Review: Detective Comics #1017
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Tom Taylor
Art: Fernando Blanco
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Travis Lanham
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
While at first distracted by “larger” matters, Bruce Wayne is alerted by Lucius Fox of some runaways from the Martha Wayne Orphanage. Batman and Damian track down the most recent runaway and uncover something bigger than a single runaway….
Fiction is at its best when it is able to create a real emotional connection with the reader. Detective Comics #1017 is such an issue. Tom Taylor finds Bruce Wayne at his most human in this story. While not a Christmas story per se, it does have a thematic connection to a famous Batman Christmas tale originally published in Batman #239, “Silent Night, Deadly Night,” by Denny O’Neil and Irv Novick and later reprinted in Christmas with the Super-Heroes (Limited Collector’s Edition Vol. 4 No. C-34) .
In both stories, Batman’s attention is drawn by an orphan child who’s in need of help on a cold and snowy night. Both stories show Batman at his most human, and that is the key to telling a great story. There’s no way any reader will not immediately see Batman as completely human. Even Damian’s anger at Bruce is mitigated once he learns the circumstances of the case.
The highlight of the issue is when Bruce Wayne, not Batman punches out the director of the orphanage who has hurt some of the children. It’s a amazingly emotional moment, wonderfully rendered by Fernando Blanco, there’s no doubt about Bruce’s feelings as his face twists into an angry sneer when he delivers the satisfying blow. But, it may be Damian’s response, “You do realize you’re not wearing a mask, right?” that steals the scene. However, Bruce is clear when he explains that this crime was perpetrated against the Wayne family and it is Bruce and Damian Wayne that are there to bring the criminals to justice.
Throughout the story, Taylor and Blanco build the tension as Damian and Bruce finally come across the runaway, and it is truly heartbreaking when they are unable to save him. Again, as in “Silent Night, Deadly Night” Batman rushes a patient to the Emergency Room hopefully in the nick of time. This time, they are a little too late. There’s no Christmas Miracle here…. However, at no point have Bruce and Damian ever seemed more human and real than when they are in the waiting room, hoping (praying?) that the runaway makes it. The use of the EKG line across the panels by Blanco is brilliant.
What do you do when you realize you’ve failed? You double down and refocus. That’s exactly what Bruce does. While it may not be represented month to month in the Bat-titles, it’s an effective conclusion for the story. One believes Bruce has been changed by the experience and he will pay more attention to his charitable institutions. It’s a story more about Bruce than Batman, or perhaps, it’s a story that is able to bring both identities together in a way that isn’t always explored. Don’t make me cry again Tom Taylor!
There’s not a lot of action…there’s no costumed villain, but that’s all window dressing compared to the real human emotion Taylor, Blanco, Kalisz and Lanham evoke in this masterfully produced Batman story.
I once wrote that Inustice 2: Annual #2 was the best Superman/Batman story ever written. I still stand by that. It explored their relationship in a unique and insightful way. Detective Comics #1017 is a similarly charged issue. I lamented the inability to give Injustice 2: Annual #2 a 6/5. It is so with Detective Comics #1017. It is a marvelous “one and done” issue, so rare in this day and age, but probably a more satisfying read than an 18 issue “epic” because it is not contrived and finds its heart in connecting to the emotions of real people. Let me wipe away this tear…
I first heard about the “Children of the Night” charity through my interest in the vocal talents of Ronnie James Dio. He contributed for many years to this charity that helps runaways.
Tom Taylor…it says 5/5, but you and I know it’s a 6/5…!