Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Batman - Detective Comics, Volume 5: Gothtopia Review (John Layman, Jason Fabok)

Batman awakens to a utopian Gotham - a “Gothtopia” (which sounds like a club for Cure fans) - where crime is all but wiped out and he has a happy existence with his partner in crime and in life, Catbird, aka Selina Kyle. But can this really be the White Knight’s real life - or is it a mirage? 

Like a lot of the latter New 52 books, Detective Comics Volume 5 is a grab bag of issues. The opening chapter is a Zero Year tie-in where a younger Gordon deals with crooked cops and the emerging Black Mask gang while encountering Batman for the first time. Then we’re into a Manbat one-shot before beginning the three-part Gothtopia storyline. The book closes out with the bumper-sized New 52 Detective Comics #27, celebrating Batman’s 75th anniversary with this rehashed iconic numbering.

Unfortunately there’s not a whole lot here that’s worth reading. The Gordon issue was enjoyable in part and I liked Jason Fabok’s art on this and the Gothtopia opening chapter. There’s a couple of nice moments in the anniversary issue too, like the Peter J. Tomasi/Ian Bertram story where a 75 year old Bruce Wayne goes out one last time as Batman, and the Mike Barr/Guillem March has a Christmas Carol flavour to it as Phantom Stranger shows Bruce what his life - and the other lives he touched - would have been like if he hadn’t become Batman. It’s also sweetly dedicated to Batman’s creator, Bill Finger, who sadly almost never gets a mention because of Bob Kane’s shady legal hustling way back when. 

Add it up though and that’s not a whole lot of positives. The Manbat issue was like every other Manbat story, involving Kirk’s wife and the serum, etc. The Gothtopia storyline feels played out as well - Batman’s hallucinating, who could it be? An experienced reader would go down the list, starting with Scarecrow, and who’da thunk it - it is! So even that’s your generic “Scarecrow experimenting with his toxins” storyline. 

The anniversary issue is the real let down though. It should’ve been so much more considering the stature of the character we’re celebrating, and DC did go all out with the creators contributing: Bryan Hitch, Brad Meltzer, Gregg Hurwitz, Neal Adams, Francesco Francavilla, Sean Murphy and Scott Snyder all throw in some pages, alongside those I mentioned earlier. And yet the stories are so very meh. Even the Hitch/Meltzer retelling of the first Batman story from the original 1939 Detective Comics #27 felt lacklustre - I actually prefer the original, as corny as it is! 

As much as I like John Layman for his work on the awesome Chew, his run on Detective was only so-so - though it was better than Tony Daniel’s inauspicious start with the first two volumes! Gothtopia is a very weak Batman book and Layman leaves the title with a whimper rather than a bang. Hopefully The Flash creative team of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, who’ve taken up the reins for Detective Comics, will do greater things with the next volume.

Batman - Detective Comics, Volume 5: Gothtopia

1 comment:

  1. I'm surprised that Gothtopia isn't its own collection that includes this, Batgirl and other titles that crossed over.

    Fifth volumes at DC seem to be a bit of a mess lately, don't they? I always prefer volume-wide story arcs (with the exception of Moon Knight), and I haven't heard of many fifth volumes that are doing that lately (Nightwing, for example, which had three issues devoted to a single story arc).