After a two-year run on “The Flash,” Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have shifted across the DC Universe to tackle one of the company’s flagship titles: “Detective Comics.” While it’s too early to make any long-term predictions, this first issue focusing on a waterfront redevelopment has a lot of promise for what’s to come.
“Detective Comics” #30 introduces some new characters connected to Buccellato and Manapul’s opening story. Elena and Annie Aguila fit well in as outsiders coming to Gotham, and Elena’s manipulation of Bruce Wayne’s past to get her waterfront proposal moving forward shows that she’s got a sharp head on her shoulders. I also like that for most of the issue, readers get a shift back to the low-to-no-powered villains. It’s a nice change; Batman on some level has always been a street-level superhero, so it’s good to see room for some street-level bad guys, too. If nothing else, it does make the fantastical stand out that much more, becoming truly fantastic in sheer contrast.
Buccellato and Manapul also explore some often unseen areas of Gotham. They don’t lose sight of the idea of there being distinct neighborhoods within the city; it’s only some small glimpses of Chinatown or the East End Waterfront, but already it feels like more than we typically get when it comes to Gotham. Instead of a homogenous stretch of alleys and shadows, there are some areas that are at least visually different. It’s a good start.
The art is, unsurprisingly, fantastic. Batman here is very much a dark specter, with his cape often blending into the shadows for a haunting, threatening look to scare villains. At the same time, this isn’t the 30-foot-cape that some artists would draw; look at the spread on pages 10-11, where once Batman’s out of the dark corners, there’s a sharp edge to the cape. It’s still menacing (and very bat-like) while also being grounded in reality. In general, I love Manapul’s double-page spreads, which pack a lot of panels in while using the extra room to let the action spread out much more horizontally than you would otherwise see in panel-to-panel progression.
But it’s not all just about Manapul’s Batman, though. There are so many great little touches here and there throughout the comic. When Annie finishes her motocross, look at the cloud of dust that kicks up around her. It’s not just that the two have created it, but rather what they do with it. There’s a beautiful swirl about it, so that it’s the dust that lets you look at that one page and instantly understand that Annie’s just spun to a halt. The motion is brought to life through Annie’s surroundings, and it’s a great example of how to take a static medium and make it still feel lively. Add in the great ink washes that Buccellato colors so beautifully — that very first panel looking up from the ocean’s floor to the rippling surface is a prime example — and this is one of the best looking books at DC.
It’s great to see Manapul and Buccellato back. While some of their pacing on “The Flash” dragged out a bit too much, I’m finding myself excited all over again. This is a good start to their run, and if they can keep stories moving and wrapping up at appropriate times? Well, that spells good times for us. All in all, a strong debut for the pair on “Detective Comics.”