Two of my favorite modern day creators are Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke. Peter Tomasi has had excellent runs on Green Lantern Corps, Nightwing and Superman. Now Tomasi is getting the chance to take his talents to Gotham City as by takeover Detective Comics. This isn’t the first time Tomasi work within Gotham City as he previously worked on Nightwing and the New 52 Batman and Robin ongoings. Adding in Mahnke to work bring Tomasi’s writing to life I have high expectations for what they will bring to this series. And with Detective Comics nearing their 1000th issue this is a great time for Tomasi and Mahnke to lay the groundwork for what will be a major milestone for Batman and DC Comics. Let’s see how things begin with Detective Comics #994.
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Jaime Mendoza
Colorist: David Baron
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: While swinging through the city Bruce is reminded that today is the anniversary of the death of his parents and flashes back to the night of that event.
At the Gotham City Aquarium Batman meets Commissioner Gordon to talk about two murdered people found in a tank. The two people have somehow been made to look exactly like Thomas and Martha Wayne on the night they were killed. Batman uses of his devices to quickly get the bodies out of the tank.
While looking over the bodies Batman discovers that the couple had plastic surgery conducted on them and have clothing to look identical to his parents on the night of their murder. While investigating the body Batman discovers a pearl from Martha’s necklace in the guy’s mouth.
Commissioner Gordon wonders why the victims were made to look like the Waynes. Batman reveals that today is the anniversary of the Waynes death outside Monarch Theater.
At the Park Row Community Clinic Leslie Thompkins wraps up her shift. As she is leaving the clinic an unknown creature shines the Bat-Signal above her head. Leslie runs back into the clinic just as the creature throws the Bat-Signal at her.
The police quickly arrive and start firing at the creature.
As that is happening Leslie contacts Batman to let him know what is going on. Batman tells Leslie to run while keeping her communicator on so he can track her.
As Leslie runs through the clinic Batman gives her specific instructions on the quickest way to get to the roof. When she gets to the roof she hesitates to jump off as Batman instructs her but he tells her to trust him.
It becomes too late and the creature reaches the roof before Leslie can jump. She instead decides to hide.
The creature spots that Batman is flying to the roof. Leslie realizes this attack was done to draw Batman out. She attacks the creature from behind. The creature turns around and breathes some sort of gas on Leslie’s face.
Before the creature can do anything else Batman knocks it off Leslie. Batman and the creature fight on the roof. After Batman tries to use some explosives the creature decides to throw Leslie off the roof.
Batman acts fast and is able to catch Leslie and crashes into a nearby building with her. When he checks on Leslie, Batman is stunned to find her showing the same smile people get from Joker’s gas. Leslie starts laughing uncontrollably. End of issue.
The Good: Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke kicked off their run on Detective Comics with exactly the issue that was needed. With how big Tom King’s run on Batman is Tomasi and Mahnke needed to have a hook to make their run on Detective Comics different in some way. They found that exact hook with a more supernatural element that is still grounded in the world of Gotham City.
Right away one thing that Tomasi established was that Detective Comics won’t be held necessarily to current continuity. As shown with Detective Comics #994, this will be its own thing for readers that are looking for a different type of Batman story that still has familiar elements. It’s an important thing to establish right away as it allows Detective Comics to live in its own corner while still being in-continuity.
Grounding this new story around the anniversary of Bruce Wayne’s parents deaths instantly gives Batman a personal connection to this story. This is a personal attack that targets Bruce. Not only is it targeting Bruce but from the way the unknown creature reacted to Batman’s arrival it seems that this new threat knows Bruce’s secret identity.
Having Batman become aware of this through his meticulous investigation of the dead couple’s body was a great way to show his detective skills. As badass as Batman is he is an even better detective. The way Batman treated the couple’s bodies with care was a nice subtle way to show that this attack was having an emotional effect on him. All he could do was stay as focused as possible in order to not let his anger overcome him. The small moments such as Batman almost slipping up in front of Commissioner Gordon as he almost said the couple looked like his parents was a great character moment.
Transitioning to the unknown creature attacking Leslie Thompkins further spotlighted how personal of an attack this is on Batman. Somehow the creature knew this would draw Batman out. This creates even more questions as to what exactly is going on. Those questions are furthered by the fact this creature somehow is able to breathe Joker’s gas out of its mouth Adding all these elements together make this an interesting challenge for Batman since he normally doesn’t fight these type of supernatural threats in Gotham City.
With how the story in Detective Comics #994 personally attacked Batman it was good to see how Tomasi used this as an opportunity to highlight the importance of his supporting cast. Particularly, it was great to see Leslie Thompkins get involved in a Batman story. She is a great character who isn’t being used in any other Batman comic right now. Seeing how she did not hesitate to risk her life when she realized Batman was in great danger showed how important they are to each other. Hopefully with how things went down Tomasi explores Bruce and Leslie’s relationship further as there is a lot of potential in that dynamic that hasn’t been tapped into lately.
Doug Mahnke’s artwork throughout Detective Comics #994 was excellent. Even though we don’t see much of Gotham City each shot of the city made it feel alive. Even as Batman was the focus Mahnke’s artwork had a sense that there was something going on everywhere in Gotham City. That added to the tension around Batman’s investigation and fight as there was a seediness to everything going on underneath what we were seeing.
The Bad: While I enjoyed Detective Comics #994 the unknown creature was the weak point of this issue. Without any sort of dialogue it was just a mindless creature. There was no sense to its personality or if it is connected to the couple made to look like the Waynes. It was just too random to feel connected. It did not help that the creature didn’t have any unique expression outside of opening its mouth to yell when it was attacking Leslie yelling.
Overall: Detective Comics #994 was a great start to Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke’s run on this series. Tomasi did an excellent job highlighting Batman’s detective abilities while providing a personal connection to what is going on for Bruce Wayne. It is all wonderfully brought to life by Doug Mahnke delivering his always stellar artwork.