Review: Detective Comics #1038
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writers: Mariko Tamaki and Meghan Fitzmartin
Art: Viktor Bognanovic & Daniel Hernriques and Karl Mostert
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Aditya Bidikar and Rob Leigh
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
Roland Worth has it in for the Dark Knight and Bruce Wayne. The team-up with the Huntress continues as the players continue to makes their moves providing a grand mystery for the Batman!
The mystery that we’ve been following in the course of this arc is not only compelling, but now apparently quite vast. What began as the seemingly simple murder of Sarah Worth is expanding into a large sprawling enigma. It encompasses not only Sarah’s father, Roland Worth, but Hugh Vile (!), the deaths of multiple young women that the Huntress had been investigating, a virus, Lady Clayface and with Detective Comics #1038, the Penguin! Despite not moving forward quickly, the expansion has remained interesting as it revolves around so many characters that get significant moments.
Tamaki allows for the character to tell the story. Worth gets a few moments that make him more than just an evil business type. Batman correctly identifies the anguish he sees in Worth’s grieving for his daughter. Additionally, Lady Clayface, though playing a small role is a sympathetic character and is treated such by Batman and the Huntress. Even the interactions between Bruce and Helena feel genuine. The fact that there is space given to Bruce’s reaction to Helena’s apartment is significant. It shows that Tamaki wants to tell the story with character and not rely on the action. Remarkably, there’s plenty of action as well. Detective Comics #1038, and indeed this whole run is well balanced. I’m on record lamenting the shorter form story of the Bronze Age, but this is how you do decompressed storytelling well. You use that space for character development and character moments to draw the reader in and feel something. You make these moments substantial and meaningful and relatable.
Like last issue, Viktor Bogdanovic has some really powerful moments. There’s an intensity to the art. There’s weight. There’s substance. There’s serious drama. He communicates all this through his staging and blocking as well as some pin-up worthy images of the Dark Knight.
The second feature this issue is The Penguin. The back up stories during this arc have mostly tied in to the main tale. This one is no different. Written by Meghan Fitzmartin, the story is a wonderful little character study that is deftly told while also connecting to Tamaki’s lead story in Detective Comics #1038. It’s an interesting and insightful look at the Penguin that contrasts how he’s seen by others and how he sees himself. The contrast between the Tyrannosauras Rex and penguins is brilliant. And, the appearance of Stephanie Brown (Spoiler) and Cassandra Cain (as Batgirl) is a real treat. The fact that Cass refers to them both as “Batgirls” in her communication to Oracle is a happy reminder of Steph’s own run as Batgirl that ended much too quickly pre-“The New 52.”
I’ve made this assertion for a while, Detective Comics is the best Batman title on the stands. It’s not an event book, it’s not about reinventing the wheel. It tells interesting stories that focus on character, and therefore it is extremely difficult to find a negative in an issue. While not a true negative, it would be just as great to have the second feature be a true second feature that gives another character his or her own series in a safe spot behind the selling power of Batman. So, more of a suggestion than a negative!
Unsurprisingly, Detective Comics #1038 is again a great read that exemplifies what is enjoyable about the comic book medium. Not only is the main mystery gripping, and the characters interesting with truly engaging aspects, the little details bring moments of unadulterated joy. For a great Batman comic, add Detective Comics to your reading list. You won’t be disappointed!