The two main questions that are probably on everybody’s minds are: is Lonnie dead and does Batman get blamed for it?  I’m going to talk about it, so if you haven’t read the issue yet and don’t want to know, I suggest you stop now and come back for the discussions after reading.  Exactly like last week, if you came here to know whether or not you should buy the book in the first place, the answer is YES!  If you don’t mind those two elements being spoiled then read on (they get revealed on the second page anyway), I won’t be spoiling anything else.

Lonnie is alive!  But still recovering.  Batman gets blamed for it…..but not in a way that matters at all.  We don’t really see any repercussions from it.  The cops pin it on Batman to shift the blame: if they were responsible for Lonnie’s death, it could trigger a belligerent response from citizens, while no real consequence would derive from Batman being responsible with Lonnie’s death. Citizens would demand Batman to be brought it… and we all know that never works out in favor of the police anyway, so no big deal. Anyways, I don’t think he is going to die. What I would like to see happen is the current Anarky somehow dying in the process of this story and then Lonnie inheriting the mask.  That way he can still become the Anarky we all know and love (or at least some of us do).

Now to the actual review!

Authenticity is the word I would use to best describe this story:  we get to see legitimate detective work, the level of violence depicted is almost too convincing, and the story is riding on the realistic depictions and interactions of the leading characters.  I truly appreciate the amount of page time Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato dedicate to make sure the characters come to life and that you actually care about them.  Sometimes, writers limit themselves to a personality trait for a given character without forging any layers related to the situation. This is definitely not the case here;  there is something very innate about the way these characters are formed by their environments and experiences.  I don’t feel like any of them are reacting to their situations in a questionable way.  I found these books to be a very earnest in their portrayal of people.

Along the same line, I did not get the impression that anything was being forced or shoehorned in for the sake of a shock.  Whatever ends up happening, I don’t think it will end up being beyond the realm of plausibility.  Aside from the mystery involving the missing kids, there seems to be an even more powerful conspiracy in place that is scheming to deride the investigation.  After each book, I keep thinking that I know where this is headed, and each time Manapul and Buccellato throw me a curve ball.  I’m curious to see if things are finally going to play out the way I think or if this book has any more surprises up its sleeves to spring on me.

In much the same way that last issues Sam Young displayed antagonistic personalities, this issue explores a similar parallel, but on a larger scale between the very citizenship of Gotham. Batman points out that the masks the citizens are wearing provide them with anonymity, and shield them from repercussions. This statement had me thinking more about the situation than I think the writers might have intended.  While the masks might be providing the rioters with the additional bravado they need to carry out their misbehavior, conversely Batman’s mask allows him to act against them.  Along with Batman, a few other masked Gothamites have taken it upon themselves to assist the Caped Crusader in his endeavors.  These masks allow their innermost drives to come to the surface and be acted upon, whether they be righteous or corrupt.

Like I said above, the level of violence depicted in this story is almost too realistic.  We don’t see a lone warrior fighting against an endless throng of adversaries and emerging no worse for wear.  Wounds actually occur and they aren’t just brushed off.  It feels like a greater sense of accomplishment when the hero actually has to fight through the pain as opposed to just shrugging it off like it isn’t even there.

It’s time to talk about art again, and it’s still insanely good, no surprises there.  As opposed to discussing the specifics of the technique, I’d like to elaborate on how their work in this particular issue captured an unnerving silence.  From the sterile hospital to the dank Batcave, from the wind whipped rooftops of Gotham to the snow covered country side.  The art had a very quiet and foreboding quality about it, most likely brought on by the cool and muted color pallet.  I kept thinking about dark winter nights after a new fallen snow where the temperature gets down to 10 degrees.  You know….how when it gets that cold it almost seems like it’s quieter than usual.  So quiet that you feel like you can almost hear what is going on from a half mile away as if you were right next to you.  Every footstep you take seems to resound more clearly than you thought possible.  And you pause as you listen to a noise that seems to be right behind you.  That is the feeling that this book gave me.

Spoiler

  • At one point Bruce and Alfred are discussing how they have seen the streets looking like a war zone before, but this time it isn’t a result of Scarecrow’s fear toxin, but of free will.  Any chance they are talking about EndGame???
  • The Batsignal on the top of police headquarters is smashed in.  Just like on the first page of the first issue of Batman Eternal.
  • So it isn’t free will after all, those masks are embedded with hidden Mad Hatter technology in order to control the wearer.  I know Hatter isn’t directly responsible for THIS attempted highjacking of Gotham city, but didn’t I just see something like this 2 weeks ago in Batman Eternal?  Don’t get all riled up, I know it isn’t the EXACT same thing.
  • I’m guessing not every mask is fitted with the Hatter tech, or at least not every one of them is activated.  If they were, how could you explain the people who are actually doing good things.  Anarky said that the mask would let you be whatever you wanted to be.  Perhaps the masks aren’t so much controlling people, as allowing them to embrace their inner desires.
  • I appreciated the fact that they mentioned Batgirl working on a fix for the erased Data.  For a moment there I totally had an Oracle flashback.  How wonderful….
  • In the first two issues, I noticed that they were very careful to hide any trace of the character’s skin, keeping his identity fully in the dark.  Because of this, the option for it to be the kid from Green Lantern Corp #25 was still possible.  This issue eliminated that as a possibility.  For those of you who are unaware, an African-American teenager was presented in GLC#25 as the new Anarky.  This issue clearly shows the skin around Anarky’s eyes and neck as being caucasian.  Hence, this is yet another new Anarky.  Will Lonnie and the mystery kid from GLC play any role in the story to come?  That remains to be seen.

Interesting Facts:

  • A reoccurring visual cue found in Anarky comics is placing an A somewhere within the confines of the comic, but not in the actual story itself.  This is a page from Detective Comics #608, featuring the very first appearance of Anarky.  Here you can see the panel layouts forming an A using the negative space of the gutter.

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  • Today’s issue features a double page spread with a nice homage to the original.

a3

  • Another homage can be seen in this very same image.  If you look closely at the panel in the middle of the A, you can see two of Gotham’s citizens donning masks emblazoned with hero symbols in order to protect an innocent couple from being mugged.  I’ll enlarge it for your convenience.

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  • Perhaps it is just me, but I couldn’t help but think that this was a subtle nod to The Dark Knight Returns and the street thugs who join Batman by painting blue Batsignals across their faces exactly like the one depicted here.

img005“Sons of the Batman”

  • Just in case you missed it, here is the article about the history of Anarky that I wrote last month.
  • You’ll notice that my history of Anarky excludes the Green Lanter Corp #25 from 2013.   I genuinely thought that the kid from that story was just masquerading as Anarky, and at some point Lonnie would show up as the real Anarky.  I’m still hoping that will happen.  That the mask will be passed on to Lonnie.  In #37 I thought Anarky was Lonnie, in #38 I thought Anarky was the kid from GLC#25, and now because of the events of this issue I think Anarky is someone else entirely.

Recommended if…

  • You like your stories with a true sense of reality to them.
  • You like a certain level of intrigue in your reading material.
  • You like to be engaged, and more than just a spectator along for the ride.

Overall:

Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato are providing a level of candor and clarity that I think other creative teams would do well to take note of.  You aren’t impatiently waiting around to see what happens next because each chapter is captivating in an of itself.  And this is why you always come back for more!

SCORE: 9 / 10