Detective Comics #23.4 by Frank Tieri (Comics Review)

At this point, I think its quite safe to say that Frank Tieri is another of my favourite comic writers working in the industry right now. Before DC’s Villain’s Month, I’d never heard of him, which is not surprising since I wasn’t really reading comics until last year and even then I was pretty limited in my reading. However, with last week’s Penguin issue, and this week’s Man-Bat issue, not to mention his Infinity: Heist #1 (review tonight!), Frank keeps impressing me.

I remember coming across the Man-Bat for the first time in Batman: The Animated Series, and then, just last month as I began to read the current arc of John Layman’s Detective Comics, which features backups that go into some depth with the character. Suffice to say, I think Man-Bat is a fun supervillain for Gotham, thematically and otherwise, and I’ve definitely enjoyed all the outings of the character that I have come across. Frank’s Detective Comics #23.4 is no different in that regard.

Detective Comics 23.4First off, I just want to say that I love that cover. Its drawn by Jason Fabok, who is the penciller on Detective Comics currently. It has a great, action-y portrayal of the Man-Bat and the Batman drawn in the background is also really good.  There is so much mood and tone in that cover, quite unlike many of the other covers for Villain’s Month, which are little more than model shots. So right off the bat, the issue starts strong. I only wish that I could get this one in print, but given the whole allocations fiasco that DC has inflicted on retailers everywhere, there’s zero chance of that happening.

In the issue itself, we get a continuation of the storyline that John Layman set in motion for the main Detective Comics series. Until now, we’ve had several revelations about the Man-Bat, most particularly that his wife Francine was basically a corporate spy and that she stole his formula and betrayed him. Of course, she also ended up taking the formula herself and now she is the She-Bat. A bit of a cliched and silly name for a supervillain, but I think given how “dark” DC comics have been of late, we can use a little cliche and silly. The same goes for Man-Bat himself.

We all know the story that has happened thus far. The heroes are all missing, presumed dead, and their antagonists, their corresponding supervillains, are doing their worst. In Gotham, Mayor Penguin has divided the city into zones, each controlled by a particular villain. For the Man-Bat and the She-Bat, these divisions mean nothing. The latter is interested only in hunting down prey to hit, while the former is determined to stop her. From a story of betrayal and revenge, this issue turns into a man’s descent into madness as all the inhibitions and controls that Kirk Langstrom has imposed upon himself start to break down.

Frank Tieri is on top-form here. What he did with last week’s Penguin #1, he does so here, but even better. His writing flows really well, and he uses Kirk’s diary as a storytelling device, which I found to be really well done. Every bit of monologue is delivered as a diary entry, and letterer Steve Wands really gives off that effect when paired off with penciller Scot Eaton’s panels and the layouts of those panels. The issue starts off with a fair bit of exposition and dialogue, but gradually, things begin to wind down, mirroring Kirk’s madness as he loses himself into his formula and his obsession with perfecting the serum.

In a Gotham without heroes, only villains, Man-Bat is trying to be the good guy, the one champion that the city desperately needs right now. But things don’t work out and we see some rather moving scenes of how things head south for the character.

Of course, when talking of the writing, we can’t ignore the art, and I briefly touched on it above. Scott Eaton is on top form with the art, as much as Frank Tieri is on top form with the writing. He really gets across the sheer physicality and brutality of both the Man-Bat and the She-Bat. That’s what’s really good about the issue. There’s no goofiness here of any kind. There’s also no outright gory violence, but there’s enough here to make this a really engaging visual read. Inker Jaime Mendoza and colourist Jeromy Cox aren’t far behind either. There’s a really smooth and polished feel to the art that I really liked. And there’s a lot of colour and shadow variation in all the panels, which builds up the effects of Kirk’s descent, all those browns and blues and the hues in between.

Simply put: this issue is hands-down one of the best Villain’s Month issues that have been released to date. If there is any negative to this story, it is that I don’t understand why Gotham’s parks are full of people lounging about, when we’ve seen that the entire city is under chaos. We already know that there are going to be six more months of Forever Evil, and that there is Peter J. Tomasi’s Forever Evil: Arkham War starting next month. The final entry in Kirk’s diary is for Day 30. Is this implying that the entire event is over, within the comics timeline, in a period of 30 days? Or is just an oversight?

Regardless, I liked how the issue ends where it began, coming full circle. This is definitely a must-read for all Man-Bat fans.

Rating: 9.5/10

More Batman Villain’s Month: Penguin, The Ventriloquist, Mr. Freeze, Clayface, Court of Owls.

Posted on September 27, 2013, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

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