After years on the shelf, Batman returns to the Black Casebook! Throughout his career, Batman has compiled his most disturbing cases into one volume, its every page filled with bizarre horror and crimes he never quite managed to solve. Now a case from the past has re-opened itself in the here and now…and Batman will find himself face-to-face again with one of the deadliest villains he fought in his early years: the Reaper!
Well, that didn’t take long.
If you have been reading my Detective reviews then you know that last issue #1004 wasn’t a favorite of mine. Just like that Tomasi bounces back with something similar, different and what I think is most important, better. Tomasi is digging deep into Bat-tales of the past and now is trying his hand at reimagining another villain, the Reaper.
There are more than a handful of treasurable moments in this annual. Batman and Gordon have an amazing scene together early on. The whole page between the two them together is pure joy. Gordon talking to Batman while not facing him is one of those things that has me smiling ear to ear. Follow that up with Bruce, Alfred and the Black Case book in the Batcave library, you can tell we are in for a treat. Another little piece of gold is “drunk” Alfred as bait for the Reaper. It really is a beautiful thing to watch unfold and quite funny. Last but not least the most important of them all, our favorite bat-thing of all time, Batman doing detective work!
The single greatest thing Tomasi contributed to this issue was Batman’s monologue referencing his first encounter with the Reaper from Batman: Year Two. “As you recall I was still new to this life and prone to…bad decisions.” That quote over a panel of Batman holding a gun is magnificent. I had to immediately listen to episode #139 of the BOF Podcast as Ryan Hoss and crew breakdown that topic in greater detail.
At one point Tomasi had me going “Here we go again, this is the same thing as the last issue”. He faked me out good. I thought he was doing with the Reaper what he did with Arkham Knight but as I said earlier similar but better. The Reaper has taken a page out of Batman’s own book. Creating “Reapers Incorporated” if you will. The main difference is that there is a sprinkle of Spider-Man villains Spencer/Allister Smyth. I think this sort of creativity is leaps and bounds better than the reimagining of the Arkham Knight’s origin. Tomasi’s Arkham Knight started off hot but is fading fast while looking to conclude next issue, #1005.
Travis Moore and Max Rayner share artistic duties on the annual. I must say while I have really grown to love Brad Walker’s work recently on Detective this team did not miss a beat. Moore and Rayner draw an impressive looking book. The Reapers redesign keeps in line with tradition but updated the hands/scythe. Almost like Baraka from Mortal Kombat without the ability to retract. The hands are fully functional at all times and now the Reaper even has gauntlet guns similar to Deadshot. The Reapers first appearance of the book was a fun few pages and even gives off an evil Batman-like vibe. The drunk “Alfred” scene is drawn just as wonderfully as it is written. Overall the action is a real gem of the book, with lots of great Batman panels throughout, swinging into battle, crashing through windows, explosions and some awesome hand to hand combat this issue will not disappoint visually. It is a thing of beauty when a book’s art and writing are on point like this.
Detective Comics Annual #2 is just what I expect from Tomasi. I have thoroughly enjoyed his interpretations of the last two villains overall. While I am not the biggest fan of Batman: Year Two this was a nice change of pace from the typical members of the Gotham Underground we see. Kudos to Tomasi for being daring enough to have back-to-back arcs without a traditional villain. The final page of Annual #2 leads us to believe that the Arkham Knight and the Reaper have something to do with each other but we won’t find out until ‘Tec 1K5 on 6/12/19. See you then BOFers! – Pete Verra