DETECTIVE COMICS #983
Written by Bryan Edward Hill
Art by Miguel Mendonça, Diana Egea, Adriano Lucas, and Sal Cipriano
Edited by Dave Wielgosz, Chris Conroy, Jamie S. Rich
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: June 27, 2018
A different type of Batman story is on the horizon with Bryan Hill taking over Detective Comics for an arc that needs a little more help. Outside help.
“On the Outside” features a different type of Bat Family team as Hill brings in some added help in the form of The Signal, Orphan, and Black Lightning. Hill sets out his mark on Batman with an introduction that sets the stage for another Batman fanatic out to do his city harm. Quickly Hill sets the villain in question as a person that believes and “understands” Batman’s mission of saving Gotham and what it means for those that believe in him, including citizens. Mendonça kicks things off with a newscast with a popular Bat Viewtuber and the short exchange relays some information on what Batman means to the people of Gotham, specifically his role on the youthful Heroes. The page is bright and inviting with the colors by Lucas. It’s a hopeful opener that Hill lays out and gives us some ideas to consider as the issue goes on and it’s quickly shown why this story builds upon what came before in Tynion’s run and the larger DC Universe’s new shape. Not only does Hill focus on a new team of sorts for the Gotham Knights, it’s a different type of story and a lot more personal for Batman and his family.
Duke Thomas aka The Signal enters the story with a leap with his standard yellow outfit standing out against the darkness of the building he ventures into. The paneling naturally flows within its own style and the inking from Egea is deepened with the panels that are closer to character’s faces or focusing on one specific action. With one quick blow, the villain of the arc sets off a chain reaction that begins Batman on seeking help from some outside sources and off the beaten path of what we’re used to. Hill establishes the stakes and dangers surrounding those in Batman’s world with four pages. It’s an emotional loss for Duke and is shown with a jagged mix of loss and what’s to be expected in the life of a Superhero. Mendonça takes two pages showing Duke post-rescue and it’s a blend of sadness and worry for the young Hero as he tries to recover while Alfred’s solemn face and Bruce looking over him. Hill is pushing Batman’s circle and connections in the new era of the Justice League into a direction that’s something different and more secretive. The inking from Egea draws on the darkness and new way of thinking that Batman has to undergo to combat this new threat. A conversation with Martian Manhunter reveals that Batman knows how things should go, but given the circumstances, he needs a specially designed team and something outside the normal Hero Sphere and with different tactics comes a different solution and that solution is Black Lightning.
The introduction of Black Lightning to the title brings a lot more superheroics and fanfare as Batman reaches out to his old friend but Hill has a lot more in store for Jefferson Pierce with an introduction that brightens up the title thanks to the colors from Lucas and the setting of Metropolis at that. Hill balances the voice of Jefferson talking about a teaching position with the actions of Black Lightning and Mendonça wows with the electrical prowess of Black Lightning in action. The reds and blues of Black Lighting clash with the display of his powers as he tries to save the day but, like Batman’s mission, there’s a price to this Hero work and Hill makes it weigh on these Heroes with instances that we’ve seen time and again. In a mirroring of the opening scene, the news report turns dire as we see the ramifications of the opening failed rescue of the Batman fanboy. Everything about the television panels has turned cold, darkened, and are beginning to crack a sign of the villain’s intent with a bolded hint on what’s to come and where the villain’s purpose comes from.
The remainder of the issue deals with the actual meeting of Batman and Black Lightning and it’s a heavy set inked conversation between the two as Hill goes back and forth fleshing out the two Heroes differences when it comes to crime fighting and how they go about it. Mendonça’s pencils combined with Egea’s inking makes for a classically dark Batman when put beside outside colors and darker backgrounds. It’s not all darkness and conversations though as Hill and company end the issue on a foreboding note as another one of Batman’s proteges comes under fire as “Karma” comes back to not only ruin Batman’s way of acting as a Superhero but by putting those closest to him in the crossfire first to teach him a lesson about what it means to be Batman and how the history of your legacy can come back to bite you.
Detective Comics gets a booster shot with a different kind of story that brings Batman and his family into the larger DC Universe tapestry with connections of all sorts making their way into the title with Hill at the helm shedding some light on a forgotten team with the new generation. The start to his run features an emotional and connective opener that juggles a unique cast of characters, history that binds the DC Universe and serves to carry on the tradition of seeking help from outside help. Mendonça and Egea solidify the grounded tone of the book with pencils and inking that fills the pages alongside the coloring by Lucas that squeezes out all of it can from Hill’s dialogue and story beats to make the scenes come alive depending on the page and the emotions that stem from them. Cipriano’s lettering throughout does a smashing job as bigger and smaller moments involving sounds are left to their own unique sound effects, never repeating but always impressing with how the actions are perceived. Detective Comics is going for a different type of adventure and with Hill taking a more societal look on what Batman means for people and the revealing and updating of an outside form of help and teaching, this is an arc that will no doubt get better as it continues.
The Verdict: 8.5/10