I salute Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato for what they are attempting to do here. I don’t typically call out major events from a comic directly in the review, but this is the primary thing I want to talk about, and it deserves to be recognized front and center, and not hidden away behind a spoiler. For those of you wishing to be spoiler free for this issue, I suggest you stop now and come back after reading, because I am about to drop a big one. If you came here to know whether or not you should buy the book in the first place, the answer is YES!
It is my understanding that Manapul and Buccellato just killed Lonnie Machin! If you’re a fairly new reader, then this probably meant nothing to you: all they did was kill a character you were just introduced to. But for the rest of us, it was a shock! We just watched the character we were expecting to be outed as Anarky get blown away! I do have mixed feelings. At first, I was reminded of the Nightwing Annual where they killed off Garfield Lynns, the alter-ego most people are aware of for Firefly; in that story, I felt it was done for no other reason than shock value and to keep us guessing. But then I reconsidered. They did not kill the Lonnie I knew; this is the new52 Lonnie, and he never even was Anarky. The Lonnie stories I grew up with had their day, and if I want to enjoy them, they still exist and I can always go back and read them whenever I want. If Manapul and Buccellato had tried to mimic the old stories, they would have just been hollow representations of themselves. If they had tried to create new stories with the old Anarky, they would have opened themselves up to countless criticisms and comparisons. While killing Lonnie does shock those of us who expected him to be Anarky, it also sends a message that this is not that Anarky. This is a new Anarky, and with no expectations from the audience, the creative team is now free to go anywhere the story leads them without feeling that they have to honor preconceived notions.
I also want to salute them for another reason. Over the past month, I reread all the Anarky issues for my “Know Your Villains” article, so it is all super fresh in my mind. Reading this issue, I can tell that they have more than just a passing understanding of the character. There are references, nods, and all kinds of things all over the place that are homages to the original. If all they were doing was sweeping the old under the rug to make way for the new, I would be upset, but what I see is them honoring the essence of the character even if he isn’t the original anymore. What kinds of things am I referring to? The mention of Lonnie’s hacker name for starters; Moneyspider isn’t the most well known Batman villain fact out there! While, the part where masks are sent to people’s doorsteps may be seen by some as a V for Vendetta rip off, I actually think they were subtly honoring the inspiration behind the character. Sam Young mentions the “voice of the people”; while not uttered by Anarky, they did find a way to include this Anarky relevant motto in the dialogue. These are just a few of the easter eggs hidden throughout this book that instill faith in me that the creative team are both honoring the old and ushering in the new at the same time.
Now that I have dropped the biggest bomb, I might as well talk openly about everything else. While I thought Anarky’s televised speech was very inspiring, I’m not exactly sure how he thought his actions would serve the purpose he intended. If what was holding you back was police records or debt, then yes, you’re now a free man! But what if your goal was to go to college and you had been saving up for it? What about everybody who had been working hard to build a nest egg for retirement? Didn’t he just wipe out bank accounts? Didn’t he just ruin all those peoples dreams? With no money, how are people supposed to eat? So many things today are direct deposit or automatic payments. When the end of the month comes and nobody has any money to pay rent, won’t all of Gotham be kicked out and living on the streets? Or did anarchy just merge with communism? I can see most people being calm and waiting to see if things get fixed, because, what else can you do? But after a couple of weeks living like that, I’d have to believe that things would go South real quick!
From previous issues of Detective Comics, we know that Sam Young is a dirty politician. Seeing as how fighting against dirty politicians was something Anarky did in the pre52, it is nice to see this side of Anarky’s struggle being prominently addressed. While much of what Young is saying seems really good on the surface, we know that he is just saying this stuff to control people and put himself in a place of power. It’s interesting to see how he is all smiles, acts obligingly to the interviewer, and gives out reassuring answers to win the support of the “underserved”, but as soon as the cameras aren’t rolling, it is a different story. The other thing that was clever about the speech was that it ended up being two-fold. In theory, his speech presents us with a system that should work if executed correctly, illustrating to the reader how a properly working Government actually does serve the people, while at the same time showing the reader how unscrupulous individuals can use those same words to merely placate the masses.
The conversation that takes place between Bruce (Matches) and Lonnie is very heartfelt. A lot of times we see Batman as just this guy that beats the snot out of people, but in truth, if he feels a person is reformable, he gives it his all to help them make that change happen.
Last month, I thought that the Mad Hatter stuff was just there to give us a rush and kick start us back into the word of Batman. Seems like I made an error. Somehow this Hatter plot is actually relevant. Usually I try to figure out where things are going, but since I didn’t think it was going to be part of the story, I have not been reminiscing on it for the last month like I usually would. If anybody would care to share their theories on this sub plot, I’d love to hear it.
Now let us talk about art. Really though, what is there to say. This team has been delivering consistently amazing work again and again. I want to talk about it because it is so good, but at the same time I feel like I would just be repeating myself from previous reviews. I don’t want to be redundant. Instead, let’s just all stare in awe.
I will say that I like that cover. There is something about it that reminds me of those old military recruitment posters from the 40s, but instead of asking you to join the Government’s military, it’s asking you to revolt against the system.
- You want an interesting fact huh? How about 4,000 words worth of interesting facts? Check out another new feature we are adding to the Batman-News comic section: Know Your Villains articles. The first one features Anarky and is chock-full of a plethora of information about the character. Have a burning question you were always curious about or just want to know the guy better, then this is the article for you. Know Your Villains: Anarky, the boy who was almost Robin.
- Matches Malone was created all the way back in 1972, and has been an underworld alter ego of Batman ever since.
- You’re a fan of Anarky.
- You can’t get enough of this artwork.
- You love it when writers actually acknowledge and pay homage to the past.
This story has detective work, action, well scripted dialogue, stellar art, believable characters, and a creative team that seems to genuinely care about the subject matter. I simply cannot fathom that Detective Comics is only bringing in half as many readers as Batman. Why aren’t more people reading this title?!?
SCORE: 9 / 10