DC Comics’ Rorschach is not just a mystery. It’s a discussion of the medium of comics and how stories have the power to drill deep into our souls and change us. That’s what’s happening to our main character, the detective investigating Rorschach. And with Rorschach #11, writer Tom King, artist Jorge Fornes, colorist Dave Stewart, and letterer Clayton Cowles ask the question: is he going mad, or is he finally going sane?
There’s a wonderful disconnect to the two threads King is pulling at in this issue. In one narrative, we’re seeing the detective put the final pieces of the case together. He’s unveiling the things he was wrong about, the ways he’s been used. But as he does this, we see The Kid talking to him from some imaginary place. And the two ignore each other almost constantly. They stubbornly refuse to acknowledge what the other is saying. The detective clearly sees The Kid’s influence as a source of insanity. He wants to block her out, think straight. But King leaves us wondering if she’s the path to terrorism and radicalization, or if she’s ultimately the voice of reason in a world that’s already gone quite mad.
Fornes employs similar tricks, creating an environment that feels both dangerous and freeing at the same time. He has images from one scene interact with another, deliberately misleading us at times. For instance, when the detective goes to grab another beer from the fridge, he turns his back to the reader. And The Kid, in another panel, almost looks like she’s aiming a gun at him while he’s turned away. But then, a follow up panel shows she’s shooting a bottle out of the sky. When we next see her, she has a sly smile on her face. The Kid is nonchalant and exciting all at once. She’s dangerous and fun. She’s morbid and full of life. And our protagonist has no clue what to think of her.
Again, Stewart makes a complicated issue simple to follow. With three different threads going on at once, Stewart simply color codes them with different palettes and hues. A simple glance at the page tells the reader whether they’re looking at reality, imagination, or a memory. But Stewart also breaks away from his tones for each scene at times. When The Kid is bleeding, or when someone is shot, the blood shows up in brilliant red. In each of these scenes, it stands out in the midst of a muted color palette. It emphasizes the violence that lies beneath this story. It’s affecting everything for our protagonist, even his mind.
Ultimately, this issue is about Rorschach and The Kid trying to get the detective on their side. They push him, they explain things to him, but he believes that their way is the way of insanity. But something changes in the lettering. At first, they say something wild to him. His response is “Shit,” then “No. No, no, no.” His word balloons go downwards, he’s dismissing them without much effort. Cowles shows a similar response once The Kid and Rorschach have each made their case. But this time, his word balloons are high. It feels like he’s no longer talking down to them. He actually considers their ideas a threat to his sanity, and he’s pushing back against them more seriously now. It’s a subtle but brilliant shift.
DC Comics’ Rorschach has always been about the power of stories. And what better way to show that than to see our protagonist get lost in one? This creative team is doing beautiful, complicated, thought-provoking work. This issue gives us good reason to expect an explosive, wonderful finale. Pick up your copy of Rorschach #11, out from DC Comics August 10th, at a comic shop near you!