Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep. Why? I had this issue on my mind and was so concerned with whether or not it was going to be a dud that I tossed and turned for hours. Ever since I took on this job (19 months ago), aside from the 2-part “Terminal” story by Benjamin Percy, Detective Comics has failed to deliver a completely satisfying arc in its entirety. Arcs have been plagued with great art but unsatisfactory endings, to merely acceptable art with a terrible story, and the ever dreaded duo of bad art and bad storytelling. Last month, Detective #48 blew me away, and I gave it the highest score that I have given any issue of Detective thus far. With such lofty standards for Tomasi and Pasarin to reproduce, I was well within my rights to be nervous. I just kept thinking, “Please please please let it be good. I can’t deal with another disappointment from this title.” So…were my prayers answered?
Detective Comics #49 was every bit as good as its predecessor. Aside from Bullock’s ill-advised decision to stick his head inside the helmet of a corpse…
Dude!?!? What is wrong with you? They just took that off a dead guy!
…I literally have nothing negative to say about this issue.
In regards to Gordon, this portrayal is by far the most realistic depiction of him as Batman I’ve seen since they had him put on the cowl. He isn’t surviving 40 foot falls, he isn’t hoisting 180 pounds up the side of a building while simultaneously scaling it, and he isn’t running around in a goofy mech-suit. Everything he does is well within the range of believe-ability for a trained, yet common, man. In another writer’s hands, the obstacles that Gordon has to overcome would be easily bypassed, but here, they become an ordeal all their own. Just getting the corpse down takes him roughly 4 pages. And I find that aptly fitting. It really helps remind us just how super the actual superheroes really are. His depiction as a slightly more skilled every-man also makes his confrontation with the serial killer far more engaging and dramatic. Batman would have had this guy on the ground from the word go, but with Gordon, it’s actually a challenge. It ends up just being a fight between two guys, and I find that incredibly satisfying. It doesn’t hurt that the fight actually follows a play by play with sequential ordering either. That’s how I like my fights!
While we’re talking about realism, how about that detective work. (And in a comic called Detective Comics no less…imagine that!) It’s one of the things I am always clamoring for, and to finally get some quality deducting is making me seriously ecstatic. The way they deconstruct the problem and backtrack the chain of events is simply wonderful. And it’s not just the deducing going on that’s so great, but all the other police procedural stuff as well. I feel like I’m watching one of those prime time cop shows on one of the major networks. Now some of you probably think those shows are cheesy, but it might be because you haven’t caught the right ones. A lot of those shows actually have consultants from the field who help add legitimacy and realism. I get that same vibe from this particular story. When they go into the logistics involved in actually staking out all the points of interest that our serial killer may have visited, it really makes you appreciate the substantial amount of work that goes into tracking down a lead.
Fernando Pasarin is on art duties again…and I’m loving it. I have, however, seen that some people have a slight problem with his character faces. While I’m not going to deny that it is an area he could clearly work on, I think it’s such a minor thing when you look at the quality of the rest of the work he is turning out. If every face rendering looked wonky, it would be pretty bad, but he really has some excellent face work thrown in there as well. I particularly like the way he draws Gordon’s Batman face. It’s very expressive, even with the cowl hiding half of it. When you consider that Gordon is the one with the most “face-time” in the book, and that Pasarin nailed his look, the majority of what you’re getting is pretty solid. I’d also like to add that the emotive quality Pasarin was able to instill in the female victim was quite stirring. I’d say that her “performance” is probably the second most important one in the story. It was essential in setting up the “too-close-to-home” mentality that Gordon later has to deal with. If Pasarin wasn’t able to get us emotionally invested in the scene through his character expressions, it could have seriously degraded what was an otherwise telling scene for Gordon. And all of this was accomplished through Pasarin’s expressive face-work. So…give the guy some credit. If that isn’t enough for you, then check this out…
Tell me that isn’t as pretty as can be.
