Reviewer’s End: Detective Comics

I’ll be reviewing every issue of DC’s ‘Futures End’ month, in which every book of the line skips ahead five years to tell a story set in the future of their current narrative. Will the books be good? Doesn’t this sort of wreck the tension of all the current storylines? Why does everybody still have the same costume? All will be found out in what I’m calling ‘Reviewer’s End’.

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Next up: Batman teams up with The Riddler in Detective Comics which is written and coloured by Brian Buccellato; artists Scott Hepburn, Cliff Richards and Fabrizio Fiorentino; also coloured by Lee Loughbridge, and lettered by Dezi Sienti.

Yeah, that’s a lot of artists, isn’t it? There was talk that this event month was sprung on the creative teams rather suddenly, and that rumour is supported by the fact that many of these issues have so many fill in artists. Fiorentino only does one page of this issue!

The story here uses a Riddler who now has ‘Zero Year’ to his credit alongside the version of Calendar Man that’s been created in recent issues of Detective Comics – taking one of the best new villain reinventions and squaring him against what’s clearly been one of the worst. Previously most famous as a quiet, considered, Hannibal-Lecter style horror, the New 52 version of Calendar Man is just a common thug who gets obsessed with holidays after he forgets his son’s birthday. This issue centres around a master plot he’s hatched whilst an inmate at Arkham Asylum – one which never feels like a threat he can actually go through with. The character doesn’t seem smart enough.

To stop him, regardless, Batman teams up with Riddler – who continues to be a delight here, written with glee by Buccellato. The partnership proves to be the most entertaining part of the issue, as the pair make their way through Arkham’s (sadly lacklustre) traps and infiltrate the complex. Both are clearly lying to one another, and both clearly have agendas of their own, and that gives their sniping an frisson of excitement.

Once they get to the island, things get rather less interesting – with Buccellato also jumping off as colourist, having handled the rest of the issue so far. This has been a recurring state of affairs since he started taking on writer/colourist duties within the New 52, and it’s annoying. He’s a fantastic colourist, with a wonderful warmth in his colours which brings life to Batman and The Riddler in the early going. That he then vanishes suddenly halfway through removes that unique style, and whilst Loughridge is an expert colourist himself – the pair have such different colouring styles.

This happened a lot during The Flash, as well, with Buccellato doing issues at a time before vanishing and offering only one of two pages for some issues. When there can’t be an artistic consistency, a publisher should be looking to their colourists to keep things flowing – for whatever reason, this hasn’t been the case with Buccellato.

The finale of this issue is really strange, but it essentially involves Batman doing something you wouldn’t expect from him. At the end of the issue, he survives but hasn’t won a particularly moral victory. It rings a little hollow to his character, and pushes him aside in order to offer a karmic close to the story of the two villains. It’s a perfectly diverting issue, but only because the Scott Snyder/Ray Fawkes stories featuring The Riddler give such a strong platform to build new stories on. When Buccellato sticks to their script, this is a great issue. Otherwise – bumpy stuff.

[Spoilers after the jump]

So the issue ends with Batman turning over The Riddler to Calendar Man, who all along just wanted revenge on the man who caused ‘Zero Year’. It’s a neat trap to have Riddler catch HIMSELF like this, and I really do like that concept. It wraps up his personality nicely, and closes his story. On the other hand – Batman just turned over Riddler to die, and that’s not exactly what I would’ve expected from him. Does that sound like a Batman thing to do?

(In hindsight, the fight scene prior to Riddler being turned over also becomes hugely irrelevant, although it is in-character for Batman to do some punching just for the sake of it)

Batman’s morality in the main book has been resolute – but the spin-off and satellite books seem to have no idea of where the character stands. Is he absolutely anti-murder, or only anti-gun? Is he happy for villains to kill each other, or does he want to reform people? The lack of definition is starting to show, as Batman becomes more and more prolific at DC.

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