Today, Patrick and Peter are discussing Detective Comics 1-6, originally released September 7th, 20122, October 5th, 2011, November 2nd, 2011, December 7th, 2011, January 4th, 2012, and February 1st, 2012.
Patrick: I’m a bit of a completionist. Any time I take up a new hobby, I have to fight my collectorly urges and pace my intake of that hobby. When I discovered Green Lantern in the Fall of 2010, I was fortunate enough to be working a high-paying administrative gig. I threw down laughably large amounts of money on every trade paperback with the words “Green” and “Lantern” printed on them somewhere. They weren’t all classics, but damn it all, I wanted to know what was going on. DC Comics understands this impulse so very, very well. That’s why there are four series in the New 52 starring Batman (Batman, Detective Comics, Batman and Robin and The Dark Knight) with seven other series that have already featured Batman in prominent roles (Nightwing, Batgirl, Batwoman, Batwing, Catwoman, Justice League and Justice League International) and a few where I assume he’ll show up sooner or later (Red Hood and the Outlaws and Birds of Prey). DC is in the goddamned Batman business. Which brings us to the title that bears DC’s name: Detective Comics. I don’t get it. The market can apparently bare the weight of this Batman-glut. I don’t know that I’ve got the tolerance for so many Bat-titles, and when I start making cuts, I’ll have a hard time justifying Detective Comics. This series seems redundant to me in a way that very few others do. If it’s not clear from the name of the series, Detective Comics follows the adventures of Batman as he fights crime in Gotham City. “But wait” you say “isn’t that what EVERY OTHER BATMAN SERIES IS ABOUT?”
Yeah, it’s true. So how’s this any different from the 13 other series we’re reading? Well, for one, it’s grim as shit. The first four issues tell the relatively well-contained story about the Doll Maker killing people and removing their faces to adhere these face-chunks to the henchmen that make up the Doll Maker family. You know that moment in the Game Cube remake of Resident Evil 1 where you realize that horrifying creature that’s been chasing you around the gardens is actually a little girl that sewed her parent’s corpses to her body so