Review: Detective Comics #1051
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writers: Mariko Tamaki and Matthew Rosenberg
Art: Max Raynor and Fernando Blanco
Colors: Luis Guerrero and Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Ariana Maher and Rob Leigh
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
How did the Psycho Pirate come to Arkham Tower? What is his connection to Tobias Wear? And, what happens when he loses control?
It would be very easy for a writer to just show us the villain reveal and deliver a massive free for all between the inmates and the Bat-family, “story over.” However, Mariko Tamaki continues to make character important. Sure, there’s a handful of mysteries for the Bat-family to solve, but she never loses sight of the importance of character. Last issue in Detective Comics #1050, we got the last page surprise divulging the Psycho Pirate in league with Tobias Wear. As big a surprise as it was, Detective Comics #1051 doesn’t simply give us a mustache twirling pairing of bad guys, Tamaki’s approach feeds the reader bits and pieces so he/she can put some of the pieces together. It’s very clever and most importantly- GOOD WRITING! There are multiple layers being explored and it’s done in a way that allows the reader to engage and be drawn in to this relationship.
For example, we get a flashback to a few months ago when Wear is putting his plan together and we see the Psycho Pirate (Roger Hayden) call him Toby- not Tobias. The reader will recall that in other flashbacks of Wear when he was young he was called “Toby,” also. This seems to indicate that the Psycho Pirate has known Wear for a while, back to the days when he was known as Toby. This requires active reading, which yields greater satisfaction on the part of the active reader. Tamaki isn’t spoon feeding the reader, but she’s feeding the reader the right amount to come back for more to figure this thing out together. And, what Hayden is able to do with the Medusa Mask is just nuts! It’s a heretofore unseen power level for the Psycho Pirate. It’s an excellent use of the character’s power in a creative and interesting way.
Additionally, other aspects of the plot are moved further along as we come to understand more and more about how the Bat-family has been tracking the issue with the street drug, Numb. Helena (The Huntress) Bertinelli also gets a moment to shine when things go awry in Arkham Tower. Max Raynor is on art chores this issue, and while Ivan Reis has big shoes to fill, Raynor does a great job of leaning into his strengths as an artist. He not only makes the most of the emotion and facial expressions, but makes Helena’s moment to shine LOOK great!
Matthew Rosenberg and Fernando Blanco’s second feature takes a really dark turn. As bad as things were last issue when our protagonist was being controlled by the Scarecrow, it seems he may have gone from the frying pan into the fire when he is adopted by the Penguin. It’s a compelling twist. Rosenberg and Blanco give us a tough first lesson for the boy as an employee of the Penguin. Old Cobblepot never seemed so vicious! Blanco really makes you feel for the boy as he interprets Rosenberg’s script.
I guess there could be some readers who aren’t capable of grasping the storytelling, but….
Detective Comics #1051 demonstrates that “Shadows of the Bat” is sophisticated storytelling. In the literary tradition of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. Tamaki utilizes different points-of-view and a character driven approach to lead the reader along. This isn’t a cosmic event in which “character” is lost and degenerates into battle scene after battle scene. This is an exciting and absorbing story that requires the reader to put a little something in to get even more out of it.