On the trail of Icarus and trying to stay off of Gotham City Police Department’s suspects’ list, Batman spends much of “Detective Comics” #31 behind the lead in Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato’s second issue on the series. The story has connections to “The Flash” #25, which brought Barry Allen to Gotham City as part of the expanded investigation of “Zero Year.” The connections are not defined enough to merit a guest appearance from the Scarlet Speedster, but Manapul and Buccellato make it quite clear they have a solid handle on life across the DC Universe.
The creators keep this story from being one-dimensional, giving Bruce Wayne and Batman more to worry about that a new designer drug, the drug’s supply chain or the death of a person on the Wayne Manor property. The drug traffic leads to human traffic and the human traffic leads to a fight in very close quarters against an opponent who presses those quarters and manages to hold his own for a surprisingly long time against Batman. On the writing side of this book, the duo elevates Alfred’s participation in Batman’s fieldwork, but also makes the apparent misstep of having Batman directly refer to him as Alfred. I’m pretty sure Batman would be (and pretty much everywhere in the DC Universe is) more careful that to make such overt verbal connections between himself and Bruce Wayne, especially with Harvey Bullock sniffing around Wayne Manor. In addition to seeming like a trap waiting to be snapped, it makes Batman slightly chattier and less independent. It’s more in line with the “Zero Year” Batman, but that was Batman from at least half a decade ago, and with corresponding less savvy and experience.
The visuals of “Detective Comics” #31 are everything readers have come to expect from this creative duo, minus the playful title page imagery. Manapul, Buccellato and letterer Jared K. Fletcher are content for now in letting the type work overtop the art. That’s just as well, since Batman’s world might not be as prone to whimsical interactivity as Flash’s. Beyond the missing title work, the artwork is dark and moody, soaked in watercolor textures and playing with appropriately cool tones, like blues, purples, teals and muted greens. When the palette runs warmer, the story also intensifies, with impacts and action accented by red, orange and yellow-orange. Fletcher’s sound effects play along with the same color range, giving “Detective Comics” #31 a consistent appearance from cover to cover.
Buccellato and Manapul have already made their mark on “Detective Comics,” expanding the world around the Dark Knight, if even by just a little bit. Icarus may not have the overall, lasting impact that Venom has made on Gotham City, but coupled with the addition of Sumo, the bureaucratic snafu surrounding Bruce Wayne’s waterfront project and the distraction brought about by the discovery of human trafficking, Batman has plenty of work ahead of him and Buccellato and Manapul have plenty of ideas for “Detective Comics.” Their run is still young enough for readers to join in and in they continue to provide readers with issues like this, the duo is more than happy to welcome them in.