Detective Comics #991 is not an action-packed issue. Despite the impression the cover gives, Batman, Gordon, and Two-Face aren’t tearing through the streets of Gotham with guns-blazing. In fact, contained within these pages is a somber, more meditative exploration of one of Batman’s greatest foes.
Two-Face is suffering from a crisis of identity (go figure). The villain claims that, despite the evidence at the crime scene, he’s not the man who murdered Karl Twist. The true culprit is someone Gotham City believes to be long-gone.
While our last issue was packed with more shootouts than The Raid, Detective Comics #991 builds slowly. In fact, most of the issue is occupied by a quiet, extended conversation among the trio of figures mentioned above. However, we cover a lot of ground in that one talk.
The issue walks us through the psyche of Two-Face, one of the most deranged members of Batman’s rogues’ gallery. Twist’s murder shakes who Two-Face believes himself to be. Writer James Robinson manages to drive home the emotional impact of the situation well. We’re walking a very delicate line between pathos and out-of-character melodrama here. In less capable hands, this story could have been a disaster, but Robinson makes it work.
The last page promises that we’ll be heading back into the thick of the fight against Kobra in number 992. Before that, though, Detective Comics #991 is a nice break in the action from the last several fast-paced issues, giving us a chance to catch our breath before the story arc climaxes.
Carmine Di Giandomenico’s artwork shines in this issue. Because the story is slower-paced, we have a chance to really soak in the noir vibe that is a trademark of the series.
One element that stuck out as especially interesting is the clever use of panels in framing the two sides of Two-Face. We see his face split across multiple panels and centerfolds, or blocked by profiles and shadows, subtly reinforcing the theme of Two-Face’s own internal crisis.
Ivan Plascencia’s color work is strong as well. Lots of purple hues drip on every page, especially in the scars and crevices of Two-Face’s mug. Other figures are allowed to hang in the shadows, underscoring the intensity of the conversation as it plays out.
Detective Comics #991 is a slower, quieter entry in the series. But sometimes, a quiet conversation is exactly what the story needs.