Detective Comics foray into the Knight Terrors event focuses in on Jim Gordon rather than Batman himself, and takes a look at Gotham and Jim’s role in stewarding it through the years, and all the insecurities that come with a lifetime spent trying to save one city.
The book opens on a snowy day in July, which is an oddity for sure but also nothing too strange for Gotham, though the story gradually shifts from what feels like a semi-normal Gotham day, to something much worse. This is one of the few Knight Terrors titles I’ve read so far that doesn’t feature a scene where the characters are dropped into their nightmares. Instead we find ourselves there from the very start without a clear telegraph that it is a nightmare. However, by the end of the book you are very much aware of the twisted nature of the story.
The more gradual sinking into the theme helps to make this one of my favorite Knight Terror stories so far. I like that it lets the details of the story make it clear that this is taking place in a dream. Like Jim’s physical fracturing or a character who spits out diamonds from their mouth, these are elements of unreality that clearly —even in a place as weird as Gotham— distinguish the story as a dream. For the reader at least. Jim never really realizes it, which is another element I enjoyed. This is not just some scary dream he has to escape from or wake up from, it is his reality and something he is actively fighting against.
Jim being the focus here is a welcome sight for me. I’ve really enjoyed his backups and overall inclusion in Detective Comics during Ram V’s run, so it’s nice to see him featured here for a longer period. The story doesn’t dive into what could be very obvious fears of his either, like the death of various family members or rehashing old wounds. Instead it focuses on how frayed Jim is, and exhausted by his tenure in Gotham. It looks at the fears and insecurities he carries from his past successes and failures. And when the things he’s holding onto now are cut how that leaves him more and more fragile and strung out. Which isn’t just a figure of speech, it’s a physical manifestation in the issue. I like this take on his nightmare, and in looking at the character.
The art though, is probably my favorite part of the book. Riccardo Federici is on art with Brad Anderson on colors and the book is just gorgeous. Federici’s style is really lovely in general, with soft lines and realistic looking characters and settings. Anderson’s colors pair beautifully with the pencils, giving the whole book a soft touch, and just the right brightness for each scene. There’s this beautiful shot of Gotham’s streets and a diner that I stopped and just stared at early on. It feels simple, a city street and busy diner, but the way the color reflects off the snow, and shines in the diner just makes the whole thing feel cozy. It’s a great way to lead into how dark and scary the book is going to get later.
And boy does it get dark and scary. Federici does some excellent work designing some truly terrifying nightmare creatures called up by a group of Gothamites calling themselves the Good People of Gotham. These three figures loom, full of spikes, bones, and scraggly figures to twist the wishes of the men and women who called them forward. The designs only continue to be great from there on, with twisted Batmen and the unsettling way Jim starts to crack under the pressure of trying to keep things —and himself— together amidst all this chaos.
The biggest gripe I have against the story is that it ends on an abrupt note. It is part one of a two part tale, so it makes sense that there wouldn’t be resolution here, but it also distinctly feels like only half the story. I wanted more, and it ends on a nice final few lines, but I wanted more. Which, in the end, is a good problem to have. As long as it lands what it wants to say in part two, I have a feeling this tale will read really well as a whole story.
- Jim Gordon is your man
- You want a look into just how years of service to Gotham might fray him
- The art is stunning, and worth the price of admission alone
Knight Terrors: Detective Comics is my favorite of the Knight Terrors tales so far. The way it gradually pulls the reader and Jim into the nightmare story is engaging, and believable. It also chooses to focus on something less obvious than what a reader might guess for Jim’s nightmare to be, and instead looks at how fractured and shaken a person can be from years of dealing with Gotham. If you want to read an interesting character study that is paced well, and has gorgeous art I highly suggest picking up this title.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.