Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Detective Comics #48 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Tomasi's gift has always been his great sense of characterization and his uncanny ability to convey that characterization through dialogue.  He's perfectly matched on this issue with Pasarin, Ryan, and Sotomayor; they do an excellent job getting across specific moods that highlight why the characters do what they do.  In other words, it's a solid team effort from start to finish.

The story is fairly simple.  We begin with Jim standing on a rooftop and (somewhat creepily, to be honest) watching Gothamites going about their lives in their apartments.  It's a good reminder that the Joker isn't murdering everyone in Gotham at all times.  Jim watches a father tuck in his daughter, and he calls Babs.  She's taking down some purse-snatchers as Batgirl, and then he follows the sound of a gunshot as Batman, and it results in a legitimately funny conversation where she pretends to be at the movies and he pretends to be grabbing some pizza.  It's a nice way to start the issue.  Unfortunately for Jim, it doesn't stay nice.

At the source of the gunshot, he stumbles upon the body of what appears to be a Revolutionary War re-enactor, and it's here where the artists really shine.  One of the hardest things to convey in comics is sound. To do so, the artists use words straight from the 1960s Batman TV show extremely effectively here:  we hear the gunshot that hits Jim in the back of the head as he's examining the body, we hear him crash into a bunch of garbage cans, we hear him panting as he calls the Bat-blimp for support.  All the while, we also get the sense of claustrophobia that comes with the fact that it all happens in an alley in the pouring rain.  It just really pulls you into the story, one of those moments where you feel like you're there.

Later, Jim meets Harvey in the morgue, and we learn that the victim was a decorated fireman.  Jim catches the fact that his thigh bone has been surgically removed, but, other than that, they've got no leads.  (Harvey comments that the medical examiner would've missed that, so they should probably think about getting a new one.)  Meanwhile, the perpetrator returns to his base of operations in an abandoned cemetery.  He strips off the Revolutionary War outfit that he'd been wearing, and he hangs the mask on a peg next to dozens of other masks.  He then approaches a guy that he has chained to a chair and proceeds to shave off his beard while muttering what sounds like quotes from the Federalist Papers.  Later, we discover his next victim (presumably the bearded man) dressed as an astronaut attached to the spire on top of Wayne Tower.

Tomasi and the artists make you feel like he's an extreme version of Calendar Man, except one obsessed with American iconography not dates.  A crazed history teacher?  I guess we'll see.  In the meantime, it's the type of story that I love seeing in "Detective Comics," a mystery that passes for typical in Gotham.  With the excellent characterization and palpable mood, the creators really catch your attention from the first page and never let it go.  It's a good reminder that you don't need the "Darkseid War" or "Secret Wars" to tell a good superhero story.  

*** (three of five stars)

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