JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #652 (Marvel, 2013) – A-. Reading this issue makes me feel even sorrier that this series was cancelled so soon. Kathryn Immonen writes possibly the best version of Sif ever; I feel heretical for saying this, but I almost like her Sif better than Simonson’s. Even when written by Simonson, Sif just never seemed to have enough depth to serve as the main character in the story, but Immonen finds ways of making her exciting. This issue also includes a cute scene with Jane Foster, another character who, prior to Thor the Mighty Avenger, was not interesting at all, and when Beta Ray Bill appears near the end of the story, Immonen captures his speech pattern perfectly. I like Valerio Schiti’s artwork a lot, particularly his use of color.
CHEW #39 (Image, 2014) – A-. One thing I haven’t consciously noticed about this series is that it has an impressive ensemble cast, especially where female characters are concerned. Tony Chu is actually a far less admirable or proactive character than the women he’s associated with, and that’s kind of the point. For example, Tony spends this entire issue sitting on the couch in a depressive coma, while Amelia and Olive risk their lives to obtain the ingredients for a recipe that will revive him – by allowing him to get back in touch with the ghost of another major female character, Toni. Consider also that Tony is often portrayed as a bumbling klutz and a terrible father, while if any characters in this seires are consistently shown in a positive light, it’s Amelia and Olive. I’m not sure this series can truly be called feminist, but I’m also not sure it can’t.
FF #15 and #16 (Marvel, 2014) – A-. Both these issues are utterly adorable and hilarious. Matt Fraction’s departure hurt this series less than I expected, because while Lee Allred is not nearly as experienced or polished of a writer, his sensibility is a good match for his brother’s. The trouble is that the whole point of this story and of the entire run is to show Scott avenging himself on Doom in a painful and humiliating fashion, and I’m sick of that sort of thing. At this point there have been so many Doom-as-villain stories that it’s hard to come up with an original idea for such a story, and I don’t think that the Allreds succeeded in creating a genuinely new take on Doom. Worse, they reverse some of the genuinely original stuff that earlier writers did with the character. For example, they suggest that Doom’s heroism, as displayed in Jonathan Hickman’s run, is a sham.
Overall, though, I think this run was a success. Fraction and Allred had the impossible task of replacing one of the best FF writers ever. They accomplished it effectively, by presenting a version of the series which was both deeply indebted to, Hickman’s version and very different from it. Unfortunately I don’t think there’s any way that James Robinson can continue the tradition of quality that this series has established. One of the greatest periods in the history of this title is over, but it was fun while it lasted.
SUPER DINOSAUR #20 (Image, 2013) – B+/A-. This actually came out in August but I accidentally bought a duplicate copy of issue 19 instead, and I didn’t see another copy of #20 until last Wednesday. It turns out that this is the first issue of Super Dinosaur I’ve reviewed since I started this project, which speaks to a serious problem with this series: It comes out so rarely that by the time a new issue appears, I’ve forgotten what happened in the last issue. I know the overarching plot line is that Derek is trying to cure his comatose mother, but I forget what’s going on with all the aliens and the dino-men and stuff. However, this issue also reminds me of what’s awesome about this series. Super Dinosaur is the kid-friendly superhero comic that Invincible was originally supposed to be. It features Kirkman’s typically brilliant plotting and dialogue, but without his usual blood and gore. And Kirkman does a good job of conveying the sheer awesomeness of the series’s premise – when Derek says something is cool, as he often does, the reader tends to agree. Also, this series is hilarious when it tries to be, as with the scene in this issue where Derek and SD try to sneak into a party. Despite the lateness, this is a fantastic all-ages comic, and I imagine it would read even better in collected form.
ASTRO CITY #8 (DC, 2014) – A+. Based on its first two installments, this current story is the best multi-part Astro City story since Confession. This issue is slightly weaker than the first, if only because Winged Victory’s predicament is so dire that it’s hard to see how she can possibly escape it. This story is becoming a brutal demonstration of the ubiquity of antifeminism and the pervasive suspicion of strong women in American culture. Because this is a superhero comic, though, and one which is typically more optimistic than not, I feel like this story needs to demonstrate the possibility of effectively combatting antifeminism. I think that’s where this story is eventually going to go, because this issue ends with Winged Victory discovering who’s been plotting against her and preparing to fight back. And I am very much rooting for her; I am getting quite emotionally invested in this story, especially compared to The Dark Age. The other sort-of protagonist in this issue, though, is Joey, and this issue reveals what his problem is, but it doesn’t answer the question of whether Vic is willing to compromise her principles by helping him. I have to say that the Confessor’s appearance in this story seems gratuitous; it’s kind of cool to see Astro City’s versions of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman working together, but I think the essential themes of this story would have been clear enough without Ben.
MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC 15 (IDW, 2014) – A-. I’m starting to like Nuhfer and Mebberson better. I was fascinated by the premise of this issue, in which the Mane Six have to enter the fictional worlds of Twilight Sparkle’s books in order to heal damage caused by a bookworm monster. And the execution of this premise does not disappoint. The fascinating thing, from my perspective, is that the damage to the stories is represented as rips in the panel borders, which gradually vanish as the ponies “heal” the stories. That’s some fascinating metalepsis. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t understand Spike’s reference to the episode “Power Ponies” because I haven’t seen that episode yet; I need to do so at once. One of the things I love about Cook and Price’s MLP comics is that they include so much stuff in the background of each panel, and Nuhfer and Mebberson are starting to do this too; I especially like the panel where Rarity lets herself out of the tower by her hair.
FANTASTIC FOUR #9 (Marvel, 2013) – B-. I got bored with this series and quit reading it, but continued buying it anyway due to a misplaced sense of obligation or something. My principal issue with Fraction’s Fantastic Four (as opposed to FF) is lack of originality; it didn’t use the new characters Hickman created, because those characters were all in FF, and it often just seemed to be rehashing old material. For example, in this issue Reed and Ben go back to Reed’s college days to explore Doom’s origin. The interesting part here is Reed and Ben’s meditations on who, if anyone, was really responsible for Doom’s accident, but the problem here is that, as noted above in my review of FF #15 and #16, I’ve stopped caring about Doom as a villain. So although the writing in this issue is fairly effective, I had little emotional investment in it.
FANTASTIC FOUR #8 (Marvel, 2013) – B-. I read issues 9 and 8 out of order. Issue 8, in which Ben travels back in time to ‘20s or ‘30s New York, is marginally better than #9. I like how Hickman and Fraction’s version of Ben is much happier than usual; Ben is now capable of having fun and being effective, rather than complaining all the time. And the moment at the end where Ben leads the inhabitants of Yancy Street in a battle against gangsters is pretty inspiring. However, this story is quite confusing. It doesn’t explain how the original Yancy Street Gang, a criminal organization, evolved into the Yancy Street Gang we know. And the character named Petunia is way too old to be Ben’s Aunt Petunia, but then why does she have the same name? Some explanation would have been nice.
HAWKEYE #16 (Marvel, 2014) – A+. This would have been slightly more enjoyable if I’d known more about Brian and Carl Wilson and the Smiley Smile project, but even without that, it’s a deeply touching and well-crafted story. In the not-Brian-Wilson character, Fraction and Wu create a convincing portrait of a Bobby Fischer-esque personality, a creative genius who is incapable of living in the real world. I did feel frustrated when the story ended with Kate getting beaten to a pulp. Though the story did end on a somewhat happier note (until Madame Masque appeared out of nowhere), I think this is at least the second issue in a row where Kate suffers a humiliating defeat, and it seems like she’s not accomplishing much by being in California. This version of Kate is kind of hard to reconcile with the much more confident and successful character we’ve been seeing in Young Avengers.
FLASH #86 (DC, 1994) – A-. This is not the best Waid/Wieringo Flash story but it’s not bad either. This issue guest-stars Argus, one of the mostly forgettable new characters from Bloodlines, and the point of the story is that Wally and Argus hate each other because they’re too similar. It’s kind of a light-hearted interlude before the much darker story that comes next, in which Wally is sued by a woman who he failed to save from a crippling injury.
