Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Detective Comics by Manapul & Buccelatto issue #40

CONFESSION TIME: I finished reading this last issue of the Anarky series almost a month ago when it was released but put off writing a review for it because I was quite disappointed of the ending. But it wasn't nearly comparable to my resentment about Manapul and Buccelatto's previous closer for the Icarus arc. There was just something about this last piece that felt dishonest somehow. Much like Icarus, the set pieces were well-placed across the scarlet thread, as any riveting detective story worth looking forward to. The last issue left me breathless in particular.

Now I could never cease complimenting and commending the narrative style of these two people as well as the visual masterpieces they created as a cohesive singularity for every issue. In this sense, Anarky was an impressive accomplishment that made me respect Batman as a crime-solving sleuth in a whole new level. This was a proper noir piece. Manapul and Buccelatto have rekindled my passion for this genre in the comic book medium at that. I will be forever in their debt because of that.

That being said, I think they need to craft their endings a little better. After all, I still want them to be writing more Detective Comics in the future. Objectively speaking, this one is an improvement from the Icarus ending in a lot of respects, but while the latter was a spectacle of the shallow sort, this one was actually pretty bland, a rather ordinary last chapter to an otherwise intriguing premise and heart-pounding climactic ascent. It was also quite misleading. I thought this was an Anarky-centered tale, even when they actually shot and almost killed the teenage boy behind the persona himself (Lonnie Machin) by the second arc, subverting readers' expectations in the process which was clever (if and only if it served a purpose which was not what happened once the score was settled). 

Having a new Anarky for me felt like a crucial turning point because with the invalidation that Machin is the Anarky Batman is currently fighting, this meant that this adversary behind the mask is someone else with different intentions as to why he put on the mask in the first place. That alone left me biting my nails in excitement to uncover his real identity. Once this last installment gave us that, it wasn't as impactful or resonant in any sort of way, most probably because...for some reason there was an unpleasant predictability to how it was resolved. I find that there's a difference between simplicity and mediocrity when it comes to pay-offs for detective stories. A resolution can have the most predictable outcome but the journey leading towards its must be meaningful enough that an emotional investment is fulfilled somehow once the crime or mystery gets solved. 

The three issues leading to this one were constructed with great sensibility and dramatic elements but those things were ultimately insufficient because it turns out the entire thing has nothing to do with Anarky and whatever he stands for whatsoever. What happened was a bait-and-switch scenario which was why I felt cheated as a reader. This display of violence and disorder was all about the Mad Hatter. The one who has donned the Anarky persona is merely someone who has a personal grudge/vengeance to settle with the Hatter which was in itself a believable case BUT HE DIDN'T HAVE TO BE ANARKY to accomplish that. It's literally the definition of "overkill". All the events that happened before this confrontation suddenly doesn't make any sense anymore. Why would this character spend so much time in the earlier installments pretending he was an anarchist challenging the system, invoking citizen riots across Gotham, if he was only after one man? It's infuriating.

As far as cover-ups go, it all seems too much. Why would someone plan such a convoluted and city-wide panic and chaos when he was truly only targeting Mad Hatter? It's ridiculous! And unfair to what the original Anarky was intended for in canon. It's like anyone can put on that mask and do whatever he or she wants with it if they feel like their cause is justified which might have been a satisfying direction if there was any indication that this was what the writing duo was going for.

I suppose my problem lies on the fact that I wish they just created an original villain if this was the role they intended to cast him in. I felt like Anarky as a character in the old comics could have been written better for New 52 and perhaps Lonnie Machin will find his way into that persona soon, if ever. I just felt really cheated that this was about Mad Hatter all along. I suppose congratulations are in order for the biggest and most asshole of red herrings ever created? That said, I do enjoy Manapul and Buccelatto in the writing table and I would still look forward to what they plan next. There is always time for growth and change and these two must really work better with their endgames because this was the second time they left me unsatisfied. I won't stop believing in them but at this point I will also lower my expectations now. I hope to read them again in the next line-up of Detective Comics. They are still the most promising pair in comics for me so far.


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