“Detective Comics” #36 wraps up a two-part story by guest creative team Benjamin Percy and John Paul Leon. But based on their work here, even with a slight stumble towards the finish line, it’s strong enough material that you’ll find yourself hoping for more comics from the duo before long.
After last issue’s impeccably-timed “highly contagious virus released in an airport” first half, it’s not surprising that “Detective Comics” #36 almost can’t compete with the near-perfection of that opening chapter. But here’s the thing: it’s still very good. As the virus spreads and the quarantine is set up, Percy keeps the tension high. One thing that I found myself appreciating very quickly is that as the other law enforcement agencies come in and take over — and in doing so, put Batman’s attempts to stop what’s happening at risk — he avoids the obvious path of making outsiders equal bad guys. Hazmat suited officers aren’t bad guys here, they’re merely doing their job and trying to keep everyone safe. That doesn’t make them any less of a roadblock, though.
Percy also takes full advantage of Batman’s allies in this story, which is smart; there’s no logical way for Batman to get out of the airport terminal (nor should he considering the nature of the highly-contagious virus), and it serves as a reminder that having others to turn to is a strength rather than a weakness. It meshes well with current events in the Batman family of books, and it also provides a nice change of scenery, even as it’s undeniably brutal in parts. The only issue I ultimately had with the writing is that the conclusion feels like it moves a little too quickly; once the solution is found, it’s a “don’t blink or you’ll miss it” take down of the bad guy to get the antidote. Still, even with the rushed ending, it’s overall a strong story.
Even stronger than the writing is Leon’s art, which is a reminder of just what a gem he is. Something as simple as a drawing of people in an airport bar is perfectly rendered; Leon draws your attention through the gazes of the crowd to the television up above, with the man giving his ultimatum to the world. But at the same time, as you look away from him, you can see that Leon’s taken care to draw anything and everything into that single panel; the numerous types of people in the crowd, the different shapes of alcohol bottles on the shelves, the menu items on the wall, even a partially-obscured logo for the establishment. And this is just one panel in a comic. Leon draws an amazing looking Batman here, too; even in broad daylight, he finds a way to partially drape him in shadow, and watching his body slowly disappear in the darkness gives him a level of mystery that Batman walking down the tarmac normally wouldn’t achieve.
Special kudos also need to go to Dave Stewart, who along with Leon provides the colors to the comic. Each area has its own color palette; the yellows and oranges of the airport, for instance, are a strong contrast to the icy blue of Belarus. You can tell where the action is set solely by the colors, each having a strong emotion and mood that’s set fairly perfectly.
“Detective Comics” #36 is a great looking comic, and one with a fairly strong script to boot. Were we to hear that Percy and Leon have more stories ahead, well, I’d be pleased. They clearly work well together, based on this two-parter. If all fill-ins were this strong, I think they’d be anticipated rather than feared.