ADVENTURE COMICS #337 (DC, 1965) – A+. I was flipping through my newly acquired copy of Raymond McDaniel’s Special Powers and Abilities, which contains a poem about “The Weddings That Wrecked the Legion,” and I remembered I had this issue and hadn’t read it yet. This story has a convoluted and patently stupid plot which was presumably written as an excuse for the scene on the cover, in which two Legionnaire couples get married and are forced to quit the Legion. And like all Legion writers prior to Shooter, Edmond Hamilton wrote the Legionnaires as essentially interchangeable characters; it wasn’t until Shooter that the Legionnaires started getting distinct personalities. Still, this story has a serious emotional punch. When Imra tells Brainy “You can’t understand because your cold, unemotional computer mind can’t comprehend what love is,” it feels like she’s not just putting on an act. And Hamilton makes me sympathize with the two couples, who are unable to act on their mutual desire because of the Legion’s rule against marriage (as well as straitlaced 1960s morality). There is a lot of pent-up emotional and sexual tension below the surface of this story, and it ends by suggesting that even if the weddings were fake, the basic conflict between desire and duty is not just going to go away. Or as McDaniel puts it: “But now Garth & Imra & Jo & Tinya have had a taste / the clock’s ticking / see, Brainiac, that’s the problem / you’re always giving them ideas.”
STRANGE TALES #158 (Marvel, 1967) – A-. The Nick Fury story in this issue is a classic. It includes some incredible action sequences, as well as plot twists and illustrations that are almost surreal in their sheer ridiculousness. I mean, who but Steranko would have come up with the scene where Fury puts a Fury mask on Strucker, then puts Strucker masks on both Strucker and himself? The bizarreness of this plot twist is comparable to the visual weirdness of the closing scene that shows Hydra Island blowing up. The only thing is, I’ve read this story before, and it was better the first time. The Dr. Strange backup, which I hadn’t read before, is not nearly at the same level. This is the second appearance of the Living Tribunal, who is introduced as a cosmic being of “awesome” and “unimaginable” power, but the story does not succeed in its attempt to explain why this being, who could “destroy the earth if he but nod,” should care about an insignificant mortal like Dr. Strange. And besides that, it’s just a boring story.
DAREDEVIL #28 (Marvel, 2013) – A-. This is another series I’ve been buying and not reading, but I actually feel guilty about that, because this is one of the best current Marvel titles and possibly the best Daredevil since the ‘80s (more on that below). There’s a lot of good stuff in this issue, e.g. the tier of panels where Matt forces himself to smile when entering Foggy’s room, even though the smell of chemicals is making him violently ill. The art by Javier Rodriguez, who I have not heard of before, is genuinely quite impressive. I did feel kind of annoyed by the plot, in which one of Matt’s old bullies, who gave him the mocking name Daredevil, successfully guilt-trips Matt into defending him in court. Even if Matt was an egomaniac jerk in elementary school (which seems like a significant retcon), that is no excuse for bullying.
DAREDEVIL #26 (Marvel, 2013) – A+. This, on the other hand, is one of the best post-Miller Daredevil comics I’ve read. Besides David Aja, Chris Samnee is Marvel’s top current artistic talent, and his performance here is incredible. A couple panels here, especially the silent panel with Matt walking through the hospital ward, remind me a lot of Mazzucchelli. In terms of storytelling, Mark and Chris create an overpowering sense of fear and tension. I actually thought the villain was Mr. Fear rather than Bullseye, and that his goal was to drive Matt insane by making him imagine threats that weren’t there.
The real gem here, though, is the backup story, which is comparable to “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man” both because of its theme and its concentrated emotional power. In this story, Foggy meets with some child cancer patients, who are drawing a comic where a bunch of superheroes defeat a monster that’s a personification of cancer. There is a cool trick here where the kids’ comic is initially rendered in the style of children’s drawings, but then takes on a more realistic drawing style as the story goes on – it’s a nice analogy for the process of immersion into the story. But the truly amazing moment is when Foggy realizes that the kids actually believe this fantasy where superheroes can cause cancer, and he tells them very apologetically, “Superheroes can do a whole lot, but they… they can’t cure cancer.” Which is followed by two identical silent panels of the kids staring at Foggy, and then one of them says, “Duh, it’s a comic book.” The moral of the story, as stated on the last page, is that in order to survive, the kids have to believe their cancer is beatable, and that superheroes offer them a metaphor for how that might happen; for the kids, superheroes are a sort of fantasy therapy. I have rarely if ever seen such a powerful justification for the genre of superhero fiction.
