The creative team of Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul return to the pages of Detective Comics, and with them comes Anarky!

Actually, Anarky only makes one decidedly small appearance in this issue, and remains the mystery figure that our heroes need to uncover.  The two characters that we primarily spend time with are Batman and Harvey Bullock, following suit with the standard set up from Buccellato and Manapul’s last arc.  I can’t tell whether this Batman intro will be relevant to the overall story or if this is just a way to thrust us back into the world of Batman, but if the later, it did the job well.  We weren’t asked to start off slow, but instead jump in at the culmination of an ongoing case.  It’s a nice snippet/sampling of the kind of things Batman deals with on a daily basis and I think it helps newer readers instantly identify with the kind of things they can expect to see coming out of this book.  We get to see some Batman action, Batman working the case with actual detective work, and explanations to the viewer of what he is doing as he explains it to Alfred.  There is also a nice moment between Batman and Alfred, in which the creative team displays their take on the Batman/Bruce persona.  Recently, one of the reviewers here at Batman-News commented on the fact that we don’t get to see a lot of Bruce being Bruce.  Well, while this scene still doesn’t show him hitting the town and being the rich playboy, it does recognize the Bruce side of Batman and its importance to the character.

This time around, it seems that Harvey will be spending more time with Nancy Yip, a character introduced in Buccellato and Manapul’s last arc.  If you’re a fan of procedural shows, or are at least familiar with them, then the interactions between these two in the office and at the crime scene should feel very natural to you: I think, as an audience, we have come to expect this level of detail in the dialogue; with it being so common place nowadays, the absence of it would almost feel unnatural.  The addition of a very noir feeling atmosphere adds an extra layer to the proceedings.  I had mentioned in an earlier review that our creative team’s Bullock is a book reader, while the original character was a fan of old cinema.  It occurred to me that the team is still honoring that old part of the character, in having his actual life mimic the fantasy of the movies he used to cling to.

Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul are back, and with them comes there amazing art.  With them, I don’t feel like we are just looking at comic art, but ART…if you get what I mean. I’m not dissing comic book art as an art form… trust me! I have quite a few nicely framed pieces decorating the house. But some of their stuff is SO beautiful, I feel like it should be hanging in a contemporary art museum.  But enough of me gushing over them, let us talk specifics.

The very first page took me more than a glance to decipher.  While that might be considered a bad thing, the fact that I had to linger on the image gave me more time to appreciate the composition.  Not only were we seeing reflections within Anarky’s mask, but what I originally mistook for two panels in the middle of Anarky’s face were actually holes in the letter A, which was superimposed over the image.  The A was transparent and gave everything behind it a red haze, as if someone had crafted a red stain glass window in the shape of an A and held it over his face.  Another interesting visual that almost slipped by was a look at Batman, through a reversed image, from the inside of a computer screen.

There is another really beautiful full page shot, in which we see Batman through a shattered window, hanging upside down on the outside of a building; in the background, we can see the city and all its twinkling lights while the winds swirl both snowflakes and Batman’s cape around.  Remove the word balloon on the page and I’d be fine hanging that bad boy up and calling it a Christmas decoration! (anyone with Photoshop skills want to send me a Christmas present?)

window

sooo pretty

It’s also nice just how much attention to detail this team shows in the art, and not just when it is on a fancy splash page.  They devote just as much attention to the little stuff that you might not even notice.  For instance, there is a scene where The Mad Hatter is threatening a hobo, and before you even know Batman is around, you see the hobo’s eyes glancing up and you just know Batman is about to drop down on these unsuspecting thugs and give them a thrashing.  Also, if you check out the office at the police station, you’ll see two of those little single portion coffee creamers sitting on a desk, with little foil lids peeled back and everything.

I also greatly enjoyed a specific editing choice that was made:  on one page, we see a body falling off a building: the natural order of things would be for our minds to expect to see a body hitting the ground.  As we flip the page that is exactly what we are treated to, but instead of it being a human body, it is a child’s toy hitting the ground and falling to pieces.  I thought the ingenuity of the team in playing with our expectations to be very entertaining.  It also allowed them to show you what happened to the body when it hit the ground without having to be needlessly graphic in demonstrating it with a human body.  It had a nice cinematic vibe to it.

