Or – “Batman! Always Batman! Always Driving Us Bats!”
The saddest part about the popularity of Batman comes in the fact that the various incarnations of the Dark Knight (from Dick Sprang to Adam West to Deidrich Bader) get short shrift in favor of whatever is the latest and most badass. (Witness the Major Spoilers Podcast’s inability to talk about Batman without mentioning Christopher Nolan.) While I like Batman, I think that one of the most awesome parts of the character is his flexibility, and how he is as much at home fighting Ras Al Ghul as he is dog-fighting the ghost of the Red Baron. Will Detective Comics impress or distress? Your Major Spoilers review awaits!
Previously, in Detective Comics: So, this Batman guy is driven by an old wound to try to fight evil wherever it rears its head, and he has a big ol’ pointy cowl and a cape and stuff. Honestly, if you need a lot of explanation of whom Batman is, you probably clicked here by accident…
OSWALD CHESTERFIELD COBBLEPOT: HERO OF THE MASSES!
There are some who believe that it is impossible to review a single episode of an ongoing narrative without knowing all that has come before. I disagree with this, primarily because a successful comic/television show/movie/what-have-you shouldn’t require that you take a master-level course before consuming. I mention this in the name of full disclosure, as I have not read an issue of Detective Comics in full since the new #1 back in September of ’11. Our issue opens with Bruce Wayne, out of costume, nearly getting rent in twain by a madman with a flaming swords and a mask. The early pages of the issue remind me quite a bit of the art of Gary Frank, though a bit lighter on the demented piercing gaze of madness that Frank’s faces always seem to possess. The killer ninja very much displeases the Penguin, who was quite clear in his orders that a planned hit on Wayne NOT go through, but his main goon points out that the moment is a fine opportunity, one which the Penguin quickly takes up. He stabs the masked killer in the back (seemingly fatally) but still ends up being identified as a hero for saving the life of Gotham’s most eligible bachelor.
FACE-HEEL TURN FOR PAMMY?
Ironically, the parts of the issue that work the worst for me are the moments that try to keep the book in line with the other eleventy-six Bat-books. Bruce is seen discussing recent events of the main Batman and Birds of Prey title with Damian (the eponymous ‘Robin’ of ‘Batman And’) and while I appreciate his skills as a detective, I would have liked a little more self-sufficiency in the story, especially as it’s pretty enjoyable. Batman ends up seeking out Poison Ivy, who is trying to take down one of the Penguin’s enterprises, which is coincidentally one of the worst polluters in Gotham City. Layman’s script cleverly deals with Batman’s limitations, as he is forced to go to great length to overcome Ivy’s mind-control powers (pretty clever lengths at that) only to end up in the clutches of another of his greatest villains: Clayface! There is a backup story that explains the connections in-universe between Pammy and Hagen (assuming the new Clayface is still Hagen, mind you), but it’s mostly interesting for its insight into Poison Ivy’s new mindset.
THE BOTTOM LINE: NOT BAD AT ALL.
John Layman’s writing is something I didn’t expect from a Bat-book: It’s fun. The little asides between Bruce and Damian, even in a sequence that I didn’t think was necessary, were insightful and clever, while the whole book reads very smoothly. Jason Fabok’s art is polished, but not showy, giving us a clear picture, solid storytelling, and a very attractive Poison Ivy without having to make her completely naked. (The transformation of Ivy into pin-up stripper has always bothered me, and it is something which I blame entirely on JIm Lee’s circa 2004 redesign of the character.) In short, Detective Comics #14 reads well, is easy to step into, even without having read last ish, and uses Batman well, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. If nothing else, Layman’s take uses Batman’s greatest weakness (his humanity) and makes it a strength without beating us over the head with his awesomeness or making him essentially superhuman himself, something I wholeheartedly appreciate.
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!