Images & Words – Detective Comics #860


For the past month or so, Caffeine Powered has been presenting Variant Covers, a weekly feature that previews some of the more notable comic releases of the upcoming Wednesday. Starting this week, I am going to begin offering Images & Words, a complementary post that essentially tells you about my favorite comic of the week.

So to clarify:

Variant Covers — Caffeine Powered tells you which comics to look for.

Images & Words — Pepsibones rants about his favorite release of the week.

Get ready for some magic! (“Illusions, Michael, illusions…”)

Just as Caffeine Powered told you on Tuesday, some big titles have dropped this week. Jonathan Hickman continues his excellent run on Fantastic Four by starting a new arc that centers on Franklin Richards; Geoff Johns and Ed Benes remind us that Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner aren’t the only worthy ring-bearers of the DCU in   Green Lantern #49; and one-shot Captain America — Who Will Wield the Shield is less of a cash-grab and more of a genuine exploration of the new relationship between Steve Rogers and James Buchanan.

While I don’t feel as though I’ve wasted any cash this week (which is a rare thing in the life of a comic nerd), one collection of images and words stands a step all of the aforementioned titles: Detective Comics #860.

For those of you who haven’t been keeping up, Detective Comics has been helmed by Batwoman since Bruce Wayne bit the dust. Long story short — Batwoman is Kate Kane, a Jewish lesbian with special ops training, a father with connections in the military, and an insanely rich stepmother who ostensibly funds the vigilantism without even knowing it. Yeah, I know that the description makes the character simultaneously seem like a bit of a stretch as well as a disingenuous attempt to insert diversity into comic books. To be honest I don’t have any investment in the idea or concept of Batwoman, but the collaboration between Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III  has kept  me coming back for more.

Story wise, Greg Rucka has been using Detective Comics to present the compelling mysteries and tales of crime for which he has come to be known. This latest issue, the third part of an arc titled Go, features flashbacks in which the reader sees Kate Kane trying to cut her teeth in the crime-fighting biz. In the process, Kate has to deal with ex-girlfriend/DCU fan-favorite Renee Montoya and eventually come to accept the assistance of her father. The narrative then takes us to present day, in which Kate is trying to deal with the fact that her long-lost twin may actually be a villain named Alice.

Again, as I type this shit out, I realize how terrible and played-out it seems. Maybe it is. But even if you find nothing worthwhile about the story itself, you’d have to be a fool to not recognize the beauty that is J.H. Williams III’s paneled page.

At the very least, any comics reader should respect the way in which Williams structures his panels. On some pages, such as during flashbacks, Williams sticks to the familiar, rectangular panel layouts we’ve all come to know and love. However, the artist really shines when he takes a path less traveled; for example, the panels often compose smaller segments of a Bat-symbol that spreads across the entire page. Something so simple as putting the story within subdivisions of a larger visual whole really pays off.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that Dave Stewart is the colorist for Detective Comics. He’s  the man — if you ever get the chance, check out his phenomenal work on Darwyn Cooke’s The New Frontier.

Detective Comics #860 isn’t a classic single issue and a year from now I’ll probably be completely incapable of telling you what it’s about. But as far this week is concerned, it is an exemplary combination of images and words, visual narrative and solid storytelling. If you cash in your Slurpee cup filled with spare change and it totals four bucks, go splurge on Detective Comics.

Batwoman in Training