Monday, February 2, 2015

Detective Comics by Manapul & Buccelatto issue #38

It shouldn't come as a surprise that I'm totally biased about this current run for Detective Comics because one of the writer-artist collaborating for the Anarky arc is a fellow Filipino, Francis Manapul. However, my positive bias is justifiable because he and co-creator Brian Bucelatto are doing a fine job carrying this often underappreciated Bat-title of New 52. Last Christmas, we were able to enjoy the first installment of Anarky, the namesake villain who was originally created by Alan Grant and Norman Breyfogle who debuted in this very title back in 1989 with issue #608. This villain is a child prodigy-turned-anarchist who challenged Batman as a crime crusader as he terrorized Gotham City, in the unshakable belief that he is the spokesperson for radical change. His extremist ways mirror Alan Moore's V of V for Vendetta indeed so if this is the very first Anarky story you happen to pick up then you are not mistaken to compare him to V. However, this Bat-villain has a richer history that you must definitely check out if you have the time. In the meantime, let's do a short recap of #37.

The previous issue gave us that memorable scene of Bruce and Alfred decorating Wayne Manor with Christmas lights while they have a heartfelt talk concerning the aftermath of every damnable thing Batman faced and was able to overcome lately. Somewhere in Gotham City, Mad Hatter is running amok, seemingly more nonsensical than the usual, claiming to be searching for his Alice whom he vehemently stresses is not ye dead. After Mad Hatter was apprehended by Batman, the Dark Knight comes to the aid of the GCPD when detectives Harvey Bullock and Nancy Yip found themselves trapped with the rest of Wayne employees in the Tower which Anarky implanted with explosives. They've been pursuing Anarky's steps for weeks now and the cliffhanger in Wayne Tower is where this issue picks up from.

With some quick thinking we can only expect from Batman, casualties were prevented but this is just the tip of the iceberg; Anarky has more radical plans in place which apparently included erasing bank accounts so every citizen in Gotham can start from scratch. As a holiday present, he also left boxes at their doorstep where white masks are enclosed. He invites them through a televised message to paint their masks with whatever version of themselves they wish to set free and live as from now on. To some men, this meant donning on the same masks so they can rob banks because, hey, lawlessness is just a default setting for these assholes. But this robbery shtick happens at the ending pages. Let's talk about what happens in the middle which is just as crucial.

First off, if you checked out the Wiki link to Anarky, then you will discover that his alter-ego is named Lonnie Machin and this teenage boy appears here, having a cozy conversation with Matches Malone (Bruce Wayne's go-to con-artist disguise whenever he blends in the criminal underworld). He was a reformed hacker who's been rather chummy with Matches after Matches gives him a second chance to change his life. They talk about Anarky's gift of a new identity which Machin seriously reconsidered. It's worth noting that if you know your Batman mythos, this conversation is a suspicious one because you know Machin is Anarky all along so you may roll your eyes at him being all contemplative about stuff. Meanwhile, we had an insightful sequence of panels concerning a TV interview with Sam Young who is a dirty politician through and through. I can't help but roll my eyes at him as I read about the pretty things he says about governance and its social contract with the people. Talk about opiate for the masses. I don't buy his bullshit for a second and I hope everyone can see through the smoke-screen.

So these two scenes are important, particularly the one with Sam Young, in the long run because I believe this won't be the last time we will read him spewing out his bullshit against Anarky's platform which is equally just as disconcerting. Can we talk about the impractical result of Anarky erasing bank records? He said he wants individuals to fully realized their potential without being held back by debts or whatever financial losses and burdens they carry with them. But how about people who have been saving up for retirement? What if some of them want to go back to school because that is how they want to fully realize their potentials? I'm personally concerned about the latter because that's what I've been doing and if I happen to live in Gotham and some uppity dick masquerading as a savior suddenly wipes away all the money I worked hard for so I can pay my way through school--I'll go berserk and hunt him down. Anyway, let's talk about Lonnie Machin who is Anarky all along---right?

NO HE IS NOT. In the last page of the issue, we see him becoming collateral damage when Detective Yip accidentally shoots her gun in the wrong direction and ends up missing the perpetrator altogether. Machin gets shot point-blank in the chest and Batman was unable to stop it. This was shocking as fuck because now we are led to believe that this New 52 Anarky is a different man. If that is the case, then I am excited once again with Manapul and Bucelatto's plans to rewrite this Anarky for their story in a way that respects the integrity of the character with a few canonical deviations. In general, I'm reserving my judgments and keeping my optimism alive for this story arc. Detective Comics is getting better with every new writer handling the title. Y'all should be prioritizing this now. To end this review, let's look at Manapul-Bucelatto's beautiful artwork again, shall we?


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