Gotham City in winter is a miserable place, even if one has a home in which to seek relief from the cold and the wet. For those who have no home – in the sense of either shelter or a place to belong – Gotham is colder still. It was for this reason that Martha Wayne founded an orphanage in her family’s name, to insure that no child went without a roof over their head and without a chance to find a family as loving as her own.

Years later, Bruce Wayne still maintains the orphanage that his mother started, though he typically has larger concerns than overseeing its management and doing more than signing the checks to keep it running. However, when Lucius Fox reports to him that one of the teenage boys at the orphanage ran away and that he is one of several to disappear in the past year, it triggers an alarm in the mind of the great detective and he summons his son, Damian, despite the tension between them at present.

Batman and Robin are united once more, searching the streets of Gotham for one missing young man. What they discover in their searching will stun even the hardened vigilantes and lead them into an entirely different mystery.

Detective Comics #1017 is something of a rarity in these days;  a one-shot story that doesn’t require any previous experience with Batman and Robin before you read it. There is no tie-in to any other comic book or crossover. Indeed, on the odd chance that someone has never heard of Batman and Robin, they could pick this comic up and learn who Bruce Wayne, Damian Wayne and their alter egos are with no fuss or muss. The continuing tension between Bruce and Damian is touched upon, but proves completely incidental to the larger plot, hinting at the issues between the two without distracting from the central mystery. And what a mystery!

Tom Taylor is frequently and rightly praised for his use of humor and his grasp of character. You can tell that he is just as much a fan of these heroes as the rest of the readers and he delights in playing with his fellow fans’ expectations. Yet for all of that, he is also a great writer in terms of plotting and pacing and the mystery he presents here is a thrilling one.

The artwork is of equal quality. Fernando Blanco captures the essence of Gotham with his art and the city has rarely looked so cold and hostile. This aura is enhanced by the colors of John Kalisz, who utilizes a palette heavy on light blues, greys and off-whites to enhance the winter storm scenes, overlaying this over the darker blues and blacks suggesting the dark secrets at the city’s core. Travis Lanham is restrained in his use of special effects balloons, but those which are present are perfectly chosen and the setting establishment font suits the story perfectly.

In short, if you’re in the market for a fantastic Batman story or a good mystery that doesn’t require a lot of investment, Detective Comics #1017 is just what you need.

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