Detective Comics #1003
Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy and Nathan Fairbairn
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
One of the highlights of Peter Tomasi’s storied career at DC Comics has to have been his run on Batman and Robin, so it’s a real treat to see him return to the Dark Knight and his homicidal Boy Wonder in the pages of Detective Comics #1003. But if you’re wondering whether or not this reunion with the Dynamic Duo still carries the same weight without the artwork of Pat Gleason, you shouldn’t worry for long - artist Brad Walker continues to be the MVP of this new run on the series, with an energy and stylishness that proves to be a breath of fresh air.
With the Arkham Knight casting Gotham City into a disconcerting daylight, Batman not only has found himself on the defensive - he’s realized that the Knight has already taken his son Damian. By bringing back Robin as a supporting cast member of the series, Tomasi keys back into that easy chemistry that he honed in the early days of the "New 52" - even when taking an arrow to the shoulder, Damian proves to be one tough customer, toeing that line between boyish overconfidence and the killer instinct that comes with being raised by the League of Assassins. But Tomasi also remembers the everyman appeal to having Batman partner up with his young son, and beats like letting Damian drive, or even encouraging the fledgling Robin’s skills, makes for a fun counterpoint to all the superhero action.
But none of this would work half as well without Brad Walker behind the artistic wheel. Teaming up with inker Andrew Hennessy, Walker’s got a style that almost feels counterintuitive for an icon like Batman, but when you see it on the page it just makes perfect sense - there’s almost an insectoid way Walker draws Batman’s eyes while he wears the cowl, and it’s a great way to remind readers that this is armor, while still lending something new to the Dark Knight’s time-honored design. Conversely, we see a ton of emotion radiating from Robin’s domino mask, as he gets some of the best sequences in the issue, from dodging the Arkham Knight’s goons to casting his own Robin signal across the skies of Gotham. Colorist Nathan Fairbairn helps bring it all together with some nice shading that adds subtle depth to Walker’s linework — while I wish he would be able to deviate from a more traditional superhero palette, he still elevates the artwork and gives it energy rather than detracts from it.
That said, while the characterization for Batman has been stellar thanks to Robin’s return, there are a few other bits and pieces to this issue that still feels a little underdeveloped. The Arkham Knight proves to be an interesting character, due to their almost Deathstroke-esque sense of honor, but their actual end goal still feels frustratingly unclear, which makes an interlude with the patients of Arkham Asylum feel a bit more like passing the time than anything that gives us a sense of mood or dread. (There is a cliffhanger that adds a nice symmetry with Batman and Robin, but it’s so abrupt that it loses a bit of its punch.) It’s in part because it feels like this story is unsure if it wants to follow in the Arkham Knight video game’s footsteps, or simply introduce a new character to the DCU that fits in that name only - either way Tomasi and company decide, however, I hope future issues get to yield bigger choices and stronger motivations.
While there are a few elements of the plot that could have used a little bit more time in the oven, it’s hard to deny the excitement and enthusiasm that pops off the page in Detective Comics #1003. And it’s because at its core, this is definitely a crowd-pleaser of a series, whether it’s the inclusion of video game character Arkham Knight, Tomasi’s reunion of Batman and Robin, or the simply wonderful artwork of Brad Walker. If you’re looking for some rock-solid adventuring without the heavy mood of the flagship Batman title, you definitely shouldn’t miss out on Detective Comics.