While his co-author Francis Manapul already left (save for covers), “Detective Comics” #44 is Brian Buccellato’s final issue writing the series. However, in many ways, it’s Fernando Blanco’s art that stands out the most.
The idea of the Joker’s Daughter getting hold of a robotic Joker suit as a counterpoint to Jim Gordon using the robotic Batman suit actually isn’t a bad one. Of course, the fact that it’s Joker’s Daughter in the suit — a character that Buccellato clearly isn’t impressed with based on the verbal dressing down he gives the character — lessens some of the impact. It feels a little lacking perhaps because “Detective Comics” has been shown to need to fall in line with developments in “Batman,” which means that there’s never any doubt on how this battle will turn out.
It doesn’t help either that, after Nancy Yip’s recent surprise reveal as a traitor, her fate is badly telegraphed from the moment the comic starts. That’s a shame, because Yip’s sudden turn was probably the most interesting thing about this storyline. With an attempt to keep the reader guessing until the end with a poor fake out, Buccellato probably could have given us more suspense by generating tension through having the protagonists actively working together to try and get Yip to her final placement by the end of the issue. Ultimately, this feels like a comic designed simply to put Bullock and Montoya back together, which is too bad because their slightly adversarial relationship felt much more interesting.
Blanco has definitely grown into his four-issue stint on “Detective Comics.” One of the best looking pages occurs when Bullock and Yip’s car crashes and flips over. Blanco handles the twisted viewpoint well, rotating them inside the panel in a manner that feels disorienting while still easy to follow. Buccellato’s colors are the proverbial icing on the cake, drenching the scene in blues and purples so that it feels like nighttime. When the fire engulfs the car, the sudden contrast between the dark colors at one end of the spectrum and the burst of bright reds and oranges is hard to ignore, a reminder of how good coloring can accentuate nice art. Blanco’s characters definitely handle the quieter, personal moments well here too, and I’m curious to see what project he’ll work on next.
“Detective Comics” #44 ultimately ends with less of a bang and more of a muffled noise. It looks nice and there are a few genuinely amusing parts, like the scorn heaped on Joker’s Daughter and a moment where Bullock and Montoya’s new car is a SmartCar. Ultimately, however, there’s little-to-no suspense in a book that seems to try and build it up and, in doing so, it just never rises to the heights it otherwise could.