Detective Comics (#549 – 550) – Doug Moench, Alan Moore

3 out of 5

Two conceptually interesting 80s-era Batman tales are hamstrung by some forced structural diversions, and Pat Broderick’s uneven art.  Each issue is backed up by an Alan Moore Green Arrow / Black Canary two-parter, which has a funny punchline but is otherwise rather unremarkable.

Issue #549 is definitely the stronger of the two, presenting Harvey Bullock as a purposeful slob – that is, the ramshackle copper is an identity he puts on for work and the streets, coming home to a composed apartment where he escapes into classic films.  It’s definitely a fascinating take, and one I was surprised to read – wondering if this had been taken up by any other writer – but Moench’s stories tend to be very stringently composed, and that takes over here again: a baddie Bullock tussles with early in the story reappears later on to teach Bullock a lesson on the separation between his “good” and “bad” sides, and because this is a Batman book, Bats himself has to appear and reinforce that same duality.  This is still a good issue, with a stand out and although Broderick is rather stiff with the action, his figurework and paneling are solid.

Issue #550 is again a good idea, and I like how dark Moench takes the ending, but it’s much more forced in executing that idea, which is basically having a hood flash back over the defining incidents in his life while Batman chases him.  These are pretty overwrought, while at least staying consistent to the concept that, while the initial path may be due to outside forces – the hood was abused as a kid – the choices thereafter are our own.  Not that that’s always a 100% rule, but it works within comics, and breaks up the story effectively.  However, Broderick’s art here fails things, as our main character, while telling his flashbacks chronologically, ranges in age and appearance such that it doesn’t really connect to the modern day version.

The GA / BC backup from Moore is rather uncharacteristic of the writer, applying only a light narrative dusting of the good guy / bad guy chase as a “game” to add some class to what is, for other intents and purposes, just Green Arrow proving himself as a better archer than an arrow-slingin’ upstart.  Some one-sentence commentary on how costumes-don’t-make-the-hero (or villain) is combatted by the damseling of Black Canary, and it all leads up to a slapstick type punchline, anyway.  Klaus Janson is there for his usual Janson jankiness, veering between perfect and severe panels and things that just seem sloppy, but are likely (given the difference between his pencils and finished work) very precise.