Detective Comics No. 997 review: Where’s Aquaman when you need him?


Captured, left to drown, and be eaten by carnivorous fish, Batman must escape death with his former teacher Thaddeus Brown, aka the first Mister Miracle.

Since taking over Detective Comics three issues ago, Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke have been crafting a haunting mystery that has taken a toll on Batman, making for a very compelling read. This issue eschews the structure and propulsion of said mystery by focusing entirely on one situation, escaping from death. Some plot movement occurs during the last couple of pages of the issue, but for the most part, this issue is a nail-biting story of Batman trying not to get eaten by sharks and piranhas. A very Silver Age idea, but with all the modern brutality that a contemporary Batman comic contains.

What this issue lacks in plot, it completely makes up for in excitement. Every bit of this issue is tense in an absolutely ridiculous way. First there’s the drowning aspect, that’s enough to make one worry about Batman, but he’s Batman so of course he’ll escape. Throw in some sharks and piranhas though, and now you have something that Dick Sprang might’ve drawn back in the ’50s. The entire difference though being that everything actually feels dangerous.

So much of this issue relies on Doug Mahnke’s art because dialogue isn’t much of an option when an issue takes place underwater, and there aren’t any Atlanteans around. Mahnke is able to pace everything exceptionally well in this issue, which usually isn’t the case with issues containing little to no dialogue. Here though, nothing feels like it was short-changed when telling the story and nothing feels too long. Everything feels just right, especially during the underwater segments. When the issue moves onto the land, that’s a different story entirely.

Image by DC Comics/Art by Doug Mahnke

Once Batman begins fighting this monstrosity that has been causing him so much grief in these past several issues, it’s a fantastic fight scene. Mahnke’s brutal art combined with the subtext of how Batman dispatches each of these images conjured up by this creature is haunting. In an issue that felt more exciting that dark and brutal, it was a surprising turn that could’ve fallen flat, but thankfully didn’t.

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There’s also a surprising amount of humor in this issue as well, and by surprising, there’s two or three jokes, which is more than most Batman comics so that’s saying something. While these jokes could’ve fallen completely flat, they work well enough within the context of the story being told. Do they feel completely like Batman? Not always. But they feel enough like Batman to not be all that bothersome.

There’s the reveal at the end of the issue that really moves the plot of the storyline forward. When it happens, it totally feels expected yet unexpected at the same time for very obvious reasons when you read it. This may be a bait-and-switch, and probably will be, before issue 1000, but if it’s not, it would make complete sense.

Next. Detective Comics No. 996 review: Batman goes to Paris. dark


Detective Comics has another really entertaining issue on its hands despite nothing moving the plot forward a whole lot.