Review: Detective Comics #4 by Tony Daniel

Hey everyone, welcome to Story Arc Wrap-Up month in the DcnU. You see, to fit a story into a nice neat little trade paperback or hardcover, especially for series trying to grab new readers, you want to have the story-arc wrap up in four issues. And then you follow it up with either a light-hearted change-of-pace issue or a quick story that transitions and teases you into the next story arc. One the creative team has established the character (or themselves), then you can go into a longer story-arc. Welcome to 21st Century Comic Book publishing 101! Next week, we can discuss how to diplomatically hype someone whose work you despise.

So, we are at the end of the initial Story Arc for Detective Comics, and I think I’m at the end of my (very short) Detective Comics run myself. Maybe this issue will change my mind, but I highly doubt it.1 This title has not endeared itself to me in the last 4 months. The creative team has chosen to bombard with shocking imagery to get people talking, but when you see what titles the public2 is responding to, it’s the characterization that people like. People like Kyle Higgins’s slightly cocky/assured Nightwing, Gail Simone’s needing to prove herself Batgirl, Grant Morrison’s brash young Superman in Action Comics, and Scott Snyder’s thoroughly competent Batman.

I mean, it’s not a bad title. It’s competent enough. But for three bucks, I want a little more than just decent.

Now, you might find me reviewing this title again. I’m always happy to read and review a Batman title for Comic Nexus3. But, it’s off of my shopping list, I think.

Detective Comics #4: The Main Event

Published By: DC Comics
Written and Drawn By: Tony Daniel
Publish Date: 12/07/2011
Cover Price: $2.99 (February 2012)
Review: Digital Copy (from Comixology)

When we last left The Batman, he escaped from the clutches of The Dollmaker, but Jim Gordon was not as fortunate. The previously kidnapped girl, Olivia reveals herself to be one of The Dollmaker’s pawns. And Batman enters a trap at Gotham Mercy Hospital where he is attacked by several human dolls made to look like, The Joker.

Synopsis

  • Prior to entering the Dollmaker’s trap, Batman beats up on a small-time messenger.
  • Batman fights The Joker dolls, while a messenger visits The Dollmaker offering twice as much money than the other bidders if Batman is delivered, alive. But Batman fights his way out, and The Dollmaker escapes.
  • Gordon convinces Olivia to help him escape, but she wants to go back to The Dollmaker. After helping him subdue the goons, Gordon comforts Olivia.
  • Dollmaker escapes while Batman pursues an empty car that explodes
  • Bruce and Charlotte visit a resort in Colorado to relax.
  • Back in Gotham, Olivia is going to be examined by Arkham, and Bullock worries about the Joker’s face being kept at Gotham Police Headquarters.

Questions and Answers

Question: Is there a connection between The Dollmaker’s technology and Wayne Enterprises.

Answer: The Penguin is one of the criminals who wants the Batman.

Question: There is a mysterious stranger who is controlling The Dollmaker.

Question: Did The Dollmaker steal a police helicopter? Or did the Gotham Police assist in the escape?

Analysis

This is a very unsatisfying ending to this story arc. A sense of a big reveal or big plot resolution, but in the end there really was nothing. Dollmaker escaped. Batman didn’t learn the identity of Dollmaker’s controller. No major crime wave was halted. No one was really rescued. So all that happened is that Batman is aware of a new villain, Gordon lost a kidney, and Penguin is willing to spend money to have Batman killed. Four issues and that’s all we’ve gotten.

And I saw several sites review that The Penguin is revealed to be the one controlling The Dollmaker. But unless I missed something, no he isn’t. Raju is sent to The Dollmaker to buy a subdued Batman for The Penguin.

But later on, The Dollmaker is seen talking to a mysterious person on the telephone. And it wouldn’t be The Penguin, as Raju is the intermediary. This is someone who The Dollmaker has direct contact. Now the implication is probably, The Joker. But even that seems obvious.

Does anyone know why Bruce Wayne and Charlotte had to retreat to Colorado to rest? Okay, yes Bruce Wayne is Batman. But the extent of the exhaustion of his public persona should have been nothing. And Charlotte is emotionally broken down after reporting The Dollmaker story? What did she just arrive in Gotham City? And yes, Bruce is a billionaire who can fly to Colorado whenever, but it seemed a bit too… let’s take a moment and sigh, when really, none of the characters truly needed that sort of break.

I love how Raju being the bidder for The Penguin is shown as a ‘reveal’, when we only met Raju on the earlier pages of this same issue, and we are told that The Batman doesn’t trust him. You can’t introduce someone as a police informant on page 2 and then suggest that it’s a big reveal on page 13 that he’s working for The Penguin.  Maybe that’s more of an art issue, by having Raju in the shadows.

If you wanted a big reveal, then maybe Jason Todd should have been the messenger for The Penguin.  Now that would be interesting!

Okay, the Dollmaker stole one of Gordon’s kidneys. Somewhat creepy in its own right. And certainly Gordon can live with only one kidney. But I just hope that Tony Daniel’s inspiration wasn’t an urban legend.

Let’s talk about Charlotte. Okay, let’s start with clichés. A reporter? Seriously. It’s 2011, and superheroes apparently can only be attracted to reporters? And if you’re going to use a reporter, then why don’t you use Vicky Vale?4 She’s already established as a character in the Batman movies, and even referenced in the recent Scott Snyder Batman title.

And I’m not sure that I appreciate a serious love interest for Bruce Wayne, without showing us WHY she is a serious love interest. How is she introduced to Bruce? What qualities does she have that makes him take her seriously? What qualities in him does she like? What does she know about The Batman? Is she from Gotham?

The story ends by re-showing the most memorable moment of the story arc which is the Joker’s face. Not some small new twist. Not some added information. Not some new take or new questions. No, let’s just show the shocking image one more time. Ehhhhhh.

Recently, I read some interview with Tony Daniels where he said that this story is set in earlier years for Batman. Did anyone read that prior to the launch of the new 52? I know it wasn’t stated as blatantly as it was said about Action Comics? I was covering the new 52 relaunch pretty closely, and I never heard anyone say that.

Verdict

Listen, Detective Comics. We’ve had some fun times over the last couple of months. We said we’d stick it out, for the sake of the DcnU, but the new titles are all grown up now. I think it’s a mistake to keep going like this. I think I’m ready to see other titles. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m sure you will find some very nice devoted Batman fans who will appreciate you for what you are. But I think it’s best if we just make a clean break of things.

Overall Grade: 3.5 (I’ve had enough)

Current Series Grade: C-

 

Footnotes

1     Spoiler: It didn’t

2     Or maybe just the Internet community. It’s VERY possible that they aren’t the same

3     Thank you to my robot overlords!

4     Most likely the answer is that Charlotte is secretly working for the bad guys, which would be sooo repetitive. But on the bright side, maybe she’s just going to die instead. Regardless, Vicky is much less disposable than a new character.

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