Thursday, October 30, 2014

Detective Comics by John Layman issue #13

I gotta be honest: John Layman was the reason I wanted to read Detective Comics for the New 52 in the first place. I've read and reviewed the special issues #19 and #27 earlier this year, as well as the Death of the Family tie-ins #16-#17 included in The Joker: Death of the Family collection. I whined and, embarrassingly enough, kicked and screamed my way through the first twelve issues of this title written by Tony S. Daniel who is honest-to-Loki a spectacular artist who happens to illustrate his stories far more superiorly than telling them. Now we have a new creative team in place and the debut issue for John Layman and artist Jason Fabok was pretty impressive. The tonality and the characterization just felt right in every page.

As I asserted, Detective Comics is supposed to depict Batman as the gadget-savvy nocturnal sleuth who can also kick the shit out of criminal scum while he's at it. John Layman gets this. There was no humdrum moment while I was reading Batsy monologue boxes that truly give the sense that he's analysing and concern about finding logic in the cases before him and not just pretentiously contemplating or brooding over the job which was what Daniel usually does (and which was why I felt like tearing my hair out whenever I was reading an issue of his). I also have to point out the noticeable humor in the issue particularly Batman who seems chattier and able to enjoy himself while crime-fighting; but it wasn't an over-the-top "I'm the goddamn Batman, yeah!" like from the cringe-worthy All-Star by Frank Miller type of shit. No. It was more of a self-aware, sardonic type of enjoyment--and it was such a delight to read and chuckle about. I'm loving my Batsy here. Not too dark, not too light; a perfect compromise in between which actually makes it fun to watch him investigate and sometimes wisecrack to himself.

Issue #13 Duck and Cover was absolutely a blast! The story had a crispness to it that essentially makes it easier to digest. Layman added some lightness to his narrative that just counter-balanced all the supposed darkness Daniel has created in the past issues. You can easily smack your lips after devouring this one, and still feel like you've had something substantial to keep your belly full after finishing it. The Penguin was utilized surprisingly astute here. I haven't cared for Oswald Cobblepot when Daniel wrote him because he wasn't given much material and simply played second string to the entire plot and drama of his stories (WHICH I STILL WISH I CAN FORGET AND NEVER TALK ABOUT ANYMORE). Here we get him to talk about his insecurities in a dignified way (as much as 'dignified' goes for an opportunistic villain goes) and what he plans to do about it. His all-around go-to guy Ogilvy was his sounding board, a faithful servant who indulges and obeys him every step of the way (much like Alfred with Bruce, only a less loving and familial arrangement). Penguin wants not just a legacy or a kingdom from Gotham City: he wants to build an everlasting empire. As far as ambitions go, Penguin always knew how to aim high.

He starts this by trying to push out Bruce Wayne from the spotlight and claim as his own. There's a certain small hilarity to the fact that, in able to accomplish this, Penguin chose to buy off the Martha Wayne Wing and make it his own to show what a generous philanthropist he is. It's the kind of dirty that Penguin plays and it's definitely something Bruce himself didn't expect. That was really amusing to watch unfold--and then that fucking cliffhanger! It made me want to read the next issue already (and, to be honest, I finished reading until issue #18, actually, and will now have five issues ahead of me to review this afternoon so watch out for that).

Layman has also written a short story afterwards which was enjoyable in a degree you don't expect from backup stories in general. Daniel had done this with Two Face and that shite annoyed me a lot. But Layman just KNOWS how to tell a COMPELLING story and this one about small-time crooks stealing in Gotham as one of them discusses his experiences with Batman in his line of work is a testament to his caliber. Artist Andy Clarke illustrated this story and I liked the way the contrasted flashbacks and detailed facial expressions. Yes, Detective Comics has been redeemed. Layman and Fabok are here and their Batman looks and sounds good.

I'm going to have fun again. And I badly need it these days..


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