BATMAN FAMILY #4 (DC, 1976) – B/B+. Surprisingly the best story in this issue is a reprint: “The Secret War of the Phantom General,” a Batman/Elongated Man team-up from Detective Comics #343. The coolest thing about this story is that it includes a few panels where John Broome talks directly to the reader from his office, and behind him you can see books labeled CATCH-22, DAVY (Edgar Pangborn), EC and PAINGOD (Harlan Ellison). Broome always seemed to me like a writer of rather conservative tastes, and it’s surprising to realize that he was keeping up with what were then cutting-edge trends in SF and literary fiction. Besides that, the actual story is an exciting adventure with impressive Infantino artwork. The original stories, starring Batgirl and Robin, are not nearly as good, even though the former is written by Elliot S! Maggin. The Robin story contains some subtle hints that Dick and Lori are in a sexual relationship. There is also one more reprint, about a clown who envies Batman, which is kind of cute but much lighter in tone than modern Batman stories.
HITMAN #10 (DC, 1997) – B+. The Garth Ennis comics that I’ve read tend to fall on a continuum from funny to serious, with Hitman at the left end and War Stories all the way to the right. Preacher is closer to the right than the left; even the humor in Preacher (e.g. Arseface or Allfather Starr’s bulimia) tended towards serious satire. Overall I prefer Ennis’s comedy to his serious material, but Hellblazer is my favorite comic of his because it most effectively strikes a balance between the two. Hitman is often so light as to seem insubstantial, though it’s certainly hilarious. This particular issue of Hitman is not the best; it’s so heavy on plot that there’s less actual humor than usual.
AVENGERS #302 (Marvel, 1989) – D-. This issue is even worse than Avengers #301, reviewed below. It barely even qualifies as an Avengers comic since the first half of the issue is devoted to Quasar and the West Coast Avengers, and the actual Avengers don’t appear until page 15. This period was one of the lowest points in the Avengers’ history.
DORK! #5 (Slave Labor, 1998) – A-. Most of this issue consists of three-panel humor strips, which are primarily one-offs with Myron the Living Voodoo Doll as the only recurring character. These strips are notable for their extremely dark and shocking sense of humor; I’m no good at classifying types of comedy, but I would say that the humor of these strips relies mostly on shock value (e.g. “The Kool-Aid Man in Rwanda,” which speaks for itself). The one longer story is a made-up history of the person who invented all the dirty children’s songs like “How dry I am” and “Jingle bells, Batman smells.” It’s pretty ridiculous, but the serious point is that these songs are a genuine part of the American cultural imaginary and that if one person really had written them, he actually would have been one of the most influential American songwriters. I admit, though, that I had never heard of “Milk, milk, lemonade” before reading this story.
ELFQUEST: THE FINAL QUEST #1 (DC, 2014) – B-. I just don’t know about this comic. I’m going to keep reading it due to loyalty and curiosity about the fates of the characters. But I feel sort of ashamed of reading it, and I say this as someone who is not ashamed of reading My Little Pony. I have written before that Elfquest is a wish-fulfillment fantasy, and I say this because of its lack of moral ambiguity and the excessively utopian nature of its world… though I don’t know, maybe I’m not giving the Pinis enough credit. Even if the story had been worse than it is, though, this issue would still have been worth buying because of the backup feature, which is a fascinating account of how Nate Piekos created a font based on Wendy Pini’s lettering.
COURTNEY CRUMRIN #6 (Oni, 2012) – B+. I really should be reading this series more regularly. The most interesting thing in this issue is the opening sequence, which contains an homage to Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market, although I couldn’t tell what this sequence had to do with the rest of the issue. Besides that, this issue serves mostly to advance the plot.
DETECTIVE COMICS #791 (DC, 2004) – C-/D+. Both stories in this issue suffer from confusing storytelling and lack of explanation. The lead story is labeled “The Surrogate, Part One”, but I felt like I must have missed a previous installment, because I couldn’t tell who the characters were or how they were connected to each other. Possibly this was done on purpose to create a sense of mystery, but it seemed like ineptitude. This story contains two separate scenes in which white people correct the grammar of black people speaking in Ebonics (if that is still the correct term), which seems incredibly offensive to me. As I understand it, Ebonics has its own grammar which is entirely consistent and logical even though it’s not the same as that of standard English, and people who speak Ebonics are generally capable of code-switching to standard English where appropriate. So it seriously annoyed me to see Batman correcting a black person’s grammar. The backup story is even more impenetrable than the first story; I had utterly no idea what was going on in it.
