Writing a mystery story in any medium is an unenviable task. It’s basically impossible to nail the landing. For my money, the ideal solution to any mystery is both surprising and logical. Once the solution is revealed, the audience wants to see that the answer was hiding in plain sight all along. Writing a satisfying conclusion like that is nearly impossible. It’s why when something like The Sixth Sense comes along it is so successful. But M. Night Shyamalan learned the wrong lesson from its success, thinking that audiences craved a “GOT YA” ending. And it’s why his other films that attempted a twist failed. Sure, the twists are surprising…but they’re meaningless and add no additional understanding to what came before. So after two (and a half) strong issues of Peter J. Tomasi’s Detective Comics mystery, we reach the end of The Bronze Age arc and, again, I ask: is that all there is? Continue reading →
Today, Michael and Drew are discussing Detective Comics 49, originally released February 3rd, 2016.
Michael: Jim Gordon has been Gotham’s Dark Knight since June and with Bruce descending into the Batcave in the pages of Batman, it seems that Gordon’s rooftop days are nearing their end. That kind of bums me out to be honest. While Snyder’s work on Gordon in Batman has been bombastic fun, I’m not sure that he’s had enough time to engage in the wide array of Batman capers. Enter Pete Tomasi’s three-part story arc: “The Bronze Age.” Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Michael are discussing Detective Comics 42, originally released July 1st, 2015.
Patrick: Creators on long-running comics are always trying to shake up the status quo. That can be exciting for fans, who love (or love to hate) seeing their favorite properties monkeyed with. And eventually, there’s always the added reward of the return of the original status quo — the status quo ante — which reinstates all our old standards. I try not to be a cynical reader, but sometimes I can’t escape the idea that characters are changed more or less arbitrarily in order to generate conversation and enthusiasm about a series. It’s not like this is bad — change means growth, and I’d love for superhero comics to embrace more growth — but the tendency to revert to a status quo ante makes any attempt at growth feel impotent. Bruce Wayne is dead. Sure. New status quo. He’ll be back. Status quo ante. But what about everyone caught in Batman’s periphery? They have to change too, but there’s nothing forcing them to change back. Detective Comics 42 hovers around this periphery, challenging and pushing characters that may actually be capable of growth. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
Today, Mark and Michael are discussing Detective Comics 40, originally released March 4th, 2015.
Mark: On a week to week basis, comic books are junk food. Most everything that comes out is disposable, easily forgotten. While occasional stories and arcs will make a mark, for the most part Batman’s latest encounter with a violent psychopath quickly becomes only of interest to the most diehard continuity enthusiast. These are the same stories that DC has been telling for basically 30 years, and they work. They’re engaging. They sell a dwindling number of books. Detective Comics 40 ends an arc built around hatred, revenge, and the murder of children. It’s another take on the classic Batman formula: a new threat emerges in Gotham, Batman tries to control the threat, Batman loses control and order in Gotham is threatened, Batman confronts the source of the threat, almost loses, but through strength and determination, Batman defeats the threat. Mad libs “threat” for the name of any member of his rogue gallery, and you’ve got yourself a Batman story. Continue reading →
Today, Mark and Drew are discussing Detective Comics 37, originally released December 3rd, 2014. Mark: Of all the Batman movies, Batman Returns remains my favorite. It’s probably the darkest Batman film yet made (I mean, it opens with parents throwing their baby in the sewer. Opens!), but it also has a sense of humor and style that the oppressively serious Christopher Nolan adaptations lack. One of the things that makes the movie pop is the decision to set the action at Christmastime. Even all lit up for the holidays there’s no place as terrible as Gotham City, and that contrast adds a dark mirth to the proceedings. With the holiday season once again upon us, it’s the perfect time to revisit Gotham at Christmas. After a two month airport diversion, creative team Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul are back and Detective Comics 37 jumps us right into the thick of Gotham on Christmas Eve. Guess what? Things are not great. Continue reading →
Today, Mark and Ryan are discussing Detective Comics 36, originally released November 5th, 2014.
Mark: It took me a long while to decide what it was I really wanted to do in life. About two years ago I packed up everything that would fit in my car and moved to Los Angeles without a job and without knowing anyone. Ever since then, like Sonic the Hedgehog, I’ve felt the need to go fast. In some ways I feel far behind my peers, and I try to work double to make up for lost time. The sad reality, of course, is that you can’t make up time.
Detective Comics 36 wraps up a two-part story, Terminal, by the guest creative team of writer Benjamin Percy and penciler John Paul Leon. The set up is a familiar mystery thriller trope: a passenger jet lands at Gotham International Airport and careens into the terminal, crew unresponsive. When Batman and the airport’s Chief of Police board the plane, they find everyone onboard is dead and their flesh decayed. What could have killed them? Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Scott are discussing Detective Comics 32, originally released June 11th, 2014.
Drew: Last month, Shelby compared Detective Comics to a well-executed magic trick. Specifically, she was referring to the way Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul wield misdirection, but I think the similarities between magic and art are manifold. Both rely on deceptively simple techniques to create effects that are greater than the sum of their parts. For me, the only real difference is how we value being “fooled” by those effects. If we see the strings, a magic trick is ruined, but understanding exactly how a scene was painted or filmed or carved can enhance our appreciation of a work of art. I personally enjoy knowing how a magic trick is performed, too — I think it gives me a deeper appreciation for exactly how skillful the magician is — but then again, I’ve always liked knowing how the sausage is made. Many folks would rather never know how the lady gets sawed in half, or how a painter simulates sunlight peaking through the clouds, or how a composer strings harmonies into a coherent musical idea. It’s an attitude I can’t fully support, but I do understand it: a little magic is lost when you can spot every palmed card. Manapul and Buccellato have long been a team that rewards digging beneath those effects, but this issue found me wishing that I wasn’t so aware of what they were doing. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Scott are discussing Detective Comics 31, originally released May 7th, 2014.
Shelby: I love magic tricks. Granted, I understand it’s not actually magic; I am an adult, after all. Even knowing it’s all just slight of hand, I still fall for it every time. Personally, I think the most effective illusions are the most simple; some quick misdirection, maybe some witty repartee, and suddenly there are three foam balls in my hand when I could have swore I started out with one. That’s one of the reasons I like Batman as much as I do; he’s got the fancy gadgets and whatnot, but at its core his act is one of illusion and misdirection. We look for what he leads us to believe is there, and gives us something completely different while our backs are turned. Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul have adopted a similar approach with Detective Comics, and it’s just as effective as any close-up magic I’ve seen.
Today, Drew and Scott are discussing Detective Comics 30, originally released April 2nd, 2014.
Welcome to Gotham City. It has the potential to be great…for the both of us. It’s a new start.
Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Drew: Two figures arrive in the big city for the first time. It’s the start of many a classic story of city life — including this issue — but it also accurately describes Manapul and Buccellato’s “move” to Gotham. After a stellar run on The Flash (ha), Manapul and Buccellato have brought their signature meta-commentary to DC’s namesake, opening with the quote above. The line is not necessarily spoken — it could plausibly be said by Elena or Annie Aguila (the two figures we see arriving in Gotham), but is rather explicitly not represented as dialogue, or even internal monologue — there’s no speech balloon, no voiceover box, not even a quotation mark, suggesting that this really is the creators speaking directly to the audience. It’s a bold move, but exactly the kind that gives me confidence that this does indeed have the potential to be great.