If there’s one thing that Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul have shown us, it’s that a Detective Harvey Bullock-centric “Detective Comics” is a pretty good idea. It makes sense; it defines “Detective Comics” in its own right (and even fits with the title), but doesn’t push Batman out of his own book. With that said, where “Detective Comics” #42 doesn’t quite come together is with the greater focus on the new Batman. It’s not as interesting as watching Bullock negotiate the return of his old partner Renee Montoya, or to miss what’s right in front of him with Nancy Yip’s betrayal. Those parts are interesting, and they hold up the middle of this issue with a strong through-line for readers to follow. It’s actually the ends that sag, as Jim Gordon in the Batsuit takes a more central position; there’s no real drama to those scenes, especially with the cliffhanger involving Jim about to continue the fight without the suit, which apparently just needs a solid dousing plus a taser in order to be rendered useless. (Apparently, no one felt that it ever rained in Gotham.)
Manapul announced earlier this week that he and Buccellato are leaving “Detective Comics” after #44, making this their final storyline on the title, with the help of artist Fernando Blanco. While their run has been up-and-down, there are some aspects of their work on “Detective Comics” that hopefully will continue on to the next creative team, such as the story’s focus on Bullock.
Overall, Blanco does a good job, although his skills are much more in line with the Bullock storyline, too. Characters walking around and talking to one another are often throwaway moments in a comic, but Blanco focuses on making it interesting; he’s mapped out their positions well, so the panels flow from one to another, and there’s a lot of good body language on display, especially when Bullock and Montoya interact. Buccellato’s colors help too, with each scene having a tightly-chosen color palette to help give them their own feel and stand out from one another. It’s only when we get to the fights that the art stumbles a bit. The scene where Batman gets hit with the water comes across as strange looking, with Batman somehow about to go underwater even though it’s just a torrent of water being poured on him, to say nothing of a strange sideways tilt on the character that also makes no real sense. It makes for a limp ending to the issue, exactly what you don’t want for a cliffhanger.
“Detective Comics” #42 has some problems that keep it from rising up to its potential but, at its core, I like some of the basic ideas that Buccellato, Manapul and Blanco tried to bring to the series. Wherever each of these creators end up after September, hopefully there will be a slightly greater connection between their ideas and the execution. Here, it’s just short of succeeding.