Leslie Thompkins. Alfred Pennyworth. And now, Henri Ducard. In Detective Comics #996, we discover all of them and more are being targeted for one specific reason: they all played a key role in creating The Bat.
Batman fails to extract any useful intelligence from the inmates at Arkham. However, it doesn’t take long before Bruce and Damian deduce that Henri Ducard is involved. Tracking him to Paris, Bruce confronts his former mentor. Things aren’t as Bruce expected, though, as the master hunter is now the hunted.
Tomasi develops an interesting an engaging larger narrative in Detective Comics #996. The golem-like creature from issue #994 is back. We still have no answers to what it is, or who’s controlling it and why, but the mounting tension keeps the reader engaged in the mystery.
The book leans in heavily to the globetrotting exploits. For example, we have a great sequence of Bruce tracking Ducard through the criminal underworld, involving disguises pulled right from the pages of campy spy books, leading to a showdown in the Parisian catacombs. By the book’s end, we travel to the other side of the world to learn what becomes of another Bat-mentor. The final page sets up a new development that should be interesting to see unfold in our next issue.
Detective Comics #996 does have a few issues in story pacing and motivation, though. For example, Batman leaps into a fight with Ducard, only for the showdown to suddenly transition to a tense conversation. The adrenaline level kicks up again just two pages later. The effect is jaunty and somewhat uneven tonally. Even still, the book has a much more good than bad going on.
Doug Mahnke’s line work, with inks from Jaime Mendoza and Mark Irwin, is a strong point in the book’s favor. The character designs are detailed and expressive, with just a little bit of sketchiness to add some grit.
The team’s talents really shine in bringing to life the full-on body horror monstrosity attacking Bruce and Henri. Flesh boils and splashes around as members of the Batman rogues’ gallery gurgle up out of the mass to attack. It’s gruesome, yet gorgeously illustrated.
The colors by David Baron are on-point in Detective Comics #996 as well. The first two-thirds, taking place mostly underground, are dominated by earthy brown tones and heavy shadows. The style works well alongside the slightly-sketchy pencils and ink.
Detective Comics #996 is another great installment in Tomasi’s run on the series. Get caught up now, because this probably isn’t a story you want to sleep on.