BATMAN: LI’L GOTHAM #10 (DC, 2014) – A-. I guess my DC boycott is over; I’m willing to buy DC comics, it’s just that their New 52 material is of no interest whatever to me. This issue is up to Nguyen and Fridolfs’s usual high level of craftsmanship, and the opening sequence, which depicts Poison Ivy in different seasons, is just gorgeous. The weak link is the backup story, which sets up a mystery (Alfred appears to be carrying corpses into the mansion) and then offers a resolution (the corpses were just holiday decorations) which doesn’t seem sufficient to explain everything.
DOCTOR STRANGE #33 (Marvel, 1978) – B-. This issue feels like it’s over too quickly because Roger Stern wastes a bunch of pages on conversations between the Dweller in Darkness and other fear-related villains. And then later he wastes more pages showing Doc and Clea casting a spell to protect the mansion. This stuff is only marginally interesting and detracted from the actual plot, in which Nightmare turns a San Francisco hippie girl into a villain called the Dream Weaver. The pencils, by Alan Kupperberg, are undistinguished, but the inking by Rudy Nebres is quite impressive.
BATMAN ’66 #7 (DC, 2014) – A+. This is the first issue of this series I’ve read. Like another Jeff Parker comic, X-Men: First Class, Batman ’66 is a rare example of an adaptation that’s actually better than the original. I haven’t watched the ’60s Batman TV show in a very long time, but I kind of hate it; although I haven’t done the research on this, I would suspect that that show is largely responsible for the popular belief that comic books are all about ZAP! POW! BAM! Batman ’66, however, seems to take itself a little bit more seriously than the TV show did; the plot of this issue is entertaining and funny, but makes logical sense and avoids deliberate ridiculousness or banality. (For example, there’s a hilarious moment where False-Face masquerades as LBJ, but it makes perfect sense in context.) The other truly impressive aspect of this story is its historical accuracy, or at least its appearance thereof; it seems like a very faithful representation of the ‘60s. In fact, this is also why the backup story is less impressive: it’s a pretty funny and incisive satire of contemporary labor practices, but it’s full of anachronisms like “doing more with less” and “core competencies”, a term which Wikipedia says was coined in 1990.
JSA #63 (DC, 2004) – A-. It’s hard to believe now, but at one point Geoff Johns’s JSA almost seemed like it was following in the tradition of James Robinson’s Starman, as a comic that seriously investigated the topic of superhero legacies and that used old continuity in innovative new ways. This issue is a good example of that, and it also displays another aspect of Johns’s writing that I used to like. I refer to the way that in a Geoff Johns comic, you get the sense that everything is connected to everything else, and that everything in the story’s universe has its own story behind it. You might not know the story behind Sand or Hourman, but it’s clear that there is a story there, and you’re curious to find it out. That reminds me of how I felt when I started reading Marvel comics. One curious thing in this issue is that Daniel, i.e. the Sandman after Morpheus, makes a brief off-panel appearance; I had vaguely thought that that character was off-limits to writers besides Gaiman.
FANTASTIC FOUR #609 (Marvel, 2012) – A. This may have been the last Hickman FF issue I hadn’t read. This story focuses on Banner Jr. and the other characters from Nu-World. Apparently these characters come from some Mark Millar stories I haven’t read, but it’s impressive how Hickman integrates them into the overall fabric of his story, and he gives them a touching send-off. Also, the two-page spread depicting the god-ship Galactus is awe-inspiring. I haven’t seen much of Ryan Stegman’s artwork, but I like it.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN #51 (Marvel, 1975) – B-. This is a weird issue. It’s inked by Dick Giordano rather than Ernie Chan, which gives it a very different appearance from most Thomas/Buscema Conan stories, and the plot is almost excessively fast-paced and is full of magical occurrences that are kind of hard to swallow. This story is the second part of an adaptation of a non-Conan novel by Gardner Fox, a novel which I imagine must have been rather forgettable. It’s been a while since I read Conan #50, but I don’t remember liking that issue very much either.
