Detective Comics #23 builds to a tense, suspenseful climax as John Layman keeps readers on the edge of their seats and Jason Fabok hooks readers in with his art.
The Good: Detective Comics #23 keeps the story moving nicely and builds on top of Detective Comics #22 and Detective Comics Annual #2. Off the top we learn more about Scorn, even though he died in last month’s issue. The flashback of Batman’s first run-in with the man who would one day become Scorn presents a nice origin story that readers don’t get to see very often for an evil sidekick. It was realistic, grounded, and showed the motivations behind the character.
John Layman’s story keeps things rolling as Batman encounters Wrath for the first time and begins to suspect E.D. Caldwell as the man behind the mask. He started to piece it together in the previous issue when he found Scorn’s gun, but now he’s almost sure of it even though he lacks any real evidence. The way Layman uses Bruce Wayne’s business life to get the job done was enjoyable. Far too often Batman titles will neglect Bruce Wayne, or they’ll only show his love life without showing his role as CEO of Wayne Enterprises. It was also cool seeing Alfred use a digital mapping device similar to the one that appears in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (the Nolan-created Tumbler has also made appearances in Layman’s run on Detective Comics).
Even more enjoyable was the scene in which Bruce Wayne and E.D. Caldwell spar in Caldwell Towers, both physically with martial arts and verbally over a proposed buyout of Wayne Enterprises and Batman’s technology. As Wayne and Caldwell trade blows, the reader gets a good sense that these two men are equals, especially as Caldwell coyly tries to coax information on Batman out of Bruce.
Wrath is supposed to be the twisted doppelganger of Batman and watching Bruce’s white judo uniform clash with E.D.’s dark uniform makes for a great yin and yang contrast. I don’t know if that was Layman’s idea or Fabok’s (or both), but it was a nice piece of symbolism. As Alfred sneaks out to explore Caldwell Towers, artist Jason Fabok delivers an impressive splash page to reveal a large cache of military-style armored jeeps, tanks, jets, and even the Wrathcopter (I still laugh at that name) hiding below the building. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to the GCPD officers who were unfortunate enough to be wearing one of Caldwell’s booby-trapped bulletproof vests. John Layman’s writing left me on the edge of my seat by the end of the issue with Wrath, having taken Alfred, telling Batman that he’s next. I’m going to have the popcorn ready for the conclusion to this story.
The Bad: I still haven’t figured out how Batman knows to call this villain Wrath. Even though Batman has been searching for the cop-killer for a while now, this is the first issue that we see the two characters meet. Wrath never mentions his own name but throughout Detective Comics #23 Batman refers to him as Wrath. I’m sorry if I’m harping on this, but little details like that can take the reader out of the story. Maybe I’ve been spending too much time on /r/plotholes. One of the first splash pages shows Batman and Wrath fighting on the rooftop, only to jump back mere seconds, and show the reader how Batman ambushed Wrath. I’m not really sure what the point is for that time-flip. It doesn’t really add to the story. Some skips in time can be great story-telling devices when they have something to add to the story, but the device doesn’t give us anything here.
The Verdict: Detective Comics #23 gives readers a great set-up for the final confrontation between Wrath and Batman that will play out in October’s Detective Comics #24. Writer John Layman keeps readers caught up in Batman’s adventures with action, mystery, and danger. Jason Fabok’s art is top-notch with excellent details that will have you looking over each panel again and again. While the 5-second time flip certainly doesn’t hurt the story, it doesn’t do much for it either other than provide a quick two-page distraction. Overall, I have been enjoying this story arc (and all of John Layman and Jason Fabok’s run on Detective Comics to be honest).