After a couple of months off, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have returned to “Detective Comics” with issue #37, and visually it’s one of their most beautiful comics to date. But while the art is top-notch, the story that introduces the rebooted Anarky to the DC Universe feels a little disjointed and all over the place.
Manapul and Buccellato’s art in “Detective Comics” #37 is something you can just look at over and over again. There’s something on every page to bask in and enjoy here. The fight against Mad Hatter, for instance, just looks phenomenal. I love seeing Hatter perched on the shopping cart full of debris, for instance; never mind that it’s a very different look to kick off the book, but it instantly sets the scene with the trash and desolation with him in the middle of it all. When Batman swings in and kicks Hatter, you’re reminded once again how good Manapul and Buccellato are with conveying a sense of motion. The swoop of Batman’s cape, the way you can follow his body from shoulders to waist to heel to have a perfect through-line of impact, the way that the lines and colors smear just a bit to give Hatter’s body that added connection between it and Batman as Hatter flies through the air, it all works. Then, add in the icy blue of the snow and frozen river, the skyline of Gotham off in the background, and you’ll find yourself wanting to put on a sweater.
Even the quieter moments, like Hatter pulling himself out of the water while the discovered skulls bob to the surface, or Batman stating, “Wayne Tower blows up” look great. Something as simple as the pattern of snow on the latter is breathtaking, and that’s before you add in the upside down diagonal that Batman is positioned in, or another look at Gotham’s buildings that surround Wayne Tower. Everything here just looks great, and it’s a reminder on how Manapul and Buccellato working together have quickly and rightfully positioned themselves as one of the top superhero comic art teams currently working.
I wish that the story here was up to those same standards, but it’s just not quite there. The plot about Wayne Tower being rigged to explode comes out of nowhere — to the point that you’ll wonder if you missed several pages in the middle of the comic — and is just one of the parts where this book feels disjointed. Harvey Bullock and Nancy Yip’s two page sequence at GCPD Headquarters feels like it’s wandered in from an entirely different comic, and while it’s nice that Buccellato and Manapul aren’t forgetting the last Mad Hatter story (in “Batman: The Dark Knight”), it’s a lead-in that also adds to the sense that this is multiple comics stitched together. Presumably future issues will pull it all together (you can see the connection with Anarky and his presumed revenge that he’s talking about on the first two pages) but for now it’s an uninspiring first chapter.
Where the story falls flat in “Detective Comics” #37, the art thankfully elevates the comic. The writing could still use some work here, but it’s hard to get too worked up when the art is just this amazing. Ultimately, as long as Manapul and Buccellato are drawing comics, I’ll probably be there to see just how great the visuals are this time around.