Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Javier Fernandez, John Kalisz, & Sal Cipriano
Edited by Dave Wielgosz, Chris Conroy, Jamie S. Rich
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: March 14, 2018

I can do good things, but I’m not good.

The Bat Family is in many places at once. Cass is trying to reconcile who she is in the context of Clayface and the team. Tim desires to get back to where he once was. Kate, Luke, and Jean Paul consider their options. This all leaves Bruce to try to figure out how the Family will work together from this point.

Every time I open an issue of this recent iteration of Detective Comics I am surprised. Rather than focusing on Bruce, we get a cadre of characters. This ensemble is always cast as real, and none of them get lost in the tide that arises from the use of so many characters. I’m not too fond of strife between these characters, but whenever it arises there is always a purpose, and I think this issue is one of the best examples of how and why these people work together but also a testament to the skill of the creative team behind them.

James Tynion IV uses a lot of seemingly disparate plot points but in a way that makes them feel as though they will all eventually weave together. It’s easy to imagine this story as individual threads, addressing pretty significant dilemmas for each of the major characters, that fold into a larger story. The major elements that stand out to me are Bruce’s compassion for Cass, Cass’s own struggle with morality, Tim’s defiance, and Kate’s budding leadership. All of these factors make this comic intriguing, which I especially important for the first chapter in a new arc. While discord undergirds how this story plays out, Tynion highlights incredibly interesting dynamics between the characters, a shining point for the series as it has existed lately.

Javier Fernandez has a gritty, pointed artistic bent which helps the tone of this comic manifest. Drama is imbued within every page and panel, and that’s helpful for intensifying the feelings within the story. Everything feels serious; Fernandez makes every indication that each specific aspect of the plot is both important and critical. The entire story feels tense, but there are vital and emotional moments that are made more powerful under Ferndandez’ pen.

John Kalisz’s palette feels murky and inescapable, and what an excellent fit for this issue. I love how the darkness of the colors affects how the story feels and develops. Kate is one of the brightest elements, which is a great visual parallel for her role in the story, as well as a distinct departure from this story’s atmosphere. Kalisz uses shadow to fully evoke characters’ feelings, particularly in Cass’s session with Leslie, Bruce’s anger, and Tim’s meeting with a clandestine stranger.

One of my favorite things about this issue was its layout. I like how the story flows not just in terms of each of its different parts, but based on panel structure and direction. Having to follow a visual track to keep pace with the issue is an adventure in exploring dynamic storytelling through writing and imagery. Particularly in the first few pages, the architecture of the panels and how they guide us through what is happening is a creative and engaging manner through which to tell this tale.

Detective Comics #976 is about to usher in a new age for the Family. They are all either questioning their directions or moving toward new ones, and I’m not sure if that means an inevitable schism though there are a lot of ways this story could turn out. I like that there are some elements of older continuity that are coming into this story, heartbreaking though they may be. Tynion’s mastery of these characters continues to be evident, so I have a lot of confidence about what we are going to get from this point on.

The Verdict: 10/10


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