Batman spends the night in the bowels of Arkham Asylum attempting to uncover its mysteries. Plus, the horrifying fate of Black Mask is at last revealed! In the co-feature, The Question discovers the shocking true identity of the man responsible for the human trafficking and gunrunning.
I was so bored by the reason Bat-Grayson visited Dr. "I'm the new Black Mask" Arkham in his namesake asylum last month that I'd totally forgotten about it, mostly because by the end of the issue it had been replaced with another kind of cliffhanger that seemed rather nonsensical.
It seems that writer David Hine forgot about the guy with the bomb in his gut, too, because he doesn't appear again until almost the end of #865, which is out this week. When he does, his situation is dealt with quickly and comically badly, and Bat-Grayson kind of just shrugs it off. That's no way to maintain dramatic energy or momentum, especially since the red-herring cliffhanger was just as predictably resolved in the first as I feared it would be.
Meanwhile, suspected cult murderer Alyce Sinner, whose hairstyle already has her halfway to walking around Arkham like Dr. Arkham/Black Mask's own little Harley Quinn, not to mention that her name is ALYCE SINNER, gets promoted by the Gotham Shield Committee as the Asylum's new director. That's like hiring a guy named Dr. Liar McVaultbuster, who wears a ski mask, to be your bank's new chairman of the board. Furthermore, as Dr. Arkham explains how Hugo Strange and The Joker manipulated his mind, you have to wonder how stupid he'd be to listen to them in the first place.
Hine had some really creepy and effective scenes in part one of this story, but there's no suspense or impact in the conclusion. It just kind of meanders around, though Jeremy Haun (who's been blowing my mind with his work on the Manhunter backup over in STREETS OF GOTHAM) provides some really incredible artwork, and I love the bright colors by David Baron, which make the asylum seem deceptively sterile and safe. I'd love for Haun to get a permanent gig on a Batman book.
I know that most of my reviews for this title can be boiled down to "Paul Dini and Greg Rucka are awesome!" But that's just my honest reaction to how I feel when I finish an issue written by those guys. I can't wait to read it again. And I'm not saying that they're the only guys who can write DETECTIVE. I don't care who's writing it, as long as I feel like I got my money's worth when I finish the issue.
Bottom line: If I hadn't had to review this for BOF, I would have saved my four bucks for a Whopper and a Coke. It just didn't do anything for me, especially coming on the heels of two truly stellar runs.
The Question backup was pretty awesome, though, with Montoya and The Huntress tussling over Vandal Savage's damning ultimatum from last issue. It resolves in a character-driven way that ends on a troubling, potentially game-changing note for one of our characters.
So even though I'd give The Question story a solid A (because hey, "Greg Rucka is awesome!"), the main story ekes by with a C. - John Bierly