In my eyes Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have captured the quintessential Dark Knight for the New52.  Seeing as how Detective Comics bears the name of the entire publisher empire that is DC Comics I have often wondered why it wasn’t given more attention by the editors running DC.  It’s no secret that the Batman issues written by Scott Snyder are receiving the most attention from fans and critiques while Detective has largely only done half as well in sales. It looks like this streak might finally be about to turn around and I’m hoping that people take note of the new creative team and we can make Detective just as strong a title as Batman.

If you have not had the opportunity yet to check out the new team let me fill you in on what your missing out on.  The absolute best part about Batman is his insanely sharp mental acuity.  It is his most commonly downplayed ability in the movies and the New52 seems to have followed suit in making Batman a much more action oriented hero and a lot less like a super genius.  Manapul and Buccellato are presenting us with a Batman story where actual detective work is shown.  Shocking right?!  You’d think that with this being Detective Comics it would have been the goal right from the start.  With the new team we don’t see Batman whip out some terrain scanning analysis device that he has hooked up to the internet, we actually see him look with his eyes, use his brain, and come to a conclusion with deductive reasoning.  If solving crimes were as easy as using the internet we would all be world class detectives.  It is so nice to see the new writing team showing this sorely missed side of Batman.

Other examples of Batman displaying his mental prowess can be seen as he effortlessly speaks foreign languages throughout the story thus far.  In the lore of the character he is credited with knowing no less than 23 different languages, it is nice to see them recognizing this fact!  Other facets of the character that we get to see, which are usually overlooked, are Bruce’s talents in acting and deception through disguises.  He utilizes this ability while hitting the streets and doing old school style legwork to dig up info on the new designer drug Icarus. I am always happy to see when they show him as more than just a martial artist.

The New52 Batman has at times used technology that would make you wonder: “If he has that available to him why doesn’t he uses it all the time.”  Bringing the character back to his roots, Manapul and Buccellato have shown him using a core roster of Batman tricks to get the job done.  The tendency for the overuse of tech in other comics has reminded me a lot of the recent trend to overuse  CGI  in movies.  Why use CGI when a practical effect would work just fine.  Much in the same way that I don’t see why Batman would need a heat seeking laser guided batarang when his honed skills are perfectly suited to get the job done.  This Batman relies on his abilities, not those of his gadgets.   Not only are the creators inclined to lessen the dependance on tech but I feel there is a small part where they indirectly mock someone for using it. 

Spoiler
When Batman is fighting to escape a death trap one of the younger criminals pulls out his phone to record the event uttering, ” I wanna Q-Tube this.”  He looks so stupid compared to the other gang members around him who are all looking at him like he is an idiot.

The character development in this arc is a breath of fresh air.  There are times in comics when characters show up out of nowhere, tell us who they are, and spill so much exposition that it is impossible to believe in the situation. People just don’t talk like that. We only have so many pages to tell our story but Manapul and Buccellato aren’t afraid to take a moment to just let things breath.  We are given time to get to know the characters and care about them in some way other than just being told that we should.  We aren’t propelled through at breakneck speeds but allowed to take in the atmosphere and the moments of quiet. Allowed to consider what is being said and what it means to us, as a reader, rather than where it is taking us next in the plot.

Batman is not presented to us here as this monster of urban legend, he is just a man in a suit.  A very skilled man but a man nonetheless.  While it is kind of sad not to see criminals not quite as scared of him as they usually are, it definitely adds more threat to the Dark Knight.  This, in turn, creates more tension and realism.  We actually are worried that he might get injured.  Since he is more susceptible to possible attacks he needs to be ready for anything, which is a nice way of sneaking in the tenant of the characters being prepared for anything in a natural way.  We don’t have some character offhandedly saying, “That Batman guy sure is prepared for anything!”. Instead we see him getting out of insane situations that you would imagine he would have had to have considered in order to be ready for it.  And if he thought of that one thing how many other things has he thought up that you know nothing about.

Another nice thing about Batman being a man instead of a monster is that it leaves him open to dialogue with normal citizens, who would also usually be inclined to fear him even if he was trying to save them.  There is a beautiful moment where Batman shows some real empathy with a troubled teen that shows how grounded the story is in its emotional depth.  While there are momentary comments that remind you that this story is part of a larger comic book universe they don’t demand that you know anything other than what is being presented to you in these pages.  New readers should definitely go this route if they are completely new to comics since the story feels fully realized and self contained.

I am not usually a big fan of splash pages, as pages in a comic are a valuable commodity and I would much rather see more panels progressing the story than one big one just looking pretty.  But much in the same way that I enjoyed the moments of quiet in the dialogue I also found that the splash pages gave a nice atmosphere to everything.  Once again just letting us sit back and take it all in.  I’ve also noticed that they sneak in fingerprints into the artwork.  If you look at page 13 you can see the fog/haze that is clinging to the rooftops is generated using fingerprints.  I’m totally loving that there are panels where his cape and cowl appear blue instead of black.  Obviously these are just highlights and the cape is still black as seen in other moments, but I was still super excited to see the black with blue highlights, very similar to the way he actually used to appear 75 years ago.

Random Thoughts

  • Every time Batman says Penny-One I die a little inside.  Why is DC forcing this on us.
  • Last issue Bullock trampled his size twelves through a crime scene but in this issue he came off as surprisingly skilled at detective work.
  • Found it interesting that Bullock’s apartment had so many books in it.  Quite opposite from the previous incarnation that was an old movie lover who had old movie posters and memorabilia all over his place.

Recommended If…

  • You like seeing real detective work as a result of a real mystery.
  • Bruce uses his skills, not the skills of his toys.
  • You like Harvey Bullock.

Overall

If the new creative team can keep it together we might have a real detective story on our hands and quite possibly the best story Detective Comics has had in years.

SCORE: 8/10