Two issues in with its new creative teams, “Detective Comics” is probably the best looking superhero book available. 22 pages of J.H. Williams III and eight pages of Cully Hamner held together by Greg Rucka’s writing make for a gorgeous book with some solid writing. While Rucka is the common denominator over the lead story starring Batwoman and the ‘co-feature’ starring the Question, the art dominates this book.
In the lead feature, Williams is beyond words. I am not sure the proper descriptors exist to properly sum up what he, along with Dave Stewart, does. But, I’ll give it a shot. Like some of the best cartoonists in comics, Williams crafts exquisitely designed pages that function both as a large work of art but also function almost perfectly on a panel-to-panel basis. Many artists focus on doing one or the other, but to illustrate lavish pages that need little context to appreciate and tell the story with clarity at the same time? Well, Williams may just be the best artist working in superhero comics today.
The preview pages only provide the barest of glimpses into his work in this issue as plot events cause Williams to change styles mid-page — mid-panel even! He uses panels within panels to highlight details, different styles to suggest different levels of consciousness, and a variety of page designs that suit the material. He’s so good that the actual plot almost gets in the way.
Thankfully, Rucka crafts an entertaining story that keeps up with Williams, although can’t match him. Batwoman confronts the new leader of the Religion of Crime, the cult that tried to kill her and cut out her heart, and things go awry when the new leader turns out to be an almost certainly insane woman who thinks she’s Alice Liddell from Lewis Carroll’s two famous books. Not much actually happens in this issue, but Rucka and Williams work to further establish how Batwoman acts as a vigilante, and even throw in a nice callback to last issue.
If that weren’t enough, the Question ‘co-feature’ continues its serial detective fiction plot with Renee Montoya trying to find a missing girl for her brother. Like the pulp stories that Rucka and Hamner are no doubt drawing upon, there’s lot of action and banter in this short chapter. Hamner is a different sort of artist than Williams, but his style is suited quite well to Rucka’s story. He’s one of the best action artists there is and he puts those skills on display here. Again, the writing doesn’t rise to the level of the art, but it’s very entertaining, and is suited to a comic titled “Detective Comics.”
You’re not likely to find a better looking superhero comic on the stands than “Detective Comics” #855 with J.H. Williams III and Cully Hamner delivering career-best work in already stunning careers. That is, until issue 856 comes out next month.