NEW 52 DUELING REVIEW: Detective Comics #1

by

What started out as an ensemble piece featuring world famous detectives doing what they do best eventually found itself focusing on one detective – the Dark Knight. Some 70 years later, DC has seen fit to relaunch/reboot the series, and Stephen and Matthew have been tasked with sorting out the pieces.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1
Writer: Tony Salvador Daniel
Artist: Tony Salvador Daniel
Inker: Ryan Winn
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover Artist: Tony Daniel
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously in Detective Comics: THOMAS AND MARTHA WAYNE KILLED! YOUNG WAYNE HEIR ORPHANED! What is wrong with the world today!? What will become of the young Bruce Wayne? Will he use his vast fortune for good, or waste it away like every other playboy in Gotham City?

STEPHEN: Well, we knew there were going to be some changes, but so far the only big change we see in this story is this is set during Batman’s early year’s as Gotham City’s protector. There’s an eerie similarity between the time this story takes place and the Dark Knight movie AND all the hubbub surrounding the costume change seems to align with the Christopher Nolan movie version of Batman, too.

MATTHEW: Yeah, gotta agree with you there, and I don’t believe for a second that it’s a coincidence. CORPORATE SYNERGY!! It’s your key to quality literature.

STEPHEN: That will be our new mantra!  You must repeat that 10 times before you sit down to write for this site from now on.

This story focuses on the first meeting between Batman and The Joker in this new universe, which is interesting because I thought that should have been a gimmick best saved for Batman #1…

MATTHEW: Historically speaking, it would be a pretty natural fit, yeah…

STEPHEN: In any case, The Joker has been going on a mad murder spree. Batman is using his detective skills to try and track down where he will appear next. One thing leads to another, and the two are doing a twisted tango above the rooftops. Blows are exchanged, and our hero even takes a stab or two to the torso thanks to The Joker’s fast hands. Overall, it is a pretty brutal issue. Some good detective work, and some good action, and Daniel brings it together really well.

MATTHEW: Well, let me start by saying this: SHORT-EARS BATMAN IS BACK! Other than that (and the ending page, which we’ll get to in a moment), there’s nothing new going on here. The Batman does his Batmanny thing, the Joker goes “Hoo HA HAAA!”, Jim Gordon is grim and surly, fighty-fighty and then… that scene.

STEPHEN: By the time we get to the end of the issue, the confusing opening sequence where The Joker and some reject from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre suddenly makes sense, as The Joker has orchestrated everything in order to land in Arkham Asylum, where the Doll Maker (will learn more about him soon), cuts off Joker’s face. HE CUTS OFF HIS FACE! HOLY GRUESOME CLIFFHANGER!

MATTHEW: They suckered us in with pages and pages of something familiar, then cracked us about the head and shoulders with seems to clealry point to a new and more gruesome version of the Joker, perhaps even one with the scars we recognize from the Heath Ledger version? Either way, it did get my attention after almost a whole issue of same ol’, same ol’.

STEPHEN: Once again, I read this issue as a digital day and date release on the iPad. Not because I’m some technogeek, but because I won’t get my print copy in the mail until sometime on Friday or Saturday. That being said, I really liked how the art looked in this issue. Gotham looks like the perfect dark city for this tale to be set – and not just because it takes place at night. While the black and yellow symbol is gone from Batman’s chest, I like how the Daniel and his art team worked in the purple theme into the Joker’s costume. And while it may have been a bit over the top in terms of the storyline and character, I got a little smile out of Joker’s grappling gun. Because of the seriousness of this story, the art was adequately disturbing, and fit perfectly with the story Tony Daniel is telling. The only thing that didn’t work perfectly in this digital version was the double page spread. Even when the iPad was rotated, the text blocks were too small to read without zooming in.

MATTHEW: As for me, I work in a comic shop, and get my stuff day-and-date by showing up early before Jim sells out, but I do agree with most of your sentiment. The double-page spread looks pretty awesome, and I’m liking the bulkier bodybuilding Batman with the more compact ears and heavier armor, excessive boot lines be damned. Tony Daniel’s Joker is creepy, but there’s something frenetic and off-putting for me about Daniel’s art style. Maybe it’s his origins as a Todd McFarlane imitator (yes, I’m aware that’s my bias talking) but I had problems assimilating everything going on on the page into a clear narrative. The last page had a nice solid kick to it, I will grant that, but there are some readability issues that aren’t just format related.

STEPHEN: Bottom line for me – This is a fantastic way to kick off this book. It’s got all the right elements for a noir detective tale, and while it is grim, it doesn’t come off as the grim and gritty Batman we’ve known since Frank Miller gave him a facelift. The final page of the issue had my jaw hanging open, as the seriousness of what the Joker was planning became apparent, heightened only by the great art. This is a must buy book from me, and I’m giving Detective Comics #1 5 out of 5 Stars.

Rating: ★★★★★

MATTHEW: I’m of more mixed feelings on this. For the big open of (arguabley) the second biggest character, I felt like there was an awful lot of build-up to show how this story will be different from what has come before, all aimed towards the big last-page shockaroo, but in between is a lot of standard-issue Bat-antics. The Gordon/Batman exchange is straight ouf of the Frank Miller playbook, right down to gratuitous (albeit mild) swearing, and while I liked the bits where Batman was worried about the welfare of the young child left in the Joker’s wake of madness, it didn’t feel much like a relaunch as much as a continuation of what has gone before. Tony Daniel has come a long way since he used to play Artoo Deetoo, but he’s got a ways to go to fill the boots of a Denny O’Neil, a Doug Moench, or even a (heaven help me) Frank Miller. Detective Comics #1 suffers not from a lack of enthusiasm for me, but from a sense of sameness that even a thunderbolt reveal at the end can’t completely dispel, earning 2.5 out of 5 stars overall. It’s good stuff, certainly, but I can’t help but chafe that it’ll be next issue (at least) before I can say for sure that there’s something truly new and different going on.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

New and different indeed, Dear Reader.  A quick poll of the @MajorSpoilers Twitter Feed showed many of those following also have mixed opinions on this first issue.  There’s a comment section below, and you know what to do with it!

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