Wednesday, October 5, 2011

DC New 52 Review: Detective Comics #1-2

Detective Comics #1-2
Written & Drawn by Tony Daniels
Inks by Ryan Winn
Cover Price: $2.99

In a nutshell:
A new villain, a new love interest, and the Joker loses his face.

Batman takes on the Joker and a new threat whom calls himself the Dollmaker, while as Bruce Wayne we get to see the more charming and witty side of the character that has been absent in the comics for quite a few years. Bruce is dating journalist Charlotte Rivers. The first issue has a cliffhanger where it appears that the Joker's face has been surgically removed by the Dollmaker who appears only in shadow. In the second issue we don't see the Joker again yet but Batman's ally commissioner Gordon is kidnapped by the Dollmaker and when it reappears at the end it appears that his face has been seamed together which leads you to believe that we might have a plot similar to the 1990s movie, "Face Off" and that this might be The Joker taking the Commisioner's place.

Why did I pick it up?
Batman is one of my favorite comic characters and an icon. I generally avoid the more cluttered stories where the iconic qualities take a back seat to dense continuity, which I feel dates the stories when you look back at them, but I'm always hopeful when there is a clear starting point that there might be a possibility for a starting point. The comic shop buzz I've heard is that Tony Daniels is a good artist for Batman, but a weak writer, so I wasn't intending to pick the book up but that last page cliffhanger where the Joker's face is removed gave the hope that we might get a fascinating story twist out of this, despite the grotesqueness of the image (I will give them credit for not actually showing the operation which made that last scene all the more powerful).

The Good:
I'm glad to see Bruce Wayne doing something else beside sulking around and my favorite part of these first two parts of the story seeing him playful in the workplace and flirting with his new love interest. I'd read a story just about Bruce Wayne when he's not in Batman mode, if this is the version of him that we'd get. The art is attractive and displays the story well.

The Bad:
Some of the dialog is cliched and over the top in the first issue, but I can usually dismiss such things and not get caught up on it. What bothers me the most is that Detective Comics, a series that has had an uninterrupted run since it started in 1937 (and which DC Comics gets its name from), is being relaunched with a new #1 issue just so it can fit into the formula of this DC marketing event. It seems like a really short sided way to muddy the legendary status of this book. The name Detective Comics only has meaning to established comic fans because it is the oldest running Batman book and you have to think that if the point is to bring in new readers it's not the best title for the book. While it's likely that DC will eventually return to the old numbering letting the new series fill in the gaps so that Detective Comics will reach it's 1000th issue for DC to market, there is something swarmy and illegitimate about this and it really muddies the indexing of the title. That's not a condemnation of the story itself but as a collector I'm really put off by shortsighted marketing scams that break down the traditions that have kept me collecting for the sake of the hype machine driving a few months of increased sales.

Is it worth it?
I'm undecided so far if this story will be fulfilling. The story that's coming could play out in a fresh way but it could also play out as a really bad cliche. The the writer-side storytelling isn't so bad that I'll ditch it before it plays out and it does feel like we might have the possibility of a modern classic Joker story here, but it isn't so good that it'll be worth the ride if the destination isn't a good one.

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