Review: Detective Comics #32 – Icarus
On the title page of Detective Comics #32 Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato are credited simply as storytellers; such is the level of creative confluence shared by the duo. It is a credit to both of them as I have not eagerly anticipated a Batman title like I do Detective Comics for a long time.
How this story manages to be so strong is because of its inherent simplicity on the surface. In Icarus Part One, Elena Aguila made a proposal to Bruce Wayne to build new medical facilities in Gotham before turning up on his doorstep and died literally burning up in flames. The cause of her death was the drug Icarus; the message seemingly being to Wayne to not mess with the streets or interrupt its drug flow. A nice wrinkle is added in the second chapter when Harvey Bullock meaning well, accuses Bruce himself of being responsible for Elena’s death. The narrative on the surface is a simple detective case for the dark knight; track down the dealers and follow the trails until he finds the source, but it’s one layered with multiple nuances.
Last issue Batman tracked down a crew and found a shipping container full of children and a confrontation with Sumo. Sumo gave Bruce the name Squid for him to track down, and at the issues end we saw a glimpse of what – or I should say, who – the source of Icarus might be. The book summarises all of this very neatly on the first page of Detective Comics #32 so if you’ve not got in to Detective Comics yet, #32 can act as a fairly clean jumping on point.
Icarus Part Three has detective Bullock working one step behind Batman and continuing to build evidence towards Bruce Wayne being guilty of Elena’s murder. The focus given to Harvey Bullock in this story is a refreshing change of pace; his contribution to the narrative so far ranging from belligerent to sympathetic, most of the time both. In Detective Comics #32 this is given more attention and a short scene where Bullock checks his voice messages in his apartment gives him more character development in the six panels across two pages than a lot of interpretations of him had in their entirety. This depth of characterisation runs throughout the entire book and is I think a product of how Manapul and Buccellato work so closely together in crafting their stories.
Left to grieve in the wake of her mother’s passing is the character Annie Aguila. We see her contemplate how unnecessary her mother’s death asking, “Who would want to save this stupid place?” to which Batman replies, “Me.” He steps in and out of the conversation, appearing and disappearing again just as quickly. It’s so simple and yet so beautifully encapsulates everything that I think of when I think of Batman.
Manapul’s pastel wash of colours paint everything they fall over with a glow seldom seen in Gotham City, while everything is covered with spatters of dirt giving the world a lived in presence. Manapul makes water shimmer and the sky glow in radiant shades of orange and red. Batman pops from the page as he looms over the action, with dynamic shading used to define people and buildings alike. The page layouts are varied throughout and used creatively to compliment the action on any given page.
If I’m forced to give a critique to this instalment of Icarus I could say it doesn’t advance the plot so much as it sets up a decent cliff-hanger that promises to advance things next time around in Icarus Part Four. Also, the ending story beat of Icarus Part Two isn’t returned to at all here in part three, leaving me wondering where that mystery will fit in to the story as a whole.
Those are but minor complaints and overall Detective Comics #32 is the second issue in a row where Manapul and Buccellato have completely delivered in all areas. Together they are weaving a compelling story here that may just have the potential to join the pantheon of Batman classics when Icarus sees its eventual trade release. It’s a must buy – and that’s before Batman gets into a one on one fight with a Giant Squid.