reflection

As complex as it is mesmerizing, Detective Comics #1063 sees Ram V and Rafael Albuquerque dig deeper into the Gothic mystery that is taking hold of Gotham.
Writing/Plot
Pencils/Inks
Colors
Letters

Review: DETECTIVE COMICS #1063 – Something Ancient This Way Comes

Contemporary comics master Ram V and artistic icon Rafael Albuquerque comes the second chapter of their Gotham Nocturne with Detective Comics #1063. With Dave Stewart on colors, Ariana Maher on letters, and a backup from Si Spurrier, Dani, and Steve Wands, this issue doubles down on the dark mystery and Gothic intensity of the prior issue. With a script that is as complex as it is compelling and some of the most unique visuals in a DC comic in years, this is a chapter that will decide which readers are in for the long haul to see where Ram and Albuquerque are taking us.

“Old friends Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent share a moment together asking: At what point does Gotham not need a Batman anymore? As Batman’s investigation around Gotham leads him to encounter more and more demonic beings, the one thing they all have in common is…they’re all people he fights to keep off the streets and behind bars. But when Two-Face appears asking Batman for help, is he friend or foe? And is whatever’s going on with Batman already too late to do anything about?…Is he the detective or the devil?”

Writing & Plot

If one could glean anything from first issue of this run, as well as most of his other work, then it’s easy to imagine the atmosphere Ram V continues to set up with Detective Comics #1063. While the prior issue sets up an ancient threat and potential personal horrors for Bruce, this chapter doubles down on the mysteriousness while bringing in a familiar face. This chapter is intentionally slower than the last, with more focus on character conversations, exposition, and the mounting power of whatever demon is plaguing Bats. While this is mainly a dialogue and narration-heavy issue, the delivery of the script and how it’s paced are what is so unique about this comic. Every sequence, from Bruce and Harvey’s opening conversation in the jazz club to the mysterious foe’s mentat-like info dumping, are presented with their own atmospheric flavor. As strange as calling word balloons and narrative boxes “atmospheric” may seem, that’s exactly what Ram V accomplishes. There are so many kinds of writing in this comic, from the distinct dialogue to the crooning of a jazz singer, to the enigmatic and dark poeticism of the demon haunting Batman. Every bit of it is equally compelling in a different way. Ram V manages to combine a sense of bleakness with that of the grandiose, like a great gothic opera (so yes, like Phantom of the Opera). Si Spurrier’s backup, The Coda pt. 2, blends in perfectly with the version of Gotham in the main story. A mixture of police conspiracy and unnerving supernatural thriller provides a mysterious and tense finish to the newest chapter of the most exciting Bat-book in years.

Art Direction

While Ram V does provide a brilliant script and framework, what truly makes this comic so alluring is the visual work of Rafael Albuquerque. Already an acclaimed horror artist as well as having prior Batman work, Albuquerque crafts a gothic crime experience unlike any we’ve gotten in a Bat-comic in Detective Comics #1063. Just like in the prior chapter, Albuquerque designs these characters and Gotham itself along the lines of the current DC universe, but with his own atmospheric twists. Harvey Dent has never looked more sophisticated or imposing than he does with his gold mask, especially while dispensing secrets to Bruce Wayne in a smoky Jazz club. The fashion of Gotham’s new invaders is a mixture of modern wealth and a sort of ancient mystic-garb. Albuquerque’s take on the current Batman costume fits in almost like a piece of the looming architecture around him – only that said architecture continually appears more and more oppressive. That’s the real aesthetic mark of Albuquerque’s work here. This is the most threatening not just Batman’s new foe but Gotham itself has felt in a Batman book in many, many years. This comic continues to ooze atmosphere thanks to Albuquerque’s visual approach as he matches Ram V’s story direction. His compositions carry every scene with a steady pace while maintaining that uneasy atmosphere. Using the demon that hunts Bruce as a backdrop for entire panels as it torments Batman’s mind is some brilliant stuff, creating some of the most memorable shots ever in a Batman comic.

Dave Stewart returns to provide colors and perfect the atmosphere to this chapter of Detective Comics. The veteran colorist draws the reader into this ultra-dark take on Gotham, with his smoky shades and fog-cloaked tones effectively finishing off the most atmospherically rich take on a Batman comic in years. The backup story is almost as effective, with Dani’s uniquely “messy” pencils filled by Stewart’s colors making for a distinctly Vertigo-esque visual experience. The lettering from Ariana Maher on the main story and Steve Wands in the backup is stellar, with dynamic approaches that utilize multiple fonts based on the type of passage or who’s speaking. The letters are the final touch on a visual experience that goes down as one of the most memorable artistic approaches in a DC comic this year.

Verdict

Detective Comics #1063 is a complex and atmospherically intense chapter in this new era of Bat-comics. Ram V pens a script that takes its time with characters and concepts, mixing compelling dialogue with fascinating exposition and memorable prose-like passages. The visuals from Rafael Albuquerque and Dave Stewart are stunning and perfectly dark, crafting this uniquely-gothic take on Gotham and its denizens ahead of the coming threat. It’s Batman meets Jacob’s Ladder in a sense, with a sense of uneasy psychological horror mixed with the classic vigilante comic we all know and love. Be sure to grab this newest issue when it hits shelves on August 23rd!

 

Justin Munday
Justin Munday
Reader and hoarder of comics. Quietly sipping coffee, reading, and watching sci-fi in Knoxville, TN.
Review: DETECTIVE COMICS #1063 - Something Ancient This Way ComesAs complex as it is mesmerizing, Detective Comics #1063 sees Ram V and Rafael Albuquerque dig deeper into the Gothic mystery that is taking hold of Gotham.