Sunday, November 9, 2014

Detective Comics by John Layman vol. 4: WRATH

John Layman has yet to disappoint me (until his last two issues of this series, that is, but I digress) and his second collected volume for Detective Comics is definitely something I can recommend you buy and store in your library. His collaborative work with two spectacular artists, Jason Fabok and Andy Clarke who illustrated his main stories and backup stories respectively, has easily made his run for this series a visual adventure that continues to enhance your enjoyment page after page.

In the fourth volume entitled Wrath, Batman battles the titular villain who had been targeting and killing the GCPD officers with chilling efficiency based on a decade-old grudge. A striking similarity can be found between Wrath and Batman himself, but it's in their motivation and approach to injustice that ultimately distinguished one from the other. Wrath is driven merely by a thirst for vengeance while Batman is able to rise above his own traumatic experiences and contribute to Gotham as the guardian and crusader for the weak and the oppressed. 

This story arc is heavily featured for issues 22-24. Now I have great fun reading this arc because, aside from the great action sequences offered and heftily drawn by Fabok, Layman also imparted a story that serves as a parable on the many ways one man's dangerous quest can consume him. Wrath may as well be what Batman would have become if he allowed his personal vendetta get the best of him.

Another material included for this collection is issue #19 which marks the 900th issue for Detective Comics and features five standalone stories, most notably The 900 which tackled the Man-Bats epidemic as well as the re-imagining of Kirk Langstorm's origin story. I mentioned in my review for the third volume that this story should have been included there since it was Emperor Penguin that spread the bat-serum infection in the first place. However, this story is better suited for this volume after all, and that it's issue #20 (the finale for Emperor Penguin story arc) that should have been in the last volume. It seemed rather out of place for this volume that focuses more on Wrath and the backup minor arc on the Langstorms.

Speaking of which, while the Wrath storyline is going on, we also have Layman crafting the very intimate tale of Kirk Langstorm and his wife Francine who both became addicted to the bat-serum and surrendered to their inner monsters. I've mentioned that this was an arc that surprised me because I didn't expect to like it that much, let alone look forward to it, considering Man-Bat is a B-rated villain I hardly cared for in the canon but Layman was skilled enough to make readers care about his beginnings and struggles in a very Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fashion. This arc is happening in hindsight while we follow Batman and Wrath and their confrontation primarily, but I personally found myself caring about Kirk Langstorm more than Wrath because he was sympathetic. That's not to say I didn't enjoy Wrath because I did but I never formed a personal connection with him unlike with Langstorm. An issue that I felt was only included for chronological purposes was issue #21about the Shadow Assassin which was an average oneshot and whose only redeeming factor is that Harper Row made a delightful appearance. Other than that, it was forgettable so feel free to skip. I feel immensely different about its Annual #2, however, which I maintain is one of my favorite New 52 annuals ever (next to Peter J. Tomasi's two annuals for Batman and Robin). It was less about Batman (which actually works) and more about Harvey Bullock and this new sinister villainess called Jane Doe. I gave that one a perfect rating in my review HERE.

Overall, Detective Comics Volume 4: WRATH is a better installment than the first collected edition because it features more material and a secondary arc that's just as enjoyable as the main one. The added bonus of the second annual and issue #19 anthology of standalones also helped its content a lot. I could really do away with issue #21 though, and issue #20 REALLY SHOULD HAVE BEEN in the third volume. Nevertheless, this is John Layman at his best for Detective Comics!


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