DETECTIVE COMICS #33 written by Brian Buccellato, Francis Manapul and art by Francis Manapul is glorious rainbow colored noir romp. Rainbow? Hell yeah it’s rainbow. What do you expect with Manapul on board?
Detective has always been my favorite Batman vehicle; the stories are often pulpy and usually stick to a deliciously classic formula flip flopping from a more vintage feel to something more Gothic or gritty. Dini’s run a few years ago (who can forget Slayride) and Batwoman’s take-over of the title are two instances which I particularly liked the title.
Buccellato and Manapul present a rather classic Batman story here; and that’s exceedingly promising as I myself have not been familiar with Manapul’s writing abilities. Admittedly none of this is particularly new or innovative; cartels, waring gangs, targeting young ladies with connections to former powerful families, this is all Batman bread and butter. But it is still so good. This one has a bit of a southern flair with The Kings of The Sun being from New Orleans, but overall this is classic Batman.
I guess as an eye roll worthy side effect of growing up in the 90s; if a Batman I’m reading doesn’t sound like Kevin Conroy in my head; then it’s not Batman. The fact that as soon as Bruce speaks for the first time on page 6, saying “Sure” and Conroy immediately slips into place for me, that can be said is a good sign that Buccellato and Manapul understand what they’re doing here. Heavy use of Alfred on intercom and doing detective work is also a great sight to see. Bullock and Maggie Yip are additionally amazing and the focus on Harvey in particular is refreshing (anything not focused on any of the Gordons is refreshing). Maggie Yip brings to mind the sadly shelved Renee Montoya which I have no idea why they can’t bring her back as a cop again. Yip is a great character on her own, I hope we see more and more of her.
The artwork, as per usual from Manapul is gorgeous. I mean utterly. The wonderfully messy gradients of rainbow watercolor are rather hyper stylized, but that is just the tip of what makes his art good. Layouts are stunning; composition, water, lighting, it’s all good and hyper competent. Splashed, smudged and gorgeous layered color. But approachable; while flashy his work is more readable and less chaotic than say J H Williams III, whose art nouveau look is gorgeous but often hard to follow. Manapul’s characters are cartoony but not too much, his Bruce not too hefty. Balanced and just pretty. The best of eastern manga stylizing vs traditional western comic art tied with traditional watercolor.
The additional behind the scenes artwork process is also extremely interesting to include and adds a fun degree of interactivity to know the secret behind the scenes work of making gorgeous comic art.
Not too much here really; the story is nothing particularly innovative but that’s perhaps where I suddenly feel very content and comfortable. I would not have doubted a cameo from a green tights wearing Tim Drake or a computer skype call from Oracle; it has that kind of feel. Again; these are positives. I think one complaint is that Manapul can make everything just too pretty that people’s ages can sometimes be a bit hard to read; only sometimes though, for instance the big guy saying be Annette Aguila’s father could feasibly be the same age as her, at least I wouldn’t have known that he was 15-20 something years older. Just a quibble in the small pool that is a gorgeous issue, most may not even care.
Buy it, duh. This is great Batman doing Batman things. I wish it had a few more sidekicks around doing regular sleuthing or helping out like they used to, but so far this is great stuff and you shouldn’t miss it. Not one bit. You may need a bib to stop the drool.