DETECTIVE COMICS #960 by James Tynion IV, Raul Fernandez, and Alvaro Martinez
DETECTIVE COMICS #960 is a dip in James Tynion IV's otherwise consistently great run on this comic. The art is ever beautiful and enthralling, but the story fails to capture the reader. The highlight of this issue continues to be the great reintroduction of Zatanna, but otherwise, I hope DETECTIVE COMICS will get its groove back.
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DETECTIVE COMICS has been one of the highlights of DC Rebirth’s impressive line of comics. James Tynion IV has taken it upon himself to write unique and unconventional stories within the Batman world. For the most part, these stories have been successful explorations into the Bat’s mythos. But others, like this issue, have had diminishing returns. DETECTIVE COMICS #960 is the third part of the “Intelligence” arc, and so far, this storyline is proving to be one of the weaker ones in Tynion’s run.

detective comics #960
DETECTIVE COMICS #960 pg. 18. Image Courtesy of DC Comics

DETECTIVE COMICS #960 is nowhere near a bad issue. In fact, there are a lot of things to enjoy about this issue, most predominantly the relationship between Zatanna and Batman. However, though the art continues to be fantastic, Tynion’s story does not have the same flow and intensity as earlier arcs.

Zee and The God Machine

Let’s start with the things that this issue got right. The best thing that “Intelligence” has done is bring Zatanna back in amazing style. The relationship between Zatanna and Bruce is easily the best one throughout this issue. Moreover, the dialogue between the two characters is fantastic. Tynion makes it clear through their speech that the two are very different people. He peppers Bruce’s dialogue with statements of logic and facts whereas Zatanna (or Zee, as Bruce calls her) shows her wisdom and insight through her dialogue. Tynion has always understood what makes these characters great and Zatanna is no exception.

DETECTIVE COMICS #960 pg. 6. Image Courtesy of DC Comics

Bruce meets with Zee to discuss a mysterious device called the God Machine. We do not understand what the God Machine is or what it does. Zatanna only tells us that it “reveals hidden truths.” Batman still seems to be beating himself up over the loss of his ward, Tim Drake. Somehow, Batman thinks that the God Machine can help him save those close to him in the future. Zee, in a page that Fernandez and Martinez draw amazingly, cautions Bruce about the use of forces beyond his control.

While the introduction of the God Machine and the reintroduction of Zatanna are very interesting, they are disconnected from the other plots in this issue. Batman wants to use the God Machine to learn more about the League of Shadows, a mysterious group he encountered previously. This is interesting, but it relates more to prior plotlines than what is happening in this issue. Tynion also uses the God Machine to hint at what Scott Snyder is setting up for in DARK NIGHTS: METAL. While I am very excited to see what Snyder creates in this crossover event, I want Tynion to focus on his own story right now.

READ: Not caught up on Dark Multiverse? We reviewed DARK FORGE #1 here!

Ascalon, Azrael, and Artifical Intelligence

The main plot of this arc is about the Order of St. Dumas. Basically, the Order of St. Dumas has been conditioning warriors to be killing-machines for their faith. One of these warriors, Jean-Paul Valley, has escaped the clutches of the Order and is fighting alongside Batman. However, in this issue, Jean-Paul is suffering from withdrawal from his training. He hears voices in his head, demanding that he resume his fight for the Order as the crusader, Azrael.

Meanwhile, the Order of St. Dumas has sent a new warrior, an artificial intelligence named Ascalon, into Gotham. There are a lot of interesting things about Ascalon. On one hand, it is an emotionless, programmed assassin. However, there are hints throughout the issue that it has a soul and that it has found meaning in its life by dedicating itself to God. So, Ascalon does not seem to be the main threat at hand. In this issue, it is revealed that Ascalon has a master who it serves in a very VaderPalpatine relationship.

Detective Comics #960
DETECTIVE COMICS #960 pg. 9. Image Courtesy of DC Comics

While this part of the comic has a lot of cool elements, I did not enjoy it as much as the parts with Zee and Bruce. Tynion tried to create a balance between these two parts of the story, but they did not quite work well together. Every time Tynion would write about Ascalon or Azrael, I wanted to return to Zatanna. And since this comic is split between two stories, time is taken away from some of the series’ most important characters. Clayface and Orphan do not even appear in this issue. Batwoman has a supporting role. Luke Fox, meanwhile, studies Ascalon’s intelligence, but this subplot comes off as slightly mundane in this comic.

Final Thoughts on DETECTIVE COMICS #960

If I were to pinpoint exactly what was wrong with DETECTIVE COMICS #960, it would be the flow. Elements of the story are still very fascinating. Even though certain characters are missing from the action, Batman and Zatanna still shine in this issue. Also, the artwork by Alvaro Martinez and Raul Fernandez is entirely enthralling. The problem is that the story never seems to balance its two opposing parts.

READ: Need to catch up on DETECTIVE COMICS? Look at our review of issue #959!

I can’t shake the feeling that this “Intelligence” arc is meant to hold over fans until Scott Snyder’s Dark Multiverse crossover. If that’s true, it’s really a shame because there are a lot of interesting things that Tynion could do with characters like Azrael, The Order of St. Dumas, and Ascalon. The only time the comic flows is when Bruce and Zee are on the page.

If you are a DETECTIVE COMICS fan like I am, I would still recommend picking up this issue. Once again, there is still a lot to admire about it. I just do not think that this issue showcases what is so great about Tynion’s writing and story prowess.

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