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #97 (DC, 1971) – A. This issue, the second part of the Starbreaker storyline, is a classic, and Starbreaker is a very exciting and underused villain, a sort of DC answer to Galactus. Unfortunately Mike Friedrich’s writing does not hold up well. He had the same sort of histrionic prose style as Denny O’Neil, and he was not as good of a plotter. The really cool thing about this issue is that it incorporates a partial reprint of the JLA’s origin story. This sort of thing is usually done for deadline reasons (as in Avengers #150), but here it actually makes sense in context, although Friedrich could have done a more effective job of introducing it. Having just suffered a humiliating loss to Starbreaker, the JLA retreat to their headquarters, where they “examine our origin, re-create the spirit that first united the Justice League!” The actual origin retelling is a bit tedious, though it’s intriguing because I don’t think I’ve read the original Brave & Bold #28 story before, only the various later retellings of it. But by going through this story again, the Leaguers are reminded of the power of teamwork, and this is emphasized with an awesome panel showing the Justice Leaguers walking arm in arm, with the word TOGETHER! floating in the air. And this also helps them figure out how to defeat Starbreaker: by “harnessing the positive feeling of men” [sic], thereby depriving him of fear, which is the source of his power. It’s quite an inspirational moment, which reminds me a lot of other classic JLA stories, especially #200.
AVENGERS ANNUAL 2001 (Marvel, 2001) – B-. I love Kurt Busiek’s Avengers, but this annual seemed like more of an afterthought than an integral part of the story Kurt was telling, even though it does advance the overall plot in some ways. The plot of this issue revolves around Hank Pym and his quasi-split-personality disorder, and it ends with Hank reuniting the split halves of his soul (represented by Ant-Man, Goliath and Yellowjacket). This is a type of story that’s been told more effectively with other characters, e.g. in Incredible Hulk #377. The bigger problem is that it feels like too easy of a solution. I don’t think that Hank can ever sufficiently atone for having hit Jan in Avengers #213. That scene will be associated with that character forever, and I think any writer who uses Hank Pym needs to acknowledge that he is a wife-beater, as a necessary step to having him move on from that. This is a difficult balancing act and I don’t think Kurt completely pulls it off. There is also a backup story, which is not really a story but rather a series of answers to various continuity questions; it’s funny but also stupid.
MS. TREE QUARTERLY #2 (DC, 1990) – A-. I love Ms. Tree even though I have no interest in hard-boiled detective novels or films. Ms. Tree is perhaps the best example of how I’m willing to read any sort of content as long as it’s presented in comics form. This story initially made me rather uncomfortable because it’s about murders apparently committed by a Satanist church, and at first the story seems to be siding against the Satanists and with the local “concerned Christian citizens.” And personally I think Satanists are far less scary than fundamentalist Christians (please notice the key word there is fundamentalists, not Christians). But I should have had more faith in Max Collins. It turns out that the most fanatical anti-Satanist crusader is actually the killer, whereas the Satanists are fraudsters and pornographers, but not murderers. Like a lot of Ms. Tree stories, this story suggests that real-life controversies are morally ambiguous and that often both sides are partially wrong. There is also a backup story written by Ed Gorman, who is apparently a notable crime fiction author; however, the pacing is pretty bad, suggesting his inexperience with comics. In addition there is a prose story by Mike Baron, which reads like a plot summary rather than a story, and seems to engage in appropriation of Native American culture.
THE FLASH #302 (DC, 1981) – B+. This is kind of a funny story in which Barry falls in love with the Golden Glider for no apparent reason, but it’s also part of what appears to be a deep, complex ongoing storyline. Cary Bates may have plotted his stories even further in advance than Claremont did; the last 75 issues of this Flash series seem to constitute a single overarching plot.
BATMAN #603 (DC, 2002) – A. In this story Batman encounters the cop who was first on the scene after his parents’ murder, and who is now on his deathbed. My initial reaction to this was annoyance; I was like, does there have to be a story about everyone who was present at the Waynes’ murder? Does there have to be a reason for everything that happened that night? (Maybe I was unconsciously thinking of Batman #430, which is all about why the Waynes went to a movie that night.) But Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips make this story fascinating. The cop, Detective Sloan, is a fully fleshed-out character, and having known Gotham both before and after Batman, he offers an interesting perspective on Batman’s impact on the city. And it turns out that the one case he never closed was that of the Waynes’ murder, and there’s a poignant scene where he explains why he wants Batman to solve it, now that he himself can’t. You have to wonder why Bruce doesn’t just take pity on Detective Sloan and tell him that he, Batman, is Bruce Wayne and that he solved that case long ago. (Or maybe not – that has been retconned multiple times.) But Bruce does come close to that by saying that Detective Sloan was an inspiration to him. Either way it’s a touching piece of work, made more so by Sean Phillips’s unconventional panel layouts: each page is a splash page with numerous inset panels in the foreground, each one directly adjacent to the next.