Detective Comics #43
Story: Brian Buccellato
Art: Fernando Blanco
I'm going to miss Brian Buccellato's run on Detective Comics when it wraps next month. It's been a nice mix of crime and super heroics, definitely the best use of crime comics plot points in a DC Comic since the reboot. This issue opens right on the heels of last issue, with Bullock and the Batman support team of GCPD officers rushing to help Batman, whose armor has been incapacitated by the assassins called La Morte. We've been seeing in Batman as well as here that Jim Gordon doesn't need the armor to be Batman, but the splash page of this issue, of a beaten but unbowed Gordon standing over two of the three La Morte hitmen is a great moment for him. But it also points out that Gordon isn't Bruce Wayne: three talented assassins is what Bruce would have called a warm up, and one of these guys got away, along with the power core to the Bat armor. The remainder of the issue follows three separate plot threads. One is Gordon, who feels like he's failed letting La Morte steal the core. Buccellato strikes a good balance between keeping Gordon from seeming self-pitying, but also making it clear how serious he takes this and how this failure has effected him. The remaining member of La Morte, meanwhile, goes and presents the power core to the person who hired him to steal it: The Joker's Daughter. Frankly, this is the first time I had any misgivings about this story. I haven't been a fan of this new Joker's Daughter since her introduction; she struck me as one of those instances where a character was introduced with some head and suddenly she was everywhere without enough time being spent on her personality. But her with a cult of Joker smiling underdwellers, and the final page revealing what she needs the power core? I'm willing to suspend my suspicion of the character because that's some very cool stuff. We also see La Morte has a second contract in Gotham, one with Stafano Falcone, but the who on that one remains to be seen next issue, and I'd place money it ties into the third plot of the issue. Bullock finds out pretty early in the issue that his partner (and lover) Nancy Yip is dirty, and Bullock tries to figure out what she's into. Buccellato writes the best Bullock since his heyday in the Moench/Grant/Dixon '90s run, and I like him as this gruff but good cop. It's sad to see him confront Yip, to deal with Montoya and Internal Affairs, and then to talk about what needs to be done with Batman. We come back around to the scene that was in the preview for this run that came out after Convergence, and I know there's more to it, since we know no one involved is a cold blooded killer. Next issue is going to have to wrap up a lot, including an assassination at a circus, the fate of Yip, and a giant Joker robot. That's a tall order, but I think Bucellato and Blanco can pull it off.
Story: Joshua Williamson
Art: Mike Henderson & Adam Guzowski
Wow. That's how you end an arc, my friends. With last issue ending with our core cast of protagonists facing down the seemingly unstoppable Bucakroo Butcher, and the Butcher having stabbed Alice viciously, I though we'd get a chase story through the tunnels. And we do, but there's so much more in the issue. The final flashback to a young Sheriff Crane sets up this issue's big reveal, and I'll get to that later, but I have to stress how much these flashbacks in this arc have helped not only flesh out Crane's character, but have actually built some real sympathy for our titular serial killer, Edward Charles Warren. That is only enhanced when Warren lures the Butcher away and gives Crane and Agent Finch the directions out of the tunnels to save Alice. He also gives Finch and Crane additional clues to the mystery of Buckaroo, but that will have to be dealt with when the series returns, as Warren is overtaken by the Butcher and his (her?) master, who I've taken to calling The Doctor, and the threat against his loved ones that the Doctor levels at the defeated Warren is made all the more horrifying by one of the big reveals at the end of the issue (SPOILER WARNING): Alice is Warren and Crane's daughter. Since we're entering a skip month before the next arc begins in October I might have to go back and reread the series to date, because that's a major blow. I don't remember Alice mentioning she's adopted, but there's no reason she should have, and I don't feel this was a cheat in the least. As a matter of fact, with a distinct possibility of there being something genetic in what creates Buckaroo's serial killers, it makes Alice's own fears she's turning into one all the more chilling. I love Mike Henderson's design for The Butcher, and I can't stress enough how much his art helps make this book; the atmosphere in the tunnels, all the work he's done to make the characters distinct and emotive. You'd think this would be enough for one issue, but we also get further evidence of what the Doctor's ministrations did to FBI Agent Baker, and last two page spread that is a shocking twist that left me wanting to grab the next issue right there and then. I can now safely say that Nailbiter is my favorite horror comic on the market, and if you are even the least bit a fan of good horror fiction, do yourself a favor and get caught up before the next arc starts.
And Dan Grote visits World War II with a drugged out writer/artist team and Airboy...
Story by James Robinson
Art by Greg Hinkle
When last we left this book, James and Greg, its creators and stars, had introduced Golden Age public-domain hero Airboy to their world, complete with alcohol, drugs and some light transphobia. Getting fed up with that quickly, Airboy – through means yet to be explained or explicitly illustrated – transports James and Greg to his world, where it’s still World War II, London has been bombed by the Nazis and steampunk battlesuits prowl the streets.
“Like something Mignola would draw,” James comments, referring to the creator of Hellboy.
How do the two creative types adjust to being thrust into the middle of a warzone? Well, after a plane buzzes them on a rooftop, James gets a massive erection, and Greg poops himself.
In need of a place to hide and clean Greg’s soiled trousers, Airboy takes them to his secret hangar and introduces them to his running crew. There’s Skywolf, who wears a wolf’s head atop his own; the Flying Dutchman, who is not Belgian; Iron Ace, who flies in full knight’s armor; Black Angel, who dresses in leather; and, finally, Valkyrie, Airboy’s lover, whom Greg almost immediately shags, condemning himself and James to greater self-induced punishment ahead (and giving readers another peak at his self-drawn endowment).
Hinkle’s layouts really shine in this issue, now that he gets to draw fighter planes and bombed-out landscapes. There’s a great splash page of the three leads climbing up the wreckage of a building, in which the reader is forced to follow the word balloons from the bottom left up, retraining the reader’s eyes and exploring metacommentary about the Assassin’s Creed games in the process. The color work is also phenomenal, as James and Greg remain painted in the muted blues of their world against the brighter – but still simple – pallet of Airboy’s.
What is actually happening – be it a dream sequence or drug-induced hallucination on the part of James, Greg or even Airboy – has yet to be delineated. That said, the morgue in Airboy’s hangar includes one particular body that deepens the mystery, though I’m not entirely convinced it’s a mystery the creators plan to – or even need to – explain.