Written by Gerry Duggan and Scott Snyder
Art by Matteo Scalera and Lee Loughridge
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: August 13, 2014
Batman returns to the modern day with a one-shot issue that brings the Dark Knight up to speed with Batman: Eternal and reintroduces Arkham Asylum’s status quo to Gotham City. A killer is on the loose, threatening all of Leslie Thompkin’s patients in the worst parts of the city. Can Batman discover his identity before the good doctor becomes his next invisible victim?
Done-in-one stories are really tricky. Fans say they want them over long, over-arching storylines (or at the least in-between them), but then when they arrive, they can often feel inconsequential by comparison. This issue, unfortunately, suffers from that phenomenon for me.
Gerry Duggan puts together a solid story in 22 pages, reminiscent of a lot of what I remember 90s Detective Comics to be. There’s a new villain with a slightly odd hook to their M.O., but not too distinct as to require explanation that won’t fit in a single issue. A personal connection to Batman, in this case the targeting of Leslie Thompkins (who, side note, has been making quite the rounds in the Bat-titles the last few months). And a mystery — again nothing too tough — but enough to warrant the Dark Knight’s intervention in addition to the police. It’s a good read, although feels as much like the one-shot it is.
What this issue doesn’t do that well is bring Batman back to his new Eternal status quo. We’re told what the deal is in a gorgeous double-page spread, from Batman’s estrangement from the police, to Catwoman and James Gordon’s new roles in the greater tapestry. And yet, we see a Batman interacting with Detective Bullock at a crime scene in the open (weren’t they just throwing punches last week in Detective?) and no connection to Arkham’s upheaval in the weekly series. The latter is surprising, given Duggan’s next dance with the Bat is in October’s Arkham Manor series.
Matteo Scalera’s pencils and inks are well chosen for the tale, rough around the edges and moody like the best serial killer stories should be. While I’m not super fond of his body shape for the Batman — which seems to flatten out around the waist and elongate his midsection oddly — Scalera’s treatment of the Batmobile is stand-out, as is his close-ups of the killer’s (and his victims’) features.
The entire issue is very strongly structured visually, with panel cuts and close-ups balanced beautifully from page to page. Combined with Loughridge’s sandy tan and blue color palette, this issue feels very much like an ode to True Detective, in the most flattering way possible.
Ultimately, Batman #34 is a good tale that comes at a bad time. With the epic Zero Year having finished its 12 issue run, and a major cross-company event streaming through every title next month, Duggan’s done-in-one feels like it doesn’t have the legs it needs to make an impact. Nevertheless, the visual design is a fun diversion, and worth checking into for the month at hand.
The Verdict: 7.5/10