place given the down-to-earth noir tone of the issue. I’m not sure if this is a one-off story or if Tomasi has larger plans for the Reaper, but I hope it’s the latter because there’s a lot of potential set up here. It’s still a bit bumpy, but this issue does a strong job of serving as both a sequel to a decades-old comic and a tense stand-alone Bat-mystery.
Corrina: I agree, this is the strongest story so far of Tomasi’s recent Batman work. I wonder what his Detective Comics run might have been if he’d started with the Reaper arc, rather than the Arkham Knight? The Reaper has more resonance to longtime Batman readers and this villain’s history connects more directly to Batman’s past than the random batarang that seems to have inspired the Arkham Knight’s hatred of the detective.
And detective Batman is during this issue, using all his resources, from Gordon to Alfred, to Bruce Wayne’s playboy persona. I also liked the one new female character used in all this, the one who agreed to be Bruce’s date in order to gain backing for what seems like her progressive corporation. I’d like to see more of her and, if she’s connected to the Reaper, this was a nice, organic way to introduce her into the story. (Rather than being dropped into a story, like the Arkham Knight.) I also loved drunk Alfred as “bait.”
I could wish the ending had given more closure rather than supplying something as open-handed as this tale. But perhaps this is the start of something very good coming up in Detective Comics. The Reapers, after all, are a sort of anti-Batman Incorporated Group.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.