“Detective Comics” #38 is the prime example of a comic that you want to love, but it’s just not quite there. Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato’s ideas are interesting and wide-ranging, but there’s still a lack of focus in this comic — even one guest-starring a character named Anarky — that feels a little problematic.
After explaining away the miraculous survival of characters from last month’s cliffhanger, “Detective Comics” #38 dwells on the idea of the “system” holding people back and how Anarky attempts to try and liberate them by wiping all of Gotham’s citizen’s records across the world. It’s an interesting concept, and the part of the book follows that idea is solid, particularly the interview on a local news program where one councilman gives a rebuttal of sorts to Anarky’s “gift.”
From there, though, the book shifts to a hostage situation at a bank and a strangely ill-staged cliffhanger resulting from it. The problem is that the two halves of the book don’t quite connect. Buccellato and Manapul have one of the villains at the bank stating that, with the system down, cash is king… but it’s a tenuous thread at best, one that could have just as easily been said by any random bad guy. It’d odd, especially considering that in the news piece earlier the anchor brings up the idea that Anarky’s actions could have sparked civil unrest — so why aren’t we seeing it? Why isn’t that what’s used to bring about the cliffhanger? For a city full of people who have just had all of their personal records erased — including bank accounts and ATM cards — everyone seems awfully calm and collected. It’s just not meshing together; Buccellato and Manapul have these interesting seeds of ideas but then they just go nowhere in particular.
The one consistent thing in Manapul and Buccellato’s comics is the art. “Detective Comics” #38 is no exception to that rule; these are some beautiful looking pages. Little touches — like the gentle glow of neon signs — come to life under the duo, to say nothing of the dingy bricks and trash in the alleyways. When the big moments come, they also nail those moments in a visual sense; Batman riding the Batmobile like a bucking bronco through a plate glass window is ludicrous when you describe it but awesome when Manapul draws it. There’s so much energy and power in those scenes that it reminds you once again why Manapul’s career took off in just a few short years.
“Detective Comics” #38 looks dazzling but its visuals are not enough to entirely stitch together its patchwork of ideas. This is the sort of book that you want to like more than you actually do; Buccellato and Manapul keep getting close but, for now, “Detective Comics” is a series that ends up never quite living up to its potential.