Detective Comics #18
Return To Roost
It is time once more for Detective Comics. Unfortunately, I was not able to get this out Wednesday due to my crazy week, so since I am now playing catch up, I will probably cut this review a little short, but still, I'll try to do the review justice.
Detective Comics, with the combined talents of John Layman (former writer of Image's Chew and current writer of Detective Comics) and Jason Fabok, (former penciler for Aspen MLT's Michael Turner's Soulfire, Superman/Batman, and The Dark Knight cover artist for Batwing and current penciler of Detective Comics) has been delivering some of the best Batman stories on the market as far as I am concerned, but I'm a little nervous about this issue. Penguin is returning and Emperor Penguin is in power, yet Layman must include in this issue the fallout from Death of the Family and Damian's sad demise, so it is easy to imagine that this story might get a bit cluttered and lost its way, and I've heard some comments from people who have already read the issue say just that. Now, it is time for me to make my judgment. Does Detective Comics deliver another stellar issue, or is this a rambling tale with no real point?
In this issue, Penguin gets burned and does some burning, Batman has to deal with the threat of Penguin and Mr. Zsasz (I just realized Zsasz is a palindrome. Interesting) while mourning the death of Damian, and Emperor Penguin confronts his former employer.
As I made clear in the intro, I was not expecting great things from this issue because I've heard several negative comments about it, but I think those comments are completely off base. The complaints I heard were that this issue tried to balance too many plot lines and failed in the process, and that sounded plausible considering that issue seventeen suffered from that very problem but Layman seems to have learned to deal with the problem of forced crossovers better in this issue by simply skirting the whole death of Damian.
Damian's death does get the short stick in this issue. We see one full page of mourning, and then the issue moves back to focus on the Penguins, and that might irritate some especially if you buy the issue for this mini-crossover called Requiem, but really, why should we see a lot on Damian mourning in this issue? We are about to have an entire month of mourning. Entire issues of Batman and Robin and Batman, Incorporated will focus on nothing else. Just like most fans were sick of the Joker by the end of Death of the Family, most fans would be sick of the Damian mourning by the end of this month if it was layered on that thick in every Bat book. Instead of falling into that trap, Layman continues to tell the story he was already developing, and the series was made stronger because of this.
Throughout the whole issue, I looked for any part of the story to get second hand treatment or fail to be fully developed, but in the entire main story, there were no such moments. Every time I thought I saw a potential oversight in the writing, it was neatly tied up a few panels later, so I've got to give Layman his props for writing a tight story.
In the modern age, Penguin has almost always been a guy sitting at the top of the food chain in the Gotham underworld who merely gives orders and never gets his hands dirty, and for that reason, I found it extremely entertaining for him to grab some umbrella weapons and raise a little Cain. It almost managed to make Penguin seem like a formidable physical opponent, and that was kind of cool though I was a bit disappointed that Penguin was not able to go on a longer rampage.
The way the conflict wrapped up between Penguin and Emperor Penguin was pretty cool too, and I am once more eager to see what happens next.
Does anybody like those little editorial boxes that pop up at the bottom of the panel and say, “Check out issue umpteen of ASM to see when Spider-Man ate a bowl of broccoli soup with Beyonder,” because I've heard people claim they like the pop ups, but I find that hard to believe. There were at least three of them in this issue, and despite the fact that I was actually interested in the information in one of them, all three annoyed me. As far as I am concerned, these only serve to yank me out of the flow of the story. I do not understand why they do not just do a reference page at the end. It would virtually no space.
The interesting tidbit presented in one of the boxes was that a character from Talon appears in this issue, so again, I have to give some props to Layman for having his fingers on the pulse of the Bat universe.
A Cut Above
The backup feature is where this issue suffers a bit. It focuses on Zsasz, but it adds nothing to his character or history worth metioning. It recaps part of his origin tale, and that was not bad, but then, it turns into nothing more than a typical Zsasz story with Joker (the backup story was set in the recent past) making an awkward appearance. This story is not bad per say, but it feels completely unnecessary. There is a hint of a possible intersection between this title and The Court of Owls, but beyond that, everything of relevance to the Emperor Penguin story was already established in the main tale.
Also, I was not a huge fan of the pencils by Henrik Jonsson. (a comic artist newbie who previously worked on Detective Comics and currently works on Detective Comics and Suicide Squad) Again, they were not bad, but they had that moderately exaggerated look which rarely works for me. Also, where is Zsasz's goatee which he wears in the main story. Tsk, tsk. Either Zsasz has a super beard growing power or artists are failing to collaborate.
Speaking of artists, Jason Fabok continues to do excellent work on this series.
I really struggled on whether or not to give this an eight or a nine, but I went ahead and decided to err on the side of generosity. The main story is well worth reading if you have been following Layman's Batman run, but the backup story was unmemorable, and I have a hard time giving it a nine just because I had to pay an extra dollar for the eight pages of mediocrity. Still, its a very enjoyable purchase for anybody who has been following the book thus far. On the other hand, it is not worth buying if you just want to see a lot of blubbering over Damian. There is one page at the graveside, Batman sheds a solitary tear, and then the story is Penguin-centric, so be warned.
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