(w) Peter J. Tomasi (a) Travis Moore, Max Raynor (c) Tamra Bonvillain, Nick Filardi
Throughout the Dark Knight’s long, peacekeeping career he has kept a book containing what he deems unusual and unexplainable cases, dubbed The Black Casebook. Originally introduced in Detective Comics #148 then re-introduced in Grant Morrison’s run, it was never really more than a footnote in the Batman mythos throughout the years. That is, until this week’s Detective Comics Annual #2.
This issue marks the return of The Reaper, an old Gotham villain who is making Crete his new turf, thus prompting Batman to consult The Black Casebook. Under the guise of Bruce Wayne the caped crusader and his butler Alfred make their way to the Greece island to set a trap as a means to confront The Reaper, an enemy who Batman thought was once dead. To this statement Alfred remarks that they have both seen resurrections before. Throughout this Annual Peter J. Tomasi keeps proving that he understands the long seeded relationship between the two with a family esque bickering that is fun while showing their love and respect for each other, but falls flat on the story and ‘detective’ aspects. This makes the story feel as if it doesn’t add much to the Bat-mythos, other than a means to set up a villain corporation for the future. Throughout the issue Tomasi shows great awareness of Batman’s past exploits by sprinkling in long seeded history tidbits and giving the reader a quick nod to other classic Bat stories when he is looking for the casebook, and through dialogue. The character moments feel amazing with the self-references of Bat-history adding a sense of canon to the issue, but when it comes down to the story it feels more like a luck and chance mystery with The Reaper adds nothing, other than being a villain not seen in years.
The problem with The Reaper in Detective Comics Annual #2 was the feeling that nothing shouted The Reaper was the villain throughout other then showing us from the get go. With the story barely revolving around the character while making him feel like more of a add-on just to show the history of the villain in the casebook. It could’ve been any other villain for Batman to chase and the story would have played out the same. In the beginning Batman quickly takes down The Eraser, who feels like he could have been the main villain instead, plus I honestly can’t remember him being used in any comic I’ve ever read, so that would’ve been a cool twist. By the end of Detective Comics Annual #2 the story feels flat on the main plot boiling down to what seems like Tomasi wanting a quick and easy way to introduce a classic villain in a new way for later use. With that last part hinted greatly as the villain speaks of a group he as created named, The Reapers.
The art provided by Travis Moore and Max Raynor doesn’t add much to the story, or bring a liveliness to it. Each fight scene feels stiff and more akin to a pin-up then an action scene that has flow or motion. Even though the fighting may be bland the duo on art make great use of panels, with a good sense of flow in between, while some art interjects into other panels that add a little uniqueness. Batman comics don’t need to rely on fight scenes looking spectacular, but when there are heavy action parts that seem to have no movement to them it tends to bore. The fighting may be bland but Moore and Raynor are great with showing emotions in each characters face. When we see medium close, or close-ups the detail in the faces do well with showing exactly how each person feels. The great colors done by Tamra Bonvillain (amazing last name btw) and Nick Fillardi help showcase these emotions in each panel. The shadows on the characters and objects never feel like too much, always hitting hard when they need or soft when needed. When we get to the more action oriented panels towards the end the colors really kick it up a notch with beautiful red flames that seem to dance themselves to life. Lastly with the re-introduction of a classic villain we receive a modern costume. As the suit resembles the classic it changes a few small detail designs that updates it for the times which looks great.
When they first announced this Annual they made it seem as if The Black Casebook would play bigger in the plot then it really did. As stated earlier it only showed up for a few pages as a reference, then was never mentioned again. It would’ve been nice to have this issue act as if it was a story inside of the casebook instead of using it as reference. Or have the plot be more unique towards the villain, but instead we have a story that feels like any other character could be the villain. I did absolutely love the small moment between Batman and Gordon, where we learn that Batman gave him a box of lollipops to get him off of smoking. It’s always a blast seeing Bats interact with his friends or family and I feel that’s where Tomasi excels greatly.
Memorable Quote:“Here’s one thousand dollars to sign none of them.” -Bruce Wayne. It’s always fun to see Bruce playing up the cocky playboy attitude up!