It’s difficult for me to enjoy stories about the character Batman as I get older. Not so much because he’s inherently ridiculous, all superheroes kind of are. Just the direction many writers have chosen to take his character in recent years isn’t one I’m fond of. Especially in regards to his relationship with The Joker, and that particular villains status as a near omnipotent villain realized as a force of nature and not a character. Don’t get me wrong – that WORKS for the Joker, it’s just not the only way of realizing him. Like Batman he’s meant to be multifaceted and representative of the writers that create stories with him. They just all have a habit of making the same one over and over again.
Stories with Batman amount to little more than the same lately. The character is often realized as this ultra fallible symbol of justice, but we rarely see the effects of that symbol on anyone other than Bruce Wayne. In DETECTIVE COMICS #34 (Francis Manapul & Brian Bucceleto) we conclude the currently running ICARUS storyline with the kind of conclusion you kind of expect.
Is that a mark against the story being presented? I don’t think so. In away, it’s kind of the most logical conclusion for this type of story, and Batman is only one man.
I could repeat it every time I run into a book with Francis Manapul on it that he really does amazing work on every single story he brings his talents as an artist and writer too. This set of stories in DETECTIVE COMICS would not nearly be as memorable without Francis Manapul’s gorgeous color and line work tying everything together. One of Batman’s mechanized armors is showcased here and looks truly dynamic in every pose, taking up large amounts of panel real estate. I wonder why they waited so long in the story to bring it out, but I can imagine it’s some sense of ‘saving the best for last.’
Just like my opinion of him during THE FLASH, if Manapul goes down in DC’s history as anything other than one of the strongest BATMAN artists to ever grace the pages of a book starring him I’d be very upset about it. DC has immense talent here and I hope it’s being realized the way it needs to be. Likewise, this has actually been a pretty competent storyline. It’s just there was only ever one way it was going to end, and it’s not with total victory for Batman. Batman, as a character, is someone who either drives away his loved ones or ruins their lives in other ways. In a start contrast to Superman, Batman’s list of supporting cast has a high death count – leading to a lot of troubling issues for his characterization.
Is it so much to let Batman have an honest victory these days? Or is every battle the character wins meant to be a Pyrrhic one? There’s no confrontation the character seems to get out of without someone dying or someone losing something close to them and as always it seems like it’s directly because Batman was involved (even if it’s not true!). Yet the stories just keep marching forward despite this, perhaps to remove Batman’s almost joke-level superiority over other characters (at least in his own stories). So in doing that, this short storyline has a nice ending that makes sense for it, even if we’re all ready for a new type of Batman story.
Does DETECTIVE COMICS #34 save the best for last? There’s a hard question to answer. There’s a lot of things going on in it and even though this story is ‘concluded’ I don’t think that necessarily means we’re going to be done with some of the ramifications of it in Manapul and Buccelato’s run on this series. It’s apparent that there are things that happen in it that cannot be immediately addressed and that’s okay. If anything stands out as a hard negative for DETECTIVE COMICS #24 it’s that Manapul and Bucceleto tend to do the best when characters actions and expressions can speak for themselves. There’s a heartfelt moment in this issue at the very end and one other exchange between characters that could stay as is, but everything else feels like a little too much talking.
With the issues preceding it, DETECTIVE COMICS #34 form a strong storyline from start to finish that are a great use of the character and the city of Gotham. They leave me hopeful for what this creative team can do with the stories they have planned for this corner of the DC universe coming up. I definitely like Manapul and Bucceleto’s take on Batman as a detective character. When Francis Manapul told me at Phoenix Comic Con he planned to showcase Batman’s nature as a detective I had misgivings about it. THE FLASH wasn’t exactly that kind of story and it formed much of my opinion of Manapul, but he was definitely right.