Review – Detective Comics #972 (DC Comics)

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artwork: Miguel Mendonca (pencils), Diana Egea (inks), Jason Wright (colours)
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Release Date: 10th January 2018

Batman has managed to single-handedly take out the entire Victim Syndicate who had occupied Arkham Asylum , but they have one last play, one last horrible trick up their sleeves and it may prove too much for him to handle!

There are a lot of threads to this story and, thanks to Tynion’s world-class universe building, every one of them feels important.  Tim’s return from the dead has left him energised and ready to fully commit to his role as Red Robin, even though his ambition may be getting the better of him.  We also get to watch Basil really struggle with his Clayface persona and the harm he has caused to those close to him.  Kate on the other hand has a moment with an unexpected visitor that may yield a solution to the team’s current problem, but could it lead to the creation of Saviour if she follows through?

The joy with this series is that it feels like a living, breathing world and despite the characters being super heroes they are all deeply flawed in one way or another, even Batman himself!  At the same time we see that nearly everyone on the team has some darkness in them, a powerful weapon but also the path to a dark future for themselves and all of those around them.  Tynion once again pulls on our heart-strings with Basil and his connection with Cassie.  He has done such a good job at humanising Clayface that it is difficult for us to reconcile the good persona with the bad.

Mendonca’s art is on point throughout this issue, really adding the sense of urgency to the proceedings that the book would fall flat without.  Clayface in his more demonic guise is a real force to be reckoned with and looks every part the foe that could take down Gotham.  The multiple faces torn in agony that make up his armour along with this two sets of teeth are absolutely horrifying, but it’s the scene in the sewer which really shows what he is capable of.  It’s fitting that the issue revolves around emotions and feelings as this is an element that Mendonca expertly deals with.

Wright’s colours are used to incredible effect in service to Mendonca’s pencils, and if the first part of the book is mostly mood lighting during the Arkham sequence then the latter half is nothing less than a symphony of golden death!  Clayface’s glow as he steadily increases in power not only shines a light on his destructive potential, but also brings to mind the fact that he is an actor and is almost painted as some twisted Golden Age movie horror.

It is very difficult to identify any fault with this series. Tynion and his team have built up and, in some respects, broken down the best version of the Bat family we have had in comics for years.  Time is taken to develop every single member to the point where, when someone is hurt or put in danger, we can’t help but feel for them.

Perhaps it is fitting that the one problem with the book is that new readers will have a lot to ingest and no good way to do it.  The series (and this issue in particular) are so epic in scale that the best way to get into this series as a new reader is just to jump in and catch up as you go. It doesn’t not feel like there will be a jumping-on point, but for those who take the chance the reward is one of the best books on the shelves today.

Detective Comics really is one of the best books DC is putting out right now.  The cast is interesting and their adventures exciting.  The narrative is gripping and always evolving as Tynion plants his seeds for later events throughout.  The art supports the writing by creating some of the most impressive visuals with a macabre aesthetic that really only could exist in a Bat family book.  The series continues to be a visually stunning and expertly written book that is always at the top of my reading pile every fortnight.

Rating: 5/5.

The writer of this piece was: Dave MacPhail
Dave Tweets from @ShinKagato

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