“The Holy Sword of Dumas no longer needs to be wielded by an imperfect man. It can be the weapon all on its own. Faith given body in shining metal. It does not doubt. It does not waver.”
— James Tynion IV, Batman: Detective Comics (Volume 4) Deus Ex Machina
After a slightly messy and tumultuous story arc, James Tynion IV comes back strong with Batman: Detective Comics (Volume 4) Deus Ex Machina. Collecting issues #957 to #961, this volume kicks things off with a quick reminder of Spoiler’s solo adventure and then dives into a solid and well-executed story around Jean-Paul Valley, also know as Azrael, as well as Zatanna. While there has yet to be an update on the subject, issue #962 is actually the finale to the Intelligence story arc, but seems to have been excluded so far in the collected edition’s blurb. I doubt this is an intentional and cleverly thought-out marketing ploy by DC Comics since you’d be left with no closure and a huge cliffhanger if you end things at issue #961; the logical way to go will be to include issue #962, the final part of Intelligence into this trade paperback. In this volume, James Tynion IV explores the lore behind Azrael and his infamous sword and armour as science bursts through the front gates of religion. Reinventing Azrael by adding a technological explanation to the sword and suit of Azrael in order to explain his radical beliefs and his enhanced combat, James Tynion IV brings forth an original story that blends science and religion in a very riveting compound. The story is also enhanced with a touch of magic and nice past and present narrative as Zatanna is finally introduced into this universe.
I can’t explain how glad I am that this story arc finally does justice to James Tynion IV’s potential. With the aid of Batwing, a good friend to Jean-Paul Valley, but also a mastermind whenever it comes down to technology and science, the story was able to illustrate an intriguing advancement in artificial intelligence. The introduction of a brand new villain who quickly shatters the peace that embodied Jean-Paul Valley helped also pushes the story’s intrigue to new heights, while simultaneously exploring new territory regarding Azrael’s character and a bunch of throwback Easter eggs to his origin story. However, this volume doesn’t solely focus on Azrael and the new threat that has risen from the dark. Batman also gets a sub-plot with one of DC’s most interesting characters: Zatanna. Without ever being jarring, this story line intertwines with the whole volume beautifully and further explores the complex relationship between both Batman and Zatanna. In fact, I believe my favourite part of this story arc lies in its mystical aroma.
Although there’s artificial intelligence, strange creatures, magic, religion and science, they are all blended together in perfect harmony. I loved how the story strives in a world that doesn’t usually rhyme with Gotham City and yet still manages to perspire as a Batman/Detective Comics story arc. The little plot twists and surprises thrown into this adventure, whether to prepare for something that is soon to happen within this series or to relate it to something that is much bigger in the DC universe, were done with great precision and timing as well. In fact, speaking of surprises, this volume, apart from the first issue that focuses on Spoiler (Stephanie Brown) which enlightens us on her new goal as a solo vigilante, every other issue part of the Intelligence story arc is drawn, penciled and colored by the same artists. Alvero Martinez (pencils), Raul Fernandez (inks) and Brad Anderson (colours) do an excellent job in maintaining a consistent and excellent artwork and giving this volume an identity that it can proudly broach about. I’ll always prefer having the same creative team behind a story arc than a bunch of different artists whose artworks never really blend together and would more often than not vary in quality, from mediocre to excellent. It is such a pleasure to be able to enjoy good artwork with this fantastic writing.
Batman: Detective Comics (Volume 4) Deus Ex Machina is definitely the best volume so far in this series. It was about time that James Tynion IV was finally able to release a story arc that truly highlights his talents and excellent artwork that did justice to every single character and brought life to the mystical and technological beings of this world. While the first issues, The Wrath of Spoiler, was completely random standing beside the main story arc, Intelligence, it was a nice little reminder of the existence of that ex-member of the Bat family and how things have heavily changed for her, especially her perception of Batman and what he’s done to Gotham. I also liked that that particular issue showcased a villain that was initially introduced in volume 4 of the New 52 Detective Comics run. I’m pretty sure the coincidence was intentional, and it definitely a fun one, to say the least. Intelligence then takes matters into its own hands and delivers a magnificent and creative story featuring characters who have yet to be truly explored in DC Comics: Zatanna and Azrael. It was only a question of time before we’d finally get something well worth our while. Action-packed, cleverly written and beautifully drawn, Intelligence is a story arc that does everything you’d want in this Rebirth series.
Did you read Batman: Detective Comics (Volume 4): Deus Ex Machina yet? What did you think about it?
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MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★★☆/