Review: Detective Comics #950

dtc_cv950_dsIt’s an oversized anniversary special for Detective Comics #950 this week, and what we get in this issue is a lot of setup for some upcoming arcs, some solid backstory and character development for characters that need it, and a huge revelation about all of the moving pieces Batman has set up. We learn from a flashback conversation between Batman and Red Robin in the last story, that Batman is preparing for something big. He is preparing for war. With everything this team is doing, it had seemed Batman had a bigger plan, but it was never fully revealed. Not only do we know now, that he is preparing for war, his forming of The Justice League of America, and even what Duke, Nightwing, and The Red Hood have been involved with, may be part of a much bigger plan. Could this be about the upcoming League of Shadows arc? Or something much bigger. It sounds like 2017 is going to be an exciting year for the bat-family.

This issue begins the new League of Shadows story arc. The issue is split up into three stories. The first two are larger, with the final being just a few pages. We begin with our first story, aptly named The League of Shadows. In this story, we follow Orphan, Cassandra Cain. She never says a lot in Detective Comics and is the strong silent type. She is damaged, as are many in the bat-family, including Batman, and this story spends it’s time in her head. At first I thought the telling and not showing writing style of explaining what was in Cassandra’s head was too much, but then I remembered that perhaps narration like this was needed for a silent character. James Tynion IV did a great job making me feel like I know Orphan more as a character now, and also gave her even more of an edge. She is a killer, and like other characters, Batman has taken his wing, like Spoiler, she can turn at any moment. That kind of mystery to a hero makes for a fun story. The idea that this team is hanging by a thread is the opposite to how organized and planned out Batman is, and his newly formed Justice League of America challenges that notion even more. By the end of the issue, Orphan has learned to express herself through dance, and you truly see an innocence to an otherwise masked killer. She may be on the good side, but even Cassandra herself fears herself losing control, and how far she takes her violence, even to criminals.

There is also some solid character development to Basil Karlo as not only Clayface but in his human form, and Bat-Wing. I find that Tynion writes most of his heartfelt moments when he writes about Clayface. He truly has made him a wonderful and tragic character, and I would love to see this done with more characters like that in Batman’s rogue gallery. Not all of them, as we want some villains to truly be villains, but this book has really made me sympathize with this character in a way I didn’t expect. The ending of this story sets up the upcoming League of Shadows arc for this book in an interesting way. Marcio Takara has some really nice painted art in this story, even if I am more used to Eddy Barrows and Alvaro Martinez styles on this series, who do pencils on the second, and third story. Dean White has some fantastic color work that make Takara’s pencils shine even brighter.

In our second tale, titled Higher Powers, we get a deeper glimpse at Azrael, and Bat-Wing once again. This deals with an interesting fight against giant bat-robots and Bat-Wing asking Azrael how he defeated them as quickly as he did, as well as some solid philosophical debates and discussion on religion and faith. Azrael talking about being a man-made angel with high tech armor was interesting, and it was fun to visit the classic character in a new way. I have always thought he was a solid character, and he proves in this story he will be a great addition to the team. I feel this way about Bat-Wing as well, and while we may not get the same character depth for him that we get on Orphan, and Azrael, I still feel like I saw deeper into the cocky and witty tech genius. You can see as he worked with Basil in the first story that he truly cares about helping and curing Clayface, and here, he is truly interested in learning from Azrael, not only about his strategy, but about his blind faith. It was refreshing, and gives another layer to a character that is known just for his confidence. That is what Detective Comics does. For a team book, it really takes it’s time to develop great members of this team, and while I said they are hanging by a thread because of how broken many of them are, there are some, like Bat-Wing, that I think can keep them together. This story ends much like the previous one with something that looks to set up a future arc, with someone else being brought to life like Azrael, but only time will tell if this being will be human or completely artificial intelligence. Alvaro Martinez on pencils, Raul Fernandez on inks, and Brad Anderson on colors give some artwork that is more traditional to what you can expect in this run of Detective Comics. That isn’t a bad thing, as I have always loved what this book has done with page layouts and panels, and this story continues that fashion.

In the final and third story of the issue, we have a few pages between Red Robin and Batman in the Robin’s Nest. This is a private conversation that happened between these two heroes as the team was newly formed. Tim is very blunt with his final question to his mentor, why are you preparing for war? We don’t see an answer, but we do get the words at the bottom of the page “Dark Days Are Coming – 2017.” Could this be the big summer event we have heard Snyder is writing? I cannot wait to find out. This was a nice moment between Batman and Red Robin, and more Tim Drake in this series is always a good thing. The art in this story, is more of what you can expect like the previous story. Eddy Barrows on pencils, Eber Ferreira on inks, and Adriano Lucas on colors give some of the best panel work and layout in the entire issue, and they only have four pages to work with. As Red Robin is questioning Batman, Nightwing, Red Hood, and more are painted in the background on monitors and it gives a real sense of paranoia to what is really going on. I found myself waiting for Batman to answer and almost demand “Yeah! What are you doing Bats?”, but I am patient, and I cannot wait to see where this series takes us by the end of 2017. As I said in the opening paragraph, Tim put the pieces together that none of the things Batman is doing are accidental, and he is planning for something big. What is he so worried about? And what is coming to either Gotham City, or the world that has him juggling so many of his protégées, former enemies, and new teams? There is a reason Detective Comics is one of DC’s best books, it simply delivers.

League of Shadows Story: James Tynion IV Art: Marcio Takara Color: Dean White
Higher Powers Story: James Tynion IV Art: Alvaro Martinez
Inks: Raul Fernandez Color: Brad Anderson
The Big Picture Story: James Tynion IV Art: Eddy Barrows
Inks: Eber Ferreira Color: Adriano Lucas
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

DC provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review