The conflict escalates as Batman gets caught up in the middle of a gang war and later has a somewhat surprising confrontation with one of his supporting cast in Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato’s “Detective Comics” #33. All the while, the Dark Knight Detective still tries to solve a murder and track down the source of a new and deadly drug hitting the streets of Gotham in the fourth part of the duo’s stylishly noir-ish “Icarus” arc.
Batman is usually associated with the dark. There’s not an issue of any given Bat-title published where he doesn’t serve as Gotham’s knight, but the character’s detective persona is more frequently overlooked. This isn’t the case under the care of Manapul and Buccellato, however, who have put the “Detective” back into “Detective Comics” during their run. The team puts readers right alongside Bruce Wayne as he investigates these mysteries, and provides appropriately lengthy explanations as they move the story along, keeping readers fully engaged, without challenging them too much and risk losing them. There are enough elements in the pair’s story to keep it lively without making it seem convoluted, and it’s entertaining enough to make readers forget that none of Batman’s familiar rogues gallery are anywhere in sight.
Manapul captures that noir-like feel without employing the usual tried-and-true shadowy lighting tricks and black-on-white contrasts. Instead, he relies more on varied color schemes to convey similar moods; the Gotham police squad’s targeting lasers serve as the device to illuminate the sewer tunnels with an eerie, frosty shade of blue, for example. A single lamp in a living room casts a warmer but ominous glow during another tense scene. Elsewhere, Manapul’s colors don’t call attention to themselves but instead simply embellish his art, although he still utilizes a big enough array to keep the issue from looking stale or monotonous.
Batman isn’t the only familiar character to get some page time, though; Harvey Bullock plays a key role, as a kind of foil to Batman’s vigilante methods. Harvey isn’t even a reluctant ally here; he’s firmly planted himself alongside the rest of the anti-Batman GCPD, presumably in relation to the current events in the weekly “Batman Eternal” series that the writers acknowledge during the course of the issue. While the happenings in other titles don’t necessarily need to impact this storyline, referencing these stories certainly doesn’t hurt and helps provide some consistency throughout the Bat-verse.
With “Batman” nearing the end of “Zero Year” and “Batman Eternal” focusing on several characters in the Batman mythos, “Detective Comics” #33 boldly shines its spotlight on the current day Batman himself. It’s faithful to a sometimes-neglected aspect of the character and has a look that’s unique but nicely suited to the Dark Knight also provides a story that’s a good fit.