It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the arduous wait for the next issue in a monthly story-arc. I have been following Snyder and Capullo’s Batman: Zero Year arc, but as Dale pointed out in his last post, that story was hardly one to have you counting down the days until the next issue.
Manapul and Buccellato had me doing exactly that with this 5 issue run. I like my Batman stories like my OJ and eggs: pulpy and hard-boiled. The Icarus story-arc delivered, and it was exactly what I needed to pull me back into a series I haven’t followed since well before the New 52. In fact, the story was so damn good I had to re-read all 5 issues immediately after finishing the conclusion. The story treads very little new ground (though I thoroughly enjoyed getting a new look at Detective Harvey Bullock; for once he was more than just a caricature), but it’s perfectly executed. The art is gritty, vibrant, and memorable. Better yet, the mystery kept me guessing until the final issue. Manapul and Buccellato crafted a detective story that fulfills all the requirements of a thrilling super-hero action comic: Giant squids? Check. Knock-down-drag-out sumo fights? Check. Radioactive-human-explosions? Check.
True to the Detective Comics title, the best part of this story isn’t the detective work, but the detectives themselves. The mystery of Elena Aguila’s murder and Gotham’s most dangerous designer drug feel almost secondary to the friction between Bats and Harvey as they race to solve the mystery. If that sounds very backwards and a little grim, it is. Manapul and Buccellato use their inaugural run on this title to reminds us of the contradictions which make Batman my favorite super-hero: he stands for justice only because he is willing to break the law. As the story unfolds, they reveal the same impulse in Bullock’s own police-work. The cop and The Detective clash not because they’re different, but because they’re so similiar. The line in the sand is little more than a badge, which is exactly why they can put aside their disgust for one another to catch a murderer. Thankfully, Manapul and Buccellato’s colorful portrayal of both characters keeps their new angle on this familiar theme from feeling stale. A two-page spread of Bullock at home in his apartment melted my heart, as did a scene of Bruce repairing Damien’s old motorcycle. It’s details like these that kept Icarus from being just another dark, gritty, DKR-riff. Also compelling were the story’s numerous references to other events in The New 52 Gotham. Without distracting from the plot, Icarus connects to Zero Year (particularly fun for me as I was reading the stories simultaneously) and Batman Eternal. This is how you get people hooked on comics. I’m not ashamed to say that it’s working.
My only gripe with Icarus: who is he, and why doesn’t he loom larger in the plot? The answer lies somewhere in the bittersweet denouement. Despite Batman’s best efforts, true justice slips through his fingers. Batman can’t be everywhere, and as Alfred regretfully reminds him in the final installment, “That’s the job…picking up the pieces.”
Enjoy this story with a Negroni. This drink started as a relative unknown to us here at CnC, but over the past few months it’s captured our hearts. It’s a classic cocktail, and one of the simplest and most versatile. It’s elegant, well-balanced, colorful, and just bitter enough to make you take notice. All you need is equal parts gin (so far my favorite is Norseman), Campari, and sweet vermouth. Garnish with an orange twist. Lemon twists are acceptable too.
It’s amazing how many different characters you can get from this drink by simply trying different gin and vermouth combinations. The Negroni is a drink that’s just as challenging, rich, and complex as any good Batman story.
If you like easter eggs, pick-up Detective Comics Annual #3 to round-out this arc. Besides being a fun one-shot, it’s a great tie-in to the Icarus storyline.