There’s a dead body on Bruce Wayne’s doorstep and it’s a death connected to a case deeply personal to the detective on the scene, Harvey Bullock. Detective Comics #31 is part 2 of the Icarus saga and picks up where issue #30 left off so be sure to pick that one up before diving in here. While this chapter doesn’t give as much attention to the now orphaned daughter of our victim as it probably should have, it does devote a fair amount of pages to Harvey Bullock and juxtaposes this detective’s investigation with that of the Batman. Of course, while it’s great to see Bullock get some screen time, it’s Batman who has the most impressive scenes and watching him unravel this mystery and confront a physically imposing enemy should make fans very happy.

Like with the last issue, the creative team of Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato take a cinematic approach to The Dark Knight that omits captions and emphasizes dialogue and stunning visuals with captivating results. It’s a book worth buying for the artwork alone! Not only are Manapul’s  innovative layouts and dynamic character work a feast for the eyes, but Buccellato’s colors bring a unique take on Gotham that’s both familiar and new and vibrant. One of the most incredible visuals is at the beginning of the book. Not only is it beautifully rendered, but it’s a brilliant showcase of Batman’s intuition and you don’t even need to read a single speech bubble to understand the step-by-step process of Batman’s sleuthing. That’s great sequential storytelling right there! It’s a full image of a forest divided into four equal-sized panels, each of which features Batman moving through the woodland crime scene and passing through inset panels that flashback to the horrifying event Batman is trying to understand.

Speaking of the step-by-step process, there’s one step that almost every Batman comic glosses over. Nearly every single time you’ll see Batman discover a crime and consult a computer in his gauntlet or radio to Alfred (sigh…”Penny-One”) who brings up the identity of a suspect in mere seconds. After that we jump ahead to the violent interrogation scene, right? It’s a lazy way to pretend like we’re seeing Batman do some detective work just so we can move on to the action and I’m sick of it. In Detective Comics #31 we actually see Batman do some groundwork, find clues, don a disguise to ingratiate himself into the criminal underworld, plant a tracking device and stealthily track down his prey. THAT’S what I want to see. This book gives us suspense and a Batman who will actually gather evidence that leads to the guy who ultimately gets beaten-up/dangled from a gargoyle. It’s more rewarding.

Another aspect of this book that I like is the action. Not just because it’s illustrated well– there’s one page in particular that divides a fight into tiny panels with close-up shots of the brutality saturated in the orange of a snaplight glow stick and the red of blood being spilled– but because the hits have consequences. I love a Batman who shows some smarts and truly feels human and when this Batman takes a beating,  you know he feels it and he’s all the more heroic for pushing through the pain. He’s not invincible, he just has the training and the will to press on.

Detective31BATMAN However, seeing as how I didn’t give the book a perfect 10/10 there were obviously some minor things that brought down the score ever so slightly. I’ll place these in spoiler tags as most of them are in regards to things that come near the end of the issue. But don’t worry, it’s still a great book and one that I think every Batman fan should pick up right now.

Spoiler

  • This nitpick came at the start of the book. Bullock suspects Bruce Wayne is the murderer, but can’t quite do anything about it yet. To put Bullock’s mind at ease, Bruce says he’ll go back inside and come back with a urine sample to prove he hasn’t been taking the drug “Icarus.” Bullock is surprisingly okay with this even though his #1 suspect has all the resources to go inside and find a preserved cup of pure urine to bring back for the GCPD to test
  • The panel in which we see the tracking device on the top of the car was so close-up that I couldn’t make out what it was until Alfred and Bruce talked about it on the following page
  • It’s nice that the book acknowledges Batman Eternal, it references Gordon being in prison, but at the same time it’s kind of hard to reconcile all that’s going on in Eternal with what we’re seeing these characters do here and now in Detective Comics
  • The scene with the corrupt congressman didn’t go anywhere. It could’ve been cut from this issue entirely
  • Do you think Annie will become the next Robin or at least the mysterious figure at the Bat-Computer from the Batman Eternal Spoiler Issue? I think the unseen computer wiz will be either her or Cullen Row
  • Despite Manapul doing an awesome job in other aspects of sequential storytelling, I just can’t figure out how Batman got in that crate with Sumo. we see him open it, a look of surprise on his face like he’s being yanked in to the sound of “KLK” and then somehow the doors slam shut behind him. Inside the crate Batman is fine so Sumo must not have yanked Batman inside, we don’t even realize Sumo is in the crate until Batman rolls the glow sticks forward. Then there’s the question of, Why was Sumo waiting in that crate? It’s a cool scene, but doesn’t seem to hold up to scrutiny. Did he know Batman was coming? How did he know?
  • Not sure who the guy is on the final page, but the source of the Icarus drug just got a whole lot weirder. I hope that things don’t get too bizarre, because I like how gritty the arc has been so far

Recommended If…

  • Of all of Batman’s many titles, World’s Greatest Detective is your favorite
  • You like a gritty, Frank Miller-style fight scene
  • Bullock is a supporting character you’d love to see more from
  • You’d like to speculate on whether or not a new character could become the next Robin
  • While you love some good action, you’d love to get in on a storyline with a bit of mystery

Overall

It’s shaping up to be the best arc that the New 52 series has had yet. Manapul & Buccellato are putting the detective back in Detective Comics.

SCORE: 8.5/10