This issue starts off a new story in Detective Comics that features the first appearance in the New 52 of the villain Wrath. A masked cop-killer is on the loose in Gotham, and witnesses say the killer looks like Batman. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne meets with wealthy Gothamite E.D. Caldwell, the CEO of high-grade weapons manufacturer Caldwell Technologies. Caldwell tries to buy Wayne Enterprises from Bruce, but Bruce won’t have it. That night, two armored figures continue their hunt for police officers on the streets of Gotham. The larger person, clearly the teacher in this student-teacher relationship, orders the smaller one to take out some unsuspecting GCPD. Ambushing them with elite, heavy machine guns, the sidekick known as Scorn kills a few officers before fleeing on foot when Batman arrives. As it turns out, one of the officers survives because he was wearing a new bullet-proof vest the GCPD just received courtesy of Caldwell Technologies. Batman chases Scorn through Gotham before cornering him. After a brief fight, GCPD Officer Strode intervenes and pulls a gun on Scorn. Strode is angry at Scorn for killing her fellow officers and even angrier at Batman for failing to stop the cop-killer. Before Strode can pull the trigger, a jet-like gunship opens fire on Batman and Strode that forces them to run for cover. Scorn makes his escape while our heroes are distracted and climbs aboard the gunship. However, Scorn accidentally left his gun behind on the scene and Batman examines it to find “Caldwell Technologies” on the handle. Back on the gunship, Scorn gets lectured by his master, Wrath, for failing to kill more police officers and drawing Batman’s attention. Wrath fires Scorn as his sidekick, opens the gunship doors, and throws Scorn out over Gotham.
The Good: Jason Fabok is back on art duties this month after Scot Eaton guest-starred on #21. Scot did a great job, but I have to admit that I was really excited when I saw Jason Fabok’s name on this book. Fabok’s dark, ominous panels fit Gotham so well. Every page has detail that brings Gotham to life. And it’s not just the cityscape that looks wonderful- it’s the people, too. They don’t look stiff or like they’re always in the same pose, as can happen in comics sometimes. Little things like Alfred with his hand in his pocket, or Bruce’s crossed arms when Caldwell offers to buy Wayne Enterprises, make all these characters seem like real people with their own mannerisms. Jason Fabok’s art is excellent. I could go on all day about Fabok’s art in Detective Comics, but you get the point.
John Layman’s writing is solid this issue, like it is most issues since he took over Detective Comics last year. He’s done a great job with minor continuity, which I really enjoy. For example, several of the GCPD officers from the mega-sized #19 issue have shown up in other issues like this one. I like seeing a regular cast of the GCPD developed and explored, rather than random anonymous officers that come and go. Layman does a nice job showcasing each character’s personality within their limited scenes. In particular, Alfred made some sly remarks that kept Bruce in check and gave him something to think about, which is why Alfred is great. Layman also did a nice job in the final scene between Wrath and Scorn, examining the hero-sidekick relationship with little references to Batman and his teen heroes over the years. The last thing Wrath says to Scorn before throwing him out of the plane was excellent. “There’s something you need to understand about the nature of partnerships in Gotham. Partners die.”
The Bad: While I have complained about Batman’s use (or rather, misuse) of his vehicles in recent issues, Detective Comics #22 had nothing to complain about in that regard. Neither the tumbler nor the Bat-jet were crashed into buildings to get someone’s attention, and that’s a good thing. The main sticking point with this issue is that it is pretty obvious early on that E.D. Caldwell is probably going to be the man behind Wrath. As soon as the reader meets Caldwell, Bruce is telling Alfred that he does not like him, and the reader instantly suspects he is up to something. Why else would Caldwell want to buy Wayne Enterprises? Caldwell’s weapons company is directly connected to the guns the villains are using and the bullet-proof vests the GCPD are wearing. While we don’t know the motivations or end game quite yet, the reader already gets the sense that Wrath and Caldwell are one in the same. Maybe it’s just me, but I like a little more mystery to my villains.
The Verdict: The good definitely outweighs the bad in this issue. Wrath is positioned to be a great foil for Batman, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops over the next several issues. John Layman’s writing has me hooked, and with Jason Fabok bringing the Dark Knight and Gotham to life like no one else, I am happy to be hooked on this title. Layman and Fabok continue to give us an exciting and excellent take on Batman and Detective Comics. Four out of five.