Sunday, August 18, 2013

Detective Comics #22 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Man, both the stories in this issue are awesome, so let's get right to it.

The first story is remarkably clever.  At first, it appears to be a standard story, with Layman hinting that E.D. Caldwell, a weapons manufacturer whose sudden arrival on the business and philanthropy scene in Gotham leaves Bruce suspicious, is Wrath, killing cops to create a market for his bulletproof vests and various weapons.  It's similar to Aaron's explanation of Kade Kilgore's motives in "Wolverine and the X-Men," creating the Hellfire Academy to create new super-villains to increase the sale of Sentinels.  But, the cover reminds us that the story goes deeper, with Layman portraying Caldwell/Wrath (if he is Wrath) as an inverted version of Bruce/Batman.  Whereas Bruce uses his wealth to help people, Caldwell "helps" people to increase his wealth.  Beyond just the parallel driven home by the cover, Layman underlines the point by having Alfred astutely note that Bruce's dislike of Caldwell has something to do with the fact that he feels the role of Gotham's benefactor-in-chief has already been filled (by him, obviously).  Truth be told, if Caldwell is Wrath (and Layman's too good of a writer to establish that definitively at this point), I'm surprised that we haven't really seen a Bat-villain like him.  It seems so obvious, a version of Bruce through the glass, darkly, but I'm hard pressed to think of one.  Hopefully, Wrath will last beyond this arc and, if he does, Layman's contribution of Emperor Penguin and Wrath to Bruce's rogues' gallery establishes him, to my mind, as one of the best Batman authors of the recent era.  (Moreover, ignoring Daniel's run on this series, it also really cements "Detective Comics" as the place where interesting stories get told, coming on the heels of Snyder's amazing run on this series when Dick wore the cowl.)

Turning to the back-up installment, The Man-Bat, or, shall we say, Woman-Bat story is just as clever and I honestly didn't see the surprise end coming.  I still struggle a little to remember the new history of Man-Bat, with Kurt being somewhat (though apparently not entirely) dependent on using the serum to change into Man-Bat.  But, Layman does a good job of reminding us where we stand and, in fact, uses this confusion to keep attention off Francine.  So, when it's revealed that she's been using a serum derived from a vampiric bat, it's particularly impactful.  These back-up stories are rarely ever as good as the main story, but this Man-Bat one is really top-notch.

All in all, this series is one of my top three for DC, if not my favorite.  Great, great stuff.

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