Today, Michael and Drew are discussing Detective Comics Endgame 1, originally released March 11th, 2015.
Michael: If there is one thing that the big two comics publishers suffer from it’s the excessive reliance on crossovers. DC especially has pimped out every major Batman storyline that Scott Snyder has produced thus far, hijacking the narratives of books like Batgirl and the like to show the goings on of Owls/Jokers/Zero Years from the other Bat-perspectives. It seems that DC has gotten hip to their overreliance on these types of stories, and instead gives us a series of one-shots that tie into the events of Batman’s current “Endgame” arc. So, does Detective Comics Endgame 1 add much to Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul’s Detective Comics and/or Scott Snyder’s “Endgame?” Not so much.
Detective Comics Endgame 1 focuses on Lonnie Machin, the non-Anarky lad who was recently featured in Buccellato and Manapul’s “Anarky” arc that wrapped in Detective Comics 40. The city is overrun by Gothamites infected by Joker gas and Lonnie is worried about his mother, who has not been responding to his texts. Just as Lonnie is about to get popped by some Joker cops, he is rescued by another young rough named Dax. Lonnie meets up with Dax’s friends Dre and Riko, a girl who seems to have a Robin-inspired getup. After they realize that Lonnie is “the kid who hacked into Wayne Enterprises mainframe,” they seem to be pretty on board with helping Lonnie rescue his mom. After a brief encounter with some of the Bat Family members, Lonnie and co proceed to his mother’s strip club with the help of Spoiler. For some reason, Lonnie decides that spray-painting Joker smiles on a bunch of Anarky masks will scare away the “Joker zombies” that surround the strip club. And…it does, and his mom is saved. The end. I mean, “The beginning…”
I’m not really sure what to think of Detective Comics Endgame 1. The “Anarky” arc of Detective Comics seemed to insinuate that Lonnie Machin (who was the pre-New 52 Anarky) could potentially become the next Anarky. So is this little Endgame tie-in supposed to be some kind of origin story for that? If so, I’m at a loss how a story about a group of kids banding together with some crime fighters puts a boy on the path to becoming an anarchist rabble rouser. Maybe I’m reading too much into who Lonnie Machin was pre-New 52 vs. who he is currently. I guess the story succeeds in being the kind of “Gotham bystander” tale that we’ve seen before, but it’s kind of simplistic. Who exactly are Dax, Dre and Riko? They just kind of fight crime, no big deal? It’s kind of an interesting notion that in a city like Gotham there exists kids like this who just want to help out, but it feels a little bizarre. Lonnie gets razzed for not being able to jump far and being “terrible at zip-lining,” while these kids are pros or something? Seriously, who the fuck ARE these kids? I mean they are fighting infected Gothamites and jumping off of roof tops like it ain’t no thang. Speaking of, check out this action sequence by Ronan Cliquet:
Look at those kids, just flying in the air with abandon; what exactly is happening here? I’m pretty sure that Lonnie landed on this roof top first, yet we have Dax helping him up off of the ledge in the bottom left panel. Come on guys! Then we have an obligatory addition of the bat family kicking butt and being very minimally-detailed. Also, I’m pretty sure that Bluebird is drawn is if she were a man, and a couple of pages later Red Robin is inexplicably missing a glove. These little things add up.
Though Batman Eternal has a couple of issues to go, it seems that Spoiler will become a part of the inner circle? Maybe? I find it incredibly strange that Spoiler got such an awe-inspiring reaction from Riko as well. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t buy what Buccellato is selling in Detective Comics Endgame 1. In the scheme of the issue, things just happen “because,” and if that explanation doesn’t satisfy you then too bad. Dax and co decide to help Lonnie find his mom because…they are now friends? I dunno, seems like a bit of a stretch, just like the group of kids themselves. Maybe I’m being too harsh on a one-and-done issue, but I don’t really know how I’m supposed to react to Detective Comics Endgame 1. Drew, can you salvage anything from this mess?
Drew: Oof. Not much, unfortunately. I might quibble with your initial assessment that this issue fails to mean much in the grand scheme of either “Endgame” or Detective Comics — not that it succeeds, but that a one-off tie-in doesn’t need to “mean” anything to the rest of the event so long as it means something to itself — but I can’t disagree with your assessment that it never manages to get us invested in its own stakes.
Focusing on virtually unknown characters is always a risky move, but with basically no characterization of them, this ends up feeling exactly like a videogame mission hunt. A mission hunt isn’t inherently bad as a plot, but again, the lack of details make this read more like a mad lib than an actual story. [Random kids] need to fight [Joker zombies] in order to reach [mom] at [the strip club]. That’s basically all I know about these people. Oh, and one of them made an app I guess? Never mind! It doesn’t offer us any insight into his character, or even come up again. I suppose knowing that he is a bit of a hacker could explain how he’s able to access the security cameras outside of the strip club, but since that’s both too convenient to be believable and totally unnecessary (given that his mom could simply reply to his texts and/or he could assume she was at work, anyway), we might have been better off without that particular detail.
A taught action scene could work without specific investment in the characters, but this issue never really manages to get us invested in the stakes of the action, either. Michael already pointed out how inconsistencies in the art rob scenes of the clarity necessary to get a head of steam going, but there are deeper problems with the plotting. Lonnie is rushing to save his mother from Joker zombies who seem to have no interest in her. Indeed, they’re so disinterested, Lonnie’s mother never even bothers to barricade the door.
Not that it matters — the rescuers don’t bother to barricade the door when they arrive, either. Good thing they got here in time! Seriously though: what the fuck are these women doing? Why are they sitting on the floor of the stage in the middle of the room? Why aren’t they hiding in the back room or behind the bar, or even sitting in any of the chairs that surround the stage? Of course, the more you think about what’s going on in this issue, the more it punishes you for doing so, from suspiciously convenient zip-lines to the arbitrary rules of Joker virus infection.
“Punishing you for thinking about it” is easily my least favorite way a narrative can punish me, which leaves me decidedly bummed out about this issue. I like Buccellato’s work elsewhere, and a city overrun by Joker virus-crazed citizens could be a fun premise (even if, as Lonnie points out, it’s basically just a zombie story), but this issue fails to capitalize on the strengths of either of those components. Throw in some unclear art, and we’re left with an issue that is confusing on every level, right down to the reason it was made in the first place.
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