DETECTIVE COMICS is a detective book again! It's not something people should be excited about, but too many times, this series (new 52 and pre-flashpoint) tends to fall into the world of "just another Batbook." Luckily, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato are really taking the time to craft a mystery that Batman has to solve, and most of the issue, he doesn't even need to be in the Batman suit to work his crime solving magic. It's nice to see Batman using his brains more than his fists to get information, especially in cases where he has to go undercover.
What makes this work so well as a detective book is that the reader is right there with Batman. We don't have any other information that Batman doesn't have and we learn what he learns. The character doesn't keep secrets from the reader, so it makes the mystery that much more enjoyable and frankly, it works so dang well, especially when his alter-ego, Bruce Wayne, has to deal with Harvey Bullock trying to pin him with a murder he didn't commit.
This issue, the reader is introduced to Sumo, who is a pretty big scumbag. When the solicits came out, I was extremely skeptical of this character because the idea of Batman fighting a sumo wrestler seemed dumb. It really works here because Sumo is a "business man" more than some gimmick. He's not a good guy by any means and aside from being a successful crime boss, he can actually put up a good fight.
Francis Manapul does some phenomenal art on this issue. The book has a great sense of flow and cohesiveness to it all. Impactful scenes tend to have a different perspective, many times the reader sees the scene at a weird angle to give the scene a bit more depth and really hit the action home.
The only complaint about the issue comes from a single page, during the Batman/Sumo fight. The page contains 14 panels, with two rows of four small panels at the top. It's hard to see what's going on within the panels and not just because they're small. It's hard to fit a good amount of detail and the orange lighting, which works in the rest of the panels, makes everything a bit tougher to read.
DETECTIVE COMICS #31 is smart, fun, and very open to new readership, even though it's two issues into this story. Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul are truly crafting their own version of Batman in an exciting way which doesn't alienate its readers. The art is beautiful here and the colors are brilliant. It gives readers a great feel for the world of Gotham. Jump on this book if you've been missing the "detective" part of DETECTIVE COMICS. I highly recommend this issue.