Review: Detective Comics #1004
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Brad Walker & Andrew Hennessey
Colors: Nathan Fairbairn
Letters: Rob Leigh
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
There are times when a comic comes along that’s a total head scratcher…a strange, bizarre thing…an aberration…a puzzling piece of publication that defies description. Detective Comics #1004 is such a comic. Unfortunately, it’s not a good thing…
Batman and Robin (Damian Wayne) are treated to the history of Astrid Arkham’s life through her drawings as narrated by her father. Conceived and born in the Asylum to a physician, Astrid has been sequestered in Arkham Asylum her whole life. Her mother killed moments after her birth by an errant Batarang thrown by a crazed inmate, Astrid never knew her mother. But, learned that a Batarang killed her mother and developed a hatred for the Batman, her father never told her the truth. He chickened out on that, finding it easier to let the Bat take the blame.
After learning this, the Dynamic father and son go in search of Astrid and the crew she’s liberated from Arkham….
This is easy, and it won’t take long. Walker and Hennessey deliver strong visuals throughout, communicating the emotion of this bizarre origin tale. Also, Robin makes a joke at Batman’s expense. After hearing Astrid’s story, Batman responds, “So, that explains why Astrid Arkham see’s me as a curse hanging over Gotham City.” Damian adds, “Haven’t we all at some point?” Good one Damian! Walker’s layouts here are perfect! A silhouetted glare is all Batman needs to shut Damian up!
I’d like to point out that I’ve been a fan of much of Peter Tomasi’s work. The initial three issues of “Medieval” have been quite good, with Astrid’s reveal quite a surprise. It’s hard to imagine what happened with Detective Comics #1004. Not trying to be funny, but it feels like everyone in the story has just passed into another dimension where the Halle Berry Catwoman film is the pinnacle of comic book film adaptations.
Astrid is born in the Asylum during a riot and delivered by the Joker and Harley Quinn. While at first it’s somewhat intriguing to imagine the Joker being responsible for delivering a child, the juxtaposition is quite alarming. It crosses over into fairy tale territory, which is appropriate as “Uncle” Joker is later shown reading such stories to Astrid as a child. This may come into play later, as it’s possible that Astrid is not who she’s shown to be and this is the fantasy her “father” and Astrid believe. I know I’m going out on a limb, but at face value this story is just too bizarre.
Astrid’s birth is attended by Solomon Grundy, protecting mother and child during labor as well as Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.
Perhaps, the most alarming thing is the strange decision her father makes allowing the girl to believe the lie that Batman killed her mother. As he relates the tale, it’s clear that he knows Batman was not at fault. His reasoning for letting the Bat take the blame is quite flimsy. It’s understandable on some level that he might not want Atrid to believe that he wasn’t there in his mother’s time of need, but the whole thing is captured on CCTV. Surely, it would’t be that hard to come clean about the whole thing.
Her father’s reasoning for raising Astrid in the Asylum is equally disturbing. Not only does it not make any sense, it perhaps indicates that everything he’s been saying is a story he’s made up to cover up some other horrible truth. The jury’s still out on this, but it doesn’t really make sense that Joker and Harley could’ve been at Arkham together as inmates 16-19 years ago as Astrid’s age was estimated by Damian last issue. How old would that make Joker and Harley…how old would it make Batman?
The whole thing makes no sense. Why Batman doesn’t call “B.S.” on it is a confounding. Essentially, Astrid’s father has mentally and emotionally abused her her whole life. Instead of growing up with other children, her playmates have been the criminally insane. Additionally, she’s been led to believe Batman killed her mother.
It’s so bizarre, it can’t be true, can it?
If this issue is the actual facts, Detective Comics #1004, has just derailed what was shaping up to be a nice arc. The incidentals of Astrid’s origin are so unreal that it calls into question the veracity of the story itself. It feels like there should be something more underneath the surface. While that’s always possible, taken for what it is, Detective Comics #1004 comes across like a bad movie script for a comic adaptation from the ’90’s…bitten by a radioactive insane asylum or some such… what did you think was going to happen when the girl’s playmate is the Joker?