Prepare for one of the largest “Interesting Facts” sections I’ve ever done.
- Here we have the Neal Adams variant cover….AND IT IS COMPLETELY AWESOME!!! “Really Brandon? What is so good about it?” Allow me to enlighten you so that you can partake in the same sense of elation that this cover has bestowed unto me. For the month of February, all the DC variant covers are drawn by Neal Adams himself, and they are all homages of his own previous works. This particular piece is playing off of Batman #227 (1970).
- If we went no further than this, it would still be pretty epic in my book. But going a step further, we find out that the original cover is actually an homage to Detective Comics #31 (1939).
- So you see, it’s not just an homage. But an homage of an homage. (How giddy am I right now!)
- If you haven’t had the opportunity to check them out, Adams did 26 variants for February, and they are all solid gold in my opinion. I’m not typically a fan of variants, but these ones are making me beyond delighted.
Saga of Ra’s Al Ghul vs Robin: Son of Batman #9 variant
- It’s not just the covers that are making me this happy, but all the underlying details that go along with them. You see, Adams’ portrayal of the Caped Crusader is one of my all-time favorite versions of the character (tied with Norm Breyfogle for #1). His Batman was lithe, but with just the right amount of toned musculature. He basically had the body of a gold medal gymnast. I’ve never been overly fond of the football linebacker looking Batman. The added weight of that design makes it difficult for me to buy into the spry acrobatic nature of the character. With Adams’ design, you fully believed that he was not only strong enough to effortlessly tumble and flip about through the air, but that he would also have no problem lifting you above his head and throwing you through a wall. He had a perfect balance.
Batman 232 vs Martian Manhunter #9 variant
- Along with Adams being an artistic powerhouse, these covers also reminded of his combined efforts with writer Dennis O’Neil. Often times, people cite the late 80s as the time Batman really came into his own and returned to the darkness of the character. These people are hugely overlooking the contribution that Adams and O’Neil provided for the character all throughout the 70s. Not only did they revive Batman, but they did the same for several prominent members of his Rogues Gallery, including Joker and Two-Face. They also created lasting Bat-Villains Ra’s Al Ghul, Talia, and Man-Bat. These two creators were prolific and had a lasting effect on the DC Universe that is felt to this very day.
Batman 251 vs Aquaman #49 variant
Internal art from 251 vs Superman #49 variant
- If you have never read any of their work, you are doing yourself a huge huge huge disservice. I could go about naming dozens of issues you should check out, but for the sake of time and space, I’ll list two. Batman #251 (1973) “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” and Batman #232, 242, 243, and 244 (1972). While these 4 issues each have their own titles, they are more commonly referred to as “The Saga of Ra’s Al Ghul”.
Batman #244 vs Justice League of America #8 variant
- Incidentally, parts of “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” made it into the Animated Series episode “The Laughing Fish”. The rest of that episode drew its inspiration from The Laughing Fish story-line originally featured in Detective Comics #475+476 (1978).
Batman #243 vs RedHood/Arsenal #9 variant
- You want to read the second best issue of Detective Comics since 2014. (In my opinion, of course)
- You want to see the most realistic depiction of Gordon as Batman that the comics have yet to muster.
- Creepy is your thing…
- You love authentic feeling police procedural jargon and tactics.
- You like when a story prods the emotional underbelly of its main character.
- You want to see some solid detective work for a change.
- You love high-energy sequential fight scenes.
Detective Comics #48+49 have been simply amazing. Without a doubt, this arc has been one of the strongest contenders that Detective has delivered in some time. It’s got actual detective work, impressive visuals, believable scenarios, an insanely high creepy factor, pulse-pounding action, and an encounter that puts Gordon’s emotional composure on edge. I simply couldn’t ask for anything more. While there is still one part to go till we can qualify this as an unparalleled success, I’m more confident now than ever that I’m finally going to get a good story out of Detective Comics. Come on Tomasi. I believe in you!
SCORE: 9.5 / 10