Detective Comics #1012
Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza and David Baron
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Even though he’s written icons like Batman and Robin, Superman and Green Lantern Corps, I feel like writer Peter Tomasi is often overlooked for the accessible and timeless storytelling that he’s delivered issue after issue, year after year. Maybe that’s the curse of being so consistent in comics — that without major peaks or valleys, it’s easy to be taken for granted — which is a shame, given that he and artist Doug Mahnke are telling some fun, self-contained stories featuring the Dark Knight in their run on Detective Comics.
Many people compare Batman stories to the classic Batman: The Animated Series, and I’d argue Tomasi and Mahnke’s narrative hits a lot of similar qualities — while many superhero stories from the Big Two are built on an ever-growing mountain of continuity, Detective Comics is easy to jump into, even if you have only a cursory knowledge of what characters like Batman and Mister Freeze are about. Sure, there are some parallels between the two that pay off for longtime readers — especially Batman pining over Catwoman, whereas Freeze is driven by his cryogenically frozen wife Nora — but even if you haven’t been reading the other Batman titles, everything is driven by characterization, and while it’s not quite as done-in-one as the Animated Series, this particular arc feels similarly self-contained.
To be honest, it feels like the closest thing DC has to a police procedural right now, with Freeze’s serial kidnapping scheme feeling like a bit from Criminal Minds — with a lot of that added grittiness, of course, coming from artist Doug Mahkne. Combined with Jaime Mendoza’s inks, there isn’t necessarily the cleanliness of linework that we see from Batman: The Animated Series, but these are characters and a world that feel lived-in, from Batman standing on the abandoned yacht where he met Catwoman, to Freeze’s laboratory filled with kidnapped blondes. Of course, Mahnke does bring his own degree of cartoony exaggeration to the mix, especially when we see the veins popping out of Bruce’s arms as he lifts weights while listening to police dispatch, but it all speaks to the balancing act this book is bringing together — there’s enough darkness to give this title some heft, but not enough to deter casual readers from joining.
In particular, there’s also a level of density from both Tomasi and Mahnke that is easy to overlook, but is actually quite remarkable given the clarity of these pages — there’s seven-, eight-, even 10-panel pages in this book that flow remarkably clear. (Really, the only misstep in pacing is an odd splash page just featuring Batman’s head.) But to pack in as much storytelling as they have while keeping this book accessible is a strong achievement, and it’s one that Tomasi and Mahnke have continued to bring despite not being talked about in the buzziest of comics literati circles. Which is a shame — because Detective Comics is some imminently solid work. It’s easy to forget in today’s event- and relaunch-driven marketplace, but sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel — sometimes telling an easy-to-follow story is exactly what readers need.