Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato are two of my favorite storytellers working in comics today. I credit both of them for truly reinvigorating my interest in following comic books on a monthly basis and for engaging my interest in the art, not just reading bubble to bubble. After they left “The Flash” it wasn’t long before I dropped the title that was once my favorite of all The New 52 titles. However, to my excitement, they joined Batman Detective Comics as the new creative team and I’ve been following that ever since.
While everyone talks about DC Comics flagship title by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, I’d like to focus on an equally brilliant title that features The World’s Greatest Detective. Manapul and Buccellato’s “Detective Comics” is a true return to form for Batman and each book insists on focusing on the detective aspect of The Dark Knight. Their second story arc just wrapped and the four-part “Anarky” story is positively up there with some of the more classic Batman stories such as “Haunted Knight” by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. “Anarky” allows Manapul and Buccellato to work with Batman villains such as Anarky (as the story title suggests) and The Mad Hatter. It’s a nice change of pace as their first story arc together revolved more around an unsolved murder and drug investigation (see the storyline “Icarus”). “Anarky” feels like it could be a standard Batman comic as it features two recognizable rogues gallery members, but it’s anything but. Manapul and Buccellato have a keen understanding for creating an engaging story and getting to the heart of Batman. Issues #37 to #40 are perfect examples of what a Batman comic could (and should) be. Each issue features Bruce and Alfred investigating the mystery at hand and it’s an element that hasn’t been explored as much as it should be within the Batman titles of The New 52. At least, not in the way Manapul and Buccellato do it.
“Anarky” opens with a murder at Wayne Tower. Detective Harvey Bullock (Manapul and Buccellato’s choice pick for series star) is a flawed man with noble principles. He’s a good detective uneasy with the Christmas time festivities as so many cases are still unsolved. Bullock is also a man who deeply loves Gotham and is trying to understand how low his city has sunk that it necessitates a Caped Crusader. This plays for an intense relationship between the detectives as they are often at each others throats. During a scene in issue #37, where they are trying to evacuate Wayne Tower before it blows from a bomb Anarky rigged, Bullock draws a gun on Batman, just as easily as he’s prepared to allow him to diffuse the bomb. The tensions run high throughout #37 to #40 and a scene later on in the series finds Batman and Bullock fighting alongside each other as the citizens converge upon them. They make for an interesting pair and Bullock is a terrific alternative to the usual staple of using Commissioner Gordon.
Anarky is another aspect that marks an inspired decision on the storytellers part. While he isn’t quite The Joker from Chris Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”, he does share a familiarity with the Clown Prince of Crime. Anarky, known more for his appearances in the great, but short-lived “Beware The Batman” and video game “Batman: Arkham Origins” is an engaging character as he plunges Gotham into chaos. His story line and motivations play out like the plot of “The Purge”, but with more of a punch. He’s an interesting villain and his pairing with The Mad Hatter makes for an interesting choice that would be exciting if used for an upcoming Batman film. It remains to be seen who will play against Ben Affleck’s Batman in his own solo movie, but it’d be great contextual inspiration if Manapul and Buccellato’s “Detective” run were to serve as a blueprint.
The “Anarky” story line in Detective Comics runs from issues #37 to #40. It just concluded last week and if you haven’t been reading, I’d recommend picking it up at your local comic store as they are sure to have it within the back issues. The idea of citizens running rampant as all of their identities haves been erased, free to take back their lives, is an interesting thought to contemplate. While some fight to maintain law and order, others dive headfirst into madness. It’s just the right blend of psychology that works for Batman and makes for a classic story arc. Oh, and the art! Oh, the art! Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato create a dream-like, almost like recalling a memory art direction for their Batman world. It’s an Eisner-like approach that worked for them on “The Flash” and works even better within the pages of Batman Detective Comics. They have created a look for a series that doesn’t feel like anything else and may be the main reason for picking up Detective Comics.
Detective Comics issues #37 to #40 gets five out of five stars!