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    Review: Detective Comics #1

    By | September 9th, 2011
    Posted in Reviews | % Comments

    Written and Illustrated by Tony Daniel

    DC’s flagship title is relaunched for the first time ever, with new Batman adventures from acclaimed writer/ artist Tony S. Daniel!

    A killer called The Gotham Ripper is on the loose on Batman’s home turf — leading The Dark Knight on a deadly game of cat and mouse.

    [Note: It appears the solicitation for this issue is incorrect. However, this is the most up to date solicit, currently appearing on DCComics.com]

    Before reading Tony Daniel’s Detective Comics #1, I did something very unfair: I re-read Scott Snyder’s run on the book. Snyder’s Detective work, though short, has become the benchmark for all future takes on Detective Comics. It did so many things so well; we saw Batman acting as a detective, we saw his relationship with Commissioner Gordon, his relationship to Gotham. It is the definitive Dick Grayson as Batman story.

    So, since last month, we now have a new auteur in Tony Daniel (switching assignments with Snyder, who is now helming Batman), a new numbering of the book, and a new (old) Batman: Bruce Wayne. Is there any possible way that this relaunched Detective Comics could even hold a candle to Snyder’s epic?

    Check after the cut to find out. Rather big spoilers are discussed

    Let’s start at the beginning: the first page gives a nice bit of surprise and misdirection — it appears that Batman is making sure that the Joker is dead. That instantly had me intrigued. Unfortunately, for the next 16 pages or so, my enthusiasm waned considerably. After such a strong start, our re-introduction to Batman comes off as a little “by the books”. This has always been the knock against Tony Daniel as a writer — he writes competent, if unexciting, Batman stories, and that is exactly what the middle of this issue is.

    We see a lot of classic Batman activities: driving the Batmobile through a hologram, disappearing on Gordon when his back is turned, having a witty repartee with Alfred. However, very little of what happens after that first page did much for me, story wise.

    Art wise, Daniel is Daniel — you get a bulkier Batman that many others draw with an even more constant grimace than is expected. His Joker pops off the page, and the supporting cast is all recognizable without identification. There is nothing wrong with Daniel’s art, but when we compare it (again, unfairly) to the work that Jock and Francseco Francavilla did on Synder’s run, this seems very run of the mill.

    But that all changes in the issues last few pages. If you don’t want an epic finale to be spoiled, please stop reading right now.

    Still here? Good.

    We are introduced to a shadowy new villain called the Dollmaker at issue’s end, who meets Joker in Arkham to perform surgery on him. Put differently, he CUTS OFF THE JOKER’S FACE. The final image is a striking one, of the Joker’s skin pinned to a wall. The image literally gave me chills and brought me back to the first page’s images of Batman inspecting the Joker’s eyes for life, and it got me very excited.

    It got me excited for a few reasons: Detective Comics is supposed to be where we see Batman as the world’s greatest crime solver. This is my favorite type of Batman story, and the possibilities of Batman on the hunt of a false Joker, or trying to find out who the Joker is behind his one consistent feature. The Joker is one of the best characters in comics because he keeps surprising us; his only constant is that he is insane, so everything is on the table. We identify the Riddler by the clues he leaves; Poison Ivy by her power; the Penguin by his umbrellas. The Joker is identified by his face and his laugh. And now he has lost one of those — the harder of the two to hide. Where will the Joker pop up next?

    Continued below

    This is also exciting because it is doing something bold and shocking with DC’s flagship (and titular) book. Many have been criticizing DC for playing it safe with a lot of the relaunch books, but there is nothing safe about taking the most iconic villain in comics and cutting his face off. This could mean the Joker disappears for years, perhaps popping up as a new character and then BLAM!, he is revealed to be the Joker. He could be back next month. I have no idea, but I’m excited to see where it goes.

    Is this a great comic? No. It is a pretty average one (with maybe the worst Bat-item pun of all time: the Ro-Bat, a robot camera shaped like a bat). Daniel doesn’t rewrite the Batman bible here. However, with the ultra-creepy new villain, the great ending, and the sheer possibilities of where this story could go, I have to say that I was impressed by this issue. Let’s hope that Daniel has more tricks up his sleeve, because it would be a shame to let an idea this good go to waste.

    Final Verdict: 7.8 – Buy for the last few pages and the hope of what is to come.

    Brian Salvatore

    Brian Salvatore is an editor, podcaster, reviewer, writer at large, and general task master at Multiversity. When not writing, he can be found playing music, hanging out with his kids, or playing music with his kids. He also has a dog named Lola, a rowboat, and once met Jimmy Carter. Feel free to email him about good beer, the New York Mets, or the best way to make Chicken Parmagiana (add a thin slice of prosciutto under the cheese).