“Dead Reckoning, Chapter Four”
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Ed Castillo(p), Wade Von Grawbadger(i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Batman is seeking the Penguin’s killer. The trail has led to the discovery of an old conspiracy by a gaggle of Batman’s worst enemies.
I really don’t understand what Ed Brubaker is up to. His recent “Batman” run consisted of a number of great stories that showcased The “Bat” and his rogues in dynamic and interesting situations. “Dead Reckoning” is neither of these. Four chapters into this adventure Batman is still running around trying to break down the crime that left Penguin dead and threatens or involves nearly every other major Batman enemy. Smells like a collected edition to me.
Last issue pointed out the “who” and the “what” underlying our conspiracy and this issue Brubaker explores the “why”. But he goes about it in a plodding fashion that expresses nothing new or insightful about any of the central characters. He wastes the first three pages recapping recent events to the police -- who should have been able to figure all of this out for themselves. The story is further damaged by lackluster art that doesn’t feel right for a comic with the lineage of Detective Comics.
Paul Sloan, the new villain that Brubaker went to such pains to expose last month is entirely absent here. Supposedly Sloan has risen from the grave seeking vengeance, but I keep wondering how a dead man can walk into a maximum-security prison or access a computer database? I guess Hell has broadband. Otherwise Catwoman and ex-commissioner Jim Gordon provide throwaway cameos. I figure we’re do for a return of Egghead next issue - Eggcellent!
Tommy Castillo is hit and miss again this issue. He’s in top form when drawing Victorian structures or crumbling, dilapidated interiors. Additionally, his figure work leans towards the exaggerated, and is more successful when conveying the supernatural or the macabre. Unfortunately, he is not adept at conveying everyday people and natural facial expressions. Often Castillo’s characters look far too posed (probably magazine swipes) and are otherwise unsophisticated in their construction. But most jarring are the asymmetrical and mismatched eyes on nearly every character, some of these people look like circus freaks. I don’t wish to sound so negative towards Castillo and inker Von Grawbadger, but Detective Comics warrants a stronger effort. Tim Sale’s moody cover art continues in the tradition of evocative, noir, but I can't help feeling that it is wasted here.
Brubaker has further slowed the pace of an already sluggish story. The events within are of little consequence and the plot revelations are neither unique nor compelling. I don’t know how many chapters are left in this tale; hopefully next month is the conclusion. Oh yeah, the back-up story, “Spore”, concludes this month and makes no attempt to either explain itself or seek your forgiveness.
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