Review: Detective Comics #1 by Tony Daniel

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Detective Comics #1

Written by: Tony Daniel
Penciled by: Tony Daniel
Inked by: Ryan Winn
Lettering by: Jared K. Fletcher
Colored by: Tomeu Morey

Published by: DC
Cover Price: $2.99

Note: This review is for the digital version of the comic available from DC Comics on Comixology

I wanna start this review by putting all my cards on the table. For a very long time I was a huge Batman fan. I dragged my entire family to see all four of the Burton/Schumacher movies (kicking and screaming in the case of Batman and Robin). At one time, I had unbroken runs of Batman and Detective Comics that ran for close to twenty five years. But because of several bad arcs a few years back (City of Crime, War Games, War Crimes all come to mind), my relationship with the Dark Knight has become a bit…estranged to put in nicely.

Yes, I love the Nolan movies, and Batman: The Brave and the Bold is great, but when it comes to comics I would rather read about Terry McGinnis than Bruce Wayne. What can I say, I am a  scorned lover. But as a favor to a friend, I did agree to put together a review for Detective Comics. And I think I did a unbiased job, if I say so myself, but at least you know where I stood on Batman before reading this review.

Summary (contains spoilers): Tec starts with Batman brooding while leaping from rooftop to rooftop. I am pretty sure it’s Union rules that all Batman comics have to start that way. But hey, it’s a classic image, and Daniel draws a great Batman, so I say go for it:

It seems that someone has been killing people in Gotham, mutilating known associates of the Joker. Cutting out organs and pieces of their face. Batman has a lead and goes to track it down.

Meanwhile, we see the Joker naked and being attacked by a man who seems to be missing most of the skin off his face. The man seems almost in awe of the Joker’s reputation as he slaps him around. This ends bad for the guy as Joker rips out his throat with his teeth and then proceeds to stab him several times. Just then, Batman breaks in through a skylight (Bat-cliché number 2). Joker throws a bomb at Joker and takes off. Batman says, “YOU CAN’T RUN, I OWN THE NIGHT! (number 3).

But Batman’s chase is brought to a quick halt, when he sees that there is a girl trapped because of the explosion. He stops to help her, and Gotham PD arrives, deciding that the Batman is the real threat here. Batman is forced to fight the cops to make an escape. As he exits the building, more cops in a helicopter open fire at him. Commissioner Gordon demands to know who gave the order to fire, and it is revealed that it was the mayor.

Batman returns to the Cave to consider what has happened tonight. He talks with a holographic projection of Alfred, realizes he forgot a date he had scheduled tonight and has Alfred send her flowers to apologize (number 4).

Gordon flashes the Batsignal to talk to Bats (number 5). Gordon tells Batman the girl was the daughter of the man the Joker killed. The girl told the police that Joker was staying above Roscoe Pharmacy, so Batman heads off while the Commissioner’s back is turned (number 6). Batman is pretty sure it’s a trap, and races to the site, where the cops burst in. They find a doll of the Joker that explodes, killing all the officers.

Batman sees someone walking away and goes in pursuit. He sees it’s the Joker, and they two of them have a quick brawl, with the Joker using a few gadgets of his own to even the score. Joker manages to stab Batman twice in the confusion. He then shocks him with his joy buzzer. Batman manages to toss him off a rooftop before Joker can finish the job.

Joker ends up back in Arkham. It’s quickly obvious that was his plan all along. We find out that he was waiting to “get a procedure” done by someone called the Dollmaker. The man who attacked him in the beginning was the Dollmaker’s son.  Dollmaker also seems to be a fan of the Joker’s and is happy to do the job.

The issue ends with what seems like the Joker’s face sliced off and hanging on the wall much to Joker and the Dollmaker’s satisfaction.

Review: I know it may sound like I am mocking this book with counting the Bat-cliches, but you know what? They are used so much because they really do work. People expect these kinds of things from Batman, and if you are trying to lure in new readers, this is the right way to do it. I would be lying if I didn’t admit I smiled several times during this issue.  Considering I am a jaded long time Batman reader, that is a hell of a feat.

I did like the opening narration by Batman about how many people the Joker had killed over the last six years. The line “His modus operandi changes like the wind, and it’s been windy in Gotham City” was a bit much though, but it’s a small gripe.  The narration throughout showed Daniel had a firm grasp on Batman and the supporting cast.

I loved the indignation on the Joker’s face when Batman interrupts him killing his assailant:

Tony Daniel really captured the rhythms of a solid Batman book here. That said, I do think the execution slipped a few times. The scene in the Batcave and the scene with Gordon really felt unnecessary. And I did cringe at the “I AM THE NIGHT!” line. But there is more than enough great moments in this issue to make up for that.  Daniel managed to squeeze a lot into 20 pages.  Joker actually fighting back effectively against Batman was pretty cool.

Dollmaker seems like an interesting new character.  Definitely creepy and disturbing.  I just hope he doesn’t disappear like too many Bat villains (anyone else remember Nicodemus?) or get used badly like too many others (Anyone else trying to forget the crap they did with Prometheus?).

The ending in particular was just a hell of a shocker. I don’t quite know what was going on there, but it was enough to make me really wanna read the next issue. And this is exactly what a good comic should do. Definitely one of the best moments of relaunch so far.

Another thing I liked was the police’s distrust of Batman.  Between this and Justice League, it’s clear the public has a distrust of their heroes in this new DC.  Granted, this plays a bit off of Nolan’s movies, especially the end of Dark Knight Returns, but again, it’s a great way to help new readers find their footing.

My favorite part of this book was definitely the art. Tony Daniel draws a terrific Batman, and the Joker hasn’t looked this great since Jim Lee drew him in Hush. Actually, he might look even better here.  I can’t wait to see Daniel’s take on more Batman characters.

A quick comment not related to anything of importance, but I have to admit, I didn’t even notice the Joker was naked in the opening scene until Batman mentioned it later. Flipping back, I was surprised. How the hell did I miss that?

In closing, I just want to say that it was very fun to start my comic reading this week with Action Comics #1 and finish it with Detective Comics #1. Really, those two books should always be the keystones of the DC Universe, and both were very well done this month. The two issues wee about as different in tone as you can get, but at the same time, I did enjoy both quite a bit.

Final Score: 8.0 – Had a few weak moments, but all in all a solid read with some terrific art. Definitely a good entry point for a new reader and familiar enough for old Batman readers to enjoy too. It’s been a long time since I have enjoyed a Batman book this much.

Mike Maillaro is a lifelong Jersey Boy and geek. Mike has been a comic fan for about 30 years from when his mom used to buy him Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Adventures at our local newsstand. Thanks, Mom!! Mike's goal is to bring more positivity to the discussion of comics and pop culture.