Saturday, September 21, 2013

Detective Comics Annual #2 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Not often, but, sometimes, I know what I'm going to say about a certain issue before I've finished it.  With this issue, I was all set to complain that Layman and Eaton made it too easy to know that Jane Doe was Dr. Wilburn.  After all, the body that Batman was investigating when we met Dr. Wilburn looked remarkably like her and, once you noticed that similarity, it was easy to realize that Wilburn was the plant in the GCPD.  I mean, it wasn't too obvious, but, to a seasoned comic-book reader like myself, it was pretty clear.  I wasn't exactly going to take Layman to task for it, but I was going to note my disappointment.

Of course, I was totally and completely wrong.

Layman got me, because I didn't see the revelation that Jane was actually impersonating Harvey coming.  It was the perfect bait-and-switch and I should've trusted Layman enough to know that he wouldn't make it as obvious as I though that he had.  When the Batarang sails into Harvey's face, it took me a minute to realize just how wrong I was.

But, this issue isn't great simply because of the clever twist at the end.  It's also a much better example of integrating the Annual into the larger story that the author is telling.  Whereas Snyder gave us one page of "Zero Year" in the "Batman" Annual, this issue is all about Wrath or, more to the point, about the psychological damage that he's inflicting on the GCPD.  Once again, Layman incorporates into his story the emotional impact of events transpiring in other Bat-family stories, such as Joker's attack on GCPD HQ in "Death of the Family," Batman's fight with Clayface in "Batman, or James, Jr.'s death in "Batgirl."  Whereas Snyder never acknowledges a world outside "Batman," Layman's use of events in other series continues to make this series feel like a must-read, the only place where you get a full sense of Batman's world.

Moreover, by focusing on the traumatized GCPD, after Joker's previous attack and Wrath's ongoing attacks, Layman also lets you feel like you're really getting a sense of Gotham.  The supporting characters aren't just emotionless cardboard cut-outs, but real people pushed to the brink, as Officer Brookings is here.  Annuals are supposed to give writers the space to give us these sorts of insights and Layman uses that ability to great effect here.  It's clear that Harvey isn't shaking off the events of this issue any time soon and it makes you wonder where it's going.

Plus, Jane Doe continues to be creepy as Hell.  I know her only through her appearance in "Batman:  Streets of Gotham," but I remember thinking that she was creepy then and I think she's still creepy now.  In the hands of Layman, God only knows how creepy she can become.

All in all, it's a great issue.  It's not vital in terms of the Wrath story, so, if you don't want to spend $4.99, you can definitely skip it.  But, it's definitely more enjoyable of a read than its "Batman" counterpart.

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