Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato continue to bring a fresh crime-drama feel to Detective Comics with part four of their inaugural arc, “Icarus”. Harvey Bullock and Batman finally have a confrontation, and Annie Aguila gets life-altering news. Batman kicks people in the face so hard he explodes off the page. Oh, and someone takes a walk. Read on for a spoiler-free review of Detective Comics #33!
I would read a Harvey Bullock procedural detective book every month if DC would print it. Manapul and Buccellato are making excellent work of highlighting the criminally-underused Bullock in this story, giving insight to his personal life and rounding some of his harder edges. Too many writers treat Bullock like a big grumpy meathead; it’s refreshing to see him portrayed as an intelligent, thoughtful (even flirtatious!) individual. He drives a lot of the plot advancement this issue, along with Annie and Holter (the head of the Kings of the Sun gang). This issue also concludes my second favorite fight scene in a Gotham Aquarium (please see “Zombie Night at the Gotham Aquarium” from Garth Ennis’s Hitman for my favorite).
I hope that with the events that are sure to unfold next issue, Batman and Harvey push past some or most of their hostility. I much prefer them as allies. There were some callbacks to Batman and Harvey’s shared past that honestly didn’t register, even though I’ve been on board the Bat train since the launch of the New 52, so I’m not sure if more recent readers will be able to access those beats. The overall emotion of the moment still comes through, at least. I wish we’d gotten a couple more pages at the end of the issue as well, though no doubt many will find the process pages very interesting (for more stuff like that you should definitely follow Manapul on tumblr).
As with any book featuring these two, the art is phenomenal. I was skeptical at the start of their run, since I was used to the bright, fast dynamism they brought to The Flash. I thought their art might not be dark enough for a Bat book. I’m very happy to say I was wrong. Manapul and Buccellato manage to portray the ugly grime and perennial shadows of Gotham City through color. Bright flashes of neon cast plenty of cover for Batman to lurk in (and they also do a great lurking Batman). Batman himself manages to look simultaneously iconic and fresh. The layouts really help – Batman breaking out of the panels, really interesting two-page spreads – and they play to the darker themes of Batman. It’s my favorite part of their Flash work transposed into a new setting, and it makes every panel a lot of fun to look at. It’s dark without being repetitive and drab. It makes perfect sense, if you think about it: you need color and light to create shadows.
Throw in a cast of very interesting original characters and some much-needed diversity, and you have a Detective Comics run that is distinguishing itself very respectably from the many, many runs that came before. Manapul and Buccellato are amazingly talented storytellers. No doubt this arc will continue to deliver compelling surprises and gorgeous Bat punches.
The Verdict: 8.5/10