Nutshell: Think of this as Law & Order: Gotham Division. Batman heads out to squash the bad guys that have killed someone who was trying to make Gotham a better place. Gritty art gives it a suitable Noir feel, but I wanted characters that were around for more than a twitch. Still, an engaging and quick story arc that doesn’t demand much of you, mythology-wise. That’s a good thing, for n00bs as well as fans looking for a quick-n-dirty. Grade: B+
“Subtle isn’t in Gotham’s DNA.”
“The skies are clearing.” ‘That’s ’cause we’re not in Gotham anymore.’
Goodies: Variant cover gallery.
Story: Annie “The Eagle” Aguila — Motocross champ. Her mom Elena partners with Bruce Wayne to develop Gotham’s notorious East End Waterfront into a place where the disadvantaged can go for “free medical clinics, a drug treatment facility and education centers.” I’m sure nobody will have a problem with that. Sike! Elena burns to death internally on Bruce Wayne’s doorstep, a reaction to the street drug Icarus. But how’d she come into contact with it, and why?
So what’s the difference between Batman and Batman Detective Comics? Well this series focuses on Batman as detective, rather than the sweeping arcs that you see in other titles. There’s still a connection to the overall story — in the case of Icarus, Bruce is mourning the loss of Damian (from Batman, Inc.) — but Detective Comics are smaller arcs. More easily digestible, if you will. Think of Detective as a string of miniseries, and the other titles as a long-running soap opera. Sometimes literally, but hey.
Think of this as “Noir Batman”. No, not the Dark Knight; Bruce Wayne may be putting on his gumshoes here, but he’s not quite the brooding mess he can be sometimes. It’s more like a look at Batman the brain, rather than Batman the butt-kicker (though he does a lot of that here too.) Betcha didn’t know Batman speaks Chinese! Of course he does. Is there nothing he can’t do? Y’know, besides listen to Alfred.
Detective Bullock — yeah, like the guy in Gotham — is ready to kick ass and take names, and scoop his cats’ litter box. Fans of Gotham will recognize the Penguin/Falcone feud, and a few other tidbits that have made their way onto the show. That’s a nice bit of tie-in for the casual-readers but loyal TV watchers (even though these subplots have been in the comics for quite awhile now.)
Though I enjoyed reading this arc — I do so love a good stand-alone tale — I have to admit that I’d have enjoyed it more if the victim and a few of the other baddies were fleshed out a bit more. Elena seems like an incredibly good do-gooder, but she’s trotted out, and then cut down. And a few of the baddies seem like they’d be interesting and worthy adversaries (at least in this no-supervillains-need-apply story), but it’s as if the arc needs to wrap up quickly, and they get nabbed double-quick. I wouldn’t have minded another issue or two, to let these bad guys foam at the mouth a bit more. Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato don’t run out of things to say, they simply tidy up before I’d really gotten enough out of the story. BTW, the art by these two is suitably gritty and raw. No wonder the story and art work so well together; they’re doing ’em both.
Icharus: Chaos Theory — the last issue of this TPB is the Annual #3, and it looks at the story from a different view. But the last panel (Spoiler: with the last page showing Elena Aguila welcoming Aden to the Aguila Family Shelter, when she died in the main arc???) threw me for a loop.
NERD ALERT (and another spoiler): though I loved Batman’s tussle with Gertrude the giant squid, my ichthyology nerd brain cried out that Batman would never be able to survive the kind of deep-sea pressure a giant squid would require, even if anyone would be able to capture and house a giant squid in captivity. Ahem. Anyway. Just had to vent a bit. Better now.
Publication 411: Collects issues #30-34 and Detective Comics Annual #3. Hits shelves May 26th, 2015.
Subscribe or Shelve: folks who love the idea of following The Bat, but can’t hang with an every-Wednesday love affair can dip into an arc or two of Batman Detective Comics and still enjoy the show. You may miss a beat here and there — storylines from the more substantial series do bleed into this one — but if you’re looking for an easy Bat fix, you can find it here.