Two miniscule observations about the art that are more what I would call continuity errors in art than actual issues with art:  Does Bruce’s face look different to anyone?  As in, different from the way they were drawing it 3 months ago?  It does a little to me.  Secondly, Batman grapples Dee and Dum to the Batplane, but on the next page they aren’t there anymore? Maybe it is just Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul trying not to be too perfect, so as not to make other artists look bad. :)  (On a side note, I have always called Batman’s plane the Batwing, but I can’t do that anymore because of Luke Fox.)

I wanted to take a moment to address all the crazy continuity/headache causing stuff that is currently taking place.  Batman #35 showed us that the Batcave has moved into a floor of Wayne Enterprises and that Batman is using tech.  This points to him having money again and at the time I assumed that the cave was moved to Wayne Enterprises because the one beneath the Manor was closed due to the Asylum.  Now, I’m not sure why they moved the cave, because in Eternal and Arkham Manor, the Manor has been converted but they are still using the cave.  Arkham Manor has also shown us that Bruce is living in a modest apartment in the city, denoting money issues.  Where exactly does this Detective story fall?  I guess the answer to that is… it doesn’t truly matter!  We see them in the cave, we see the Manor decorated for Christmas, and we see Wayne Enterprises operating with Lucius Fox in charge.  We don’t see them inside the Manor, but I assume that if it is decorated for Christmas, it isn’t an Asylum in this story and Bruce is living there.  It is very typical for comics to return to some sort of status quo.  Along the way, some changes are integrated into the status quo but there are time honored traditions that always remain the same.  Key element to a character that any writer can use as a jumping off point in which to tell their story.  This is where I am thinking this Batman story stems from.  Sometimes I think it is acceptable to ignore continuity and just accept whatever the storytellers are giving you and not feel the need to place it into a time slot.  At the moment it just seems like a classic Batman tale springing from the characters standard background as opposed to acknowledging current events.  I found it refreshing.

Spoiler

  • Are they saying that the Explosion from the last story arc was actually caused by Anarky, and we just assumed it was the big purple guy at the time because it fit?
  • Why would Anarky care about punishing someone for human trafficking?  How is that exercising his freedom from the government?
  • Hacking into a “smart” office building and overriding all its electronics to explode is definitely something I have never seen before.  I thought it was very creative and original.
  • I’m guessing option 2 is to open the water tanks on the roof to douse the fires.  Lucky for them it wasn’t meant to blow up the whole building or they would all be dead.  Anarky is about delivering public messages/putting on displays of rebellion, not murdering people on mass.
  • Look at how little Batman cares about Bullock and his gun, lol.
  • I was kind of confused about the Hatter’s scene with all the skulls.  Initially, I thought that Batman throwing Hatter on the ice just unearthed another case, not that Hatter was the one that actually generated those skulls by killing a bunch of kids!

Interesting Facts:

  • The New52 origin of The Mad Hatter can be found in Batman: The Dark Knight #16-21 (2013).  I mention it because Batman comments on Hatter killing Alice, and this is the story where this occurred.
  • Tweedledee and Tweedledum predate The Mad Hatter by 5 years in the comics, and yet they are commonly viewed as his henchmen.
  • ***Curious about the character Anarky.  Want to know about his first appearance and other relevant comics he stared in?  Well then, I have something special coming your way!  Anarky: Know your villains  -an in depth article to highlight the answers to these questions and many more, coming soon (hopefully this weekend) to the comic section of Batman-News.***

Recommended if…

  • You have missed the beautiful art of Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul.
  • You’re into procedural cop shows with a dash of film noir thrown in.
  • You’re a fan of Anarky!
  • You want to enjoy a traditional Batman story and not be bogged down with continuity concerns.

Overall:

Forget continuity, sit down, relax, and enjoy Bruce being a detective, hanging out with Alfred, beating up thugs in dark alleys… well being Batman! So far, we are still left guessing as to where this story is headed, but there are some great character moments and action scenes.  I think it is a nice jumping on point for new readers.  Relevant information is provided, character relationships and dynamics are well established, and I feel like it is a good sampling of everything that this team has come to be known for. Along with some great art!  If you pick up this book and like what you see, you should be confident in the knowledge that you aren’t just seeing the team on a good day, this is typically the level at which they work. If this arc can build momentum based on this intro, look forward to some 9 and 9.5 in the upcoming months.

SCORE: 8.5/10