Detective Comics #17
The Pursuit of Happiness
As you probably know if you have been following my blog, I've been sick the last couple of days, so sadly, I'm coming to the game late to review this month's 'Tec. Due to the fact that I'm backlogged and a bit fuzzy in the head, this review might not be as detailed as some others. I'll just write what comes to mind, and we'll see what shakes loose from my semi-poisoned mind.
John Layman has delivered some excellent stories for his four issues of Detective thus far. I was a little disappointed in the Death of the Family issues because they broke the narrative flow of the Emperor Penguin story, but it is pretty clear this was an editorial mandate, so I can hardly fault Layman for it. Even so, last issue introduced the Joker worshiping League of Smiles which was plenty entertaining in its own right and scores major points for breaking from the traditional Death of the Family mold. The last panel of the main story left us with a mysterious new character (with a wicked cool design to boot) Merrymaker. Does Merrymaker add a little joy to this Batman fan's life, or does his title boast a greater feat than this new villain can deliver?
In this issue, Bruce tries to stop the Merrymaker before he builds a bigger body count.
John Layman Strikes Again!
I have to say, I'm a sucker for Layman's portrayal of the Dark Knight. He really shares my vision of the character which is manifested in all sorts of little ways. Bruce is direct and uncompromising in his conversation with Bullock in this issue, yet he doesn't go out of his way to be dick. Bruce's actions feel very carefully planned out as he strikes carefully and lures people into a certain position before fighting, yet he is not perfect in combat or his detective skills managing to take a few blows and overlook some clues at first glance. Batman is brutal, yet his inner monologue reveals some wry pleasure in his work. I love Bruce's thoughts as a criminal gets beaten by his fellow thugs. “Had I not intervened, I have no doubt that he would have been beaten to death in fifteen seconds. I allow them to beat him for ten.” Great stuff.
Also, the Death of the Family fatigue plays a role in my appreciation of this story. Everybody who has been following that Bat books is a bit sick of the Joker story which only seems to go anywhere in Snyder's title. Major props to Layman for finding a way to include the story and sidestep it at the same time. Honestly, its just nice to see Bruce win a battle and close a case for once.
Emperor Penguin was not completely forgotten in this issue. In fact, I much preferred how Ogilvy was handled in this issue compared to the last. The transition between League of Smiles and Emperor Penguin stories seemed really awkward to me last issue, but they blended nicely this time. Batman's discovery of Emperor Penguin's fake Joker murders were sewn seamlessly into the main story, and then his tale was ignored until after the League was put to rest. Very nice.
The Only Plot Twist Obvious Enough To Be Seen from Space
As much as I enjoyed the issue, I can't let the extremely obvious plot twist go by without a mention. If you do not have a good idea about the identity of the Merrymaker early on in this issue, you are dense.
(Spoiler) The last panel of the main story in the last issue left us with the mysterious villain, the Merrymaker. The first page of the main story in this issue starts with a psychotic character named Bryon Merideth. Could these two characters be related? Merrymaker? Merideth? Any relation? Yeah, I'm gonna bet there is. It was a little painful to see Bats overlook the obvious as Meredith was clearly the hub off which all the other League members stemmed.
Of course, Layman does try to throw readers off the scent by saying that Meredith had been killed by the League of Smiles, but in the comic medium, we all know death is a very tenuous thing. To be fair, I didn't put together how Merrymaker pulled off the switch with the body until the story explained it which was pretty stupid on my part considering one of the League members was a dentist, but beyond that, it was a twist that was easy to see.
The backup feature this week was Doctor's Orders which was quite a nice addition. This expands on Merrymaker's back story and personality, and I found it interesting just to hear a sane person analyze the criminal world. This whole feature is very tongue in cheek, and I found myself laughing a couple times throughout. The story's final caption reads, “The End?” Personally, I don't care if we ever see any of these characters again, but it was fun for a brief story, and it only makes sense that Gotham's psychiatric community would be so corrupt.
Yes, you can see the twist coming from a long ways off, but there were many more positives than negatives in this issue. Pick it up and enjoy.