Gotham’s latest serial killer continues to confound Jim Gordon’s Batman and Harvey Bullock in the oversized “Detective Comics” #50 by Peter J. Tomasi, Fernando Pasarin, Scot Eaton, Matt Ryan and Wayne Faucher. Gordon is a skilled detective in his own right, so it isn’t long before he discovers the common thread linking all of the recent killings, though it’s a rather manufactured and convenient one.
The main story is followed by a series of thirteen full-page pinups by various artists, which pay homage to classic “Detective Comics” covers and are loosely tied together by Tomasi’s narration. The main mystery is fitting for this pseudo-landmark issue of the title, but it’s a rather pedestrian one that reads like a filler piece, doing little to advance Gordon’s story as the current man behind the cowl.
Tomasi’s story is competent, but reads like a shelf piece waiting for a home; what’s more, it would work with just about any other member of the Bat-family in the lead. It does have a kind of retro feel from the 70s and 80s, when many of Batman’s cases relied on the cunning mind of the detective as much as the brawn of the Dark Knight. The turning point of the mystery, though, relies on an all-too-convenient and unbelievably coincidental discovery by Gordon; it’s a revelation that, while not impossible, is a level of improbable that weakens the overall story Tomasi has built up over the past couple of issues.
Tomasi’s story centers around the circumstance behind many of Gotham’s landmark sculptures, and the art team illustrates these statues commendably. The facial likeness and body structures in the various sculptures are impressively realistic and detailed, finely embellished in a manner that goes a long way towards the overall attractiveness of the issue. Chris Sotomayor’s colors are rich and fill the art nicely; the crisp lines afford the colorist the opportunity to fill the spaces between them with subtle color changes, giving each panel even more depth. However, Gordon occasionally has some awkward movements, which don’t flow from panel-to-panel and look stiff.
Scott McDaniel and Dean White bookend eleven pieces from artists like Rafael Albuquerque, Kelley Jones and Cameron Stewart, and all are based on classic covers from the series spanning from the 1940s to the 1980s. The eclectic mix is a robust showcase of the Dark Detective that puts a modern spin on these older pieces, and it’s a welcome addition to this commemoration of the run’s fiftieth issue. However, Tomasi’s attempt to bridge each piece with unnecessary dialogue only forces letterer Wes Abbott to mar each page with text, and it seems like a forced attempt to create a story where none need exist.
Other lapses in the issue include some hokey dialogue in Tomasi’s main story and a rather stilted ending that tries too hard to be cute and instead falls flat, despite an attractive story-ending splash by the art team. “Detective Comics” #50 isn’t all that much of a landmark issue, and there’s certainly no landmark story to support it; its strengths lie in the art, which makes the issue a lot more fun to look at than it is to read.