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Comic Review: Batman: Detective Comics #19

Batman Detective Comics #19 Man-Bat by Jason Fabok

80 pages long, double the usual price and positively busting with Batman and Man-Bat goodness, Batman: Detective Comics #19 is mostly a progression of John Layman’s storyline, but also very much an art showcase for Andy Clarke, Mikel Janin, Jason Fabok, Henrik Jonsson and Jason Masters, with a James Tynion IV Bane story sandwiched in between.

John Layman gets the chance to run hog wild here as he tells a broad Man-Bat origin story for the New 52 in extended format, using multiple artists along the way.

Detective Comics regular Jason Fabok steps up first with his gritty, gadget-filled art in a story titled “The 900,” which chronicles a Man-Bat virus outbreak in Gotham. The outbreak started with a stolen batch of Kirk Langstrom’s serum that wound up in the hands of Victor Zasz. Now, it’s up to Batman to put it down.

Layman riffs off the aftermath of Death of the Family in this story to show Nightwing and Batgirl chipping in with the Man-Bat fight while dodging Batman’s direct calls for help.

Instead, it’s Batwoman who joins the Dark Knight in combating the virus.

And, in case those three characters don’t make you feel grounded enough in the Bat family, there are copious editor’s notes referring you out to other comics. If you’re into that kind of thing, you’ll certainly feel linked into continuity.

The second story, entitled “Man-Bat in Birth of a Family,” has Andy Clarke’s textured, heavily shaded touch on art and delves into the origins of the singular Man-Bat, Kirk Langstrom, and his relationship with his wife. Dr. Langstrom has a very Curt Conners-esque need to cure something – in this case, deafness – and a very Lizard-esque result from his experimentation.

This story serves as more of a prequel to the first story than anything else, but is well-executed on both the art and the writing.

The third story is certainly the strongest, as James Tynion IV is granted the space to write a clash between Bane and the Court of Owls which will lead directly into a Talon #7 appearance for the Venom-juiced villain.

Mikel Janin’s Bane is a mesh of the classic wrestler mask and Venom hoses with the Dark Knight Rises mercenary clothing and equipment. He looks brutal, powerful, and yet fast: a menacing threat to be sure, even when humbled by his first clash with the Talons.

Lastly, Layman pens two more stories set in his Penguin plotline, the first called “Birdwatching” and featuring the gasbulb Mr. Combustible, and the second titled “Through a Blue Lens” and featuring the GCPD.

“Birdwatching” has Mr. Combustible playing errand boy to the Penguin while Emperor Penguin consolidates power, and Henrik Jonsson takes a turn on pencils to deliver pages very much in keeping with the established Detective Comics aesthetic.

Jason Masters is not so loyal on art in “Through a Blue Lens.” His lines are too clean, his colours too crisp, his world too bright; essentially, his art makes it feel like a Metropolis story, not a Gotham City story.

Layman also drops the ball with the writing, as he delivers an altogether forgettable police perspective on the 900 block outbreak.

Batman: Detective Comics #19 is certainly a mixed bag, but most of it is a lot of fun. It’s also rife with single variant covers from artists like Alex Maleev, Dustin Nguyen, and Francesco Francavilla, to name only a few.

If you follow this series, you’ll be hopelessly lost without this book.

Even if you don’t, it’s a fun, more or less self-contained Man-Bat arc mixed with a great Bane story and some interesting art throughout.

Batman: Detective Comics #19 is a bat smorgasbord.

Dig in.

8 out of 10

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