Detective Comics #1001: Where the truth is
You have all left behind the darkness and embraced the light. You have flown into the blinding sun…because that’s where the truth is.
So speaks the Arkham Knight to his band of warriors, as they prepare to make war on Batman. Detective Comics #1001 is upon us!
Who is the Arkham Knight?
In case you’re out of the loop, the Arkham Knight was introduced several years ago, in the video game Batman: Arkham Knight from Rocksteady. I won’t spoil the Knight’s identity—in case you’d like to play for yourself—but suffice it to say that this is a character who exists as a rebuttal of Batman’s methods. The comic book incarnation—introduced just a few weeks ago in Detective Comics #1000—shares this high-level function, but the nature of the critique is pretty much opposite to that in the game. Instead of insisting that the Dark Knight go further in his war on criminals, the comic book Arkham Knight accuses Batman of going too far, too often, without regard for the negative impact his crusade has on his city and the world.
So who is the Arkham Knight? Perhaps we’ll all be surprised when we find out, but for now, Tomasi has given us only small slivers of evidence.
Burn back the dark
Detective #1001 opens with the Knight ginning up his troops, and Tomasi and artists Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy, and Nathan Fairbairn do an outstanding job imbuing the scene with drama. This will be a war of light against dark, he says—and he rallies his soldiers behind a symbol, even the very concept of a symbol. Their symbol is the sun, but Walker fills these first few pages with all sorts of symbolism: the Knight with sword held straight up, in front of his face; the sword descending on the shoulders of those men and women now welcomed into the company of the sun; the sword raised, with one hand, above the crowd, calling the knights to war. This is a battle for truth, says the Knight, and the truth lives not in darkness, but in the sun.
At this point, some of you might be scratching your heads. Didn’t Tomasi promise to return this book to detective work? You might even be forgiven for thinking that the opening few pages were written by Scott Snyder, who has pushed Batman further towards a figure of myth than almost anyone else. But we must remember that the opening monologue is not Tomasi. It’s not Bruce. It’s the Arkham Knight. And frankly, my fellow detectives, I think all of that drippy, dramatic posturing is a clue. I don’t know quite what it tells me yet, but I’m already eliminating suspects and turning over the possibilities in my head. Right at the start, we have our first mystery: who the heck is this person?
No sooner do we leave the Knight and his band behind than we encounter the next mystery: dead bats. Everywhere. All over the city, even in the Cave. I’m sure we all have a pretty good idea of the who in this riddle, but the how still eludes us. How did the Arkham Knight kill bats in the Batcave? Either he went there himself, or there’s some aural weapon that transmits on frequencies only the bats can hear. I won’t spoil it for you, but I hope you get my point: there may be high drama at the start, and there is most certainly tons of action ahead (more on that in a moment), but make no mistake—this is a detective story.
Batman v Everyone
After a brief check-in with Francine Langstrom, wife of the only person in Gotham more obsessed with Bats than Bruce Wayne, Batman finds himself face-to-face with the Knights of the Sun. AND IT’S AWESOME.
The intrinsic tension of an outnumbered Batman aside, Walker and co. absolutely nail this five-page sequence. With the exception of one brief spot where Bats seems to recover a little bit too quickly, the storytelling here is perfect. Walker’s layouts are absolutely fluid, with every panel leading logically to the next. The characters move through—and use—the environment, which is not merely background. From the first panel of the sequence to the very last page, there’s a journey from point to point to point, and Walker just nails it.
What’s more, the aesthetics of Walker’s Batman are distinct, with very prominent, almost Animated Series-esque ears, bulbous, reflective eyes, and dramatic proportions and costume features. If there isn’t a DC Collectibles Brad Walker Batman in the next few years, then someone dropped the ball. Walker’s Batman is very much his own, and I think it looks outstanding.
A new age
In the end, the plot of Detective #1001 isn’t all that complex: villain intro, a trail for Batman to follow, check-in with a troubled ally, and a massive battle. But as an opening play to Tomasi and Walker’s arc, it’s perfect. There’s early mystery that drives the story forward, crazy things you’d only see in Gotham, Batman being Batman with a bunch of baddies, and a cliffhanger in which our hero seems to have met his match. And all of that is rendered with extreme clarity by Walker, Hennessy, and Fairbairn. It may not yet be as sophisticated as Tomasi’s last arc, but Detective Comics #1001 is more than enough to make me stick around and wait for this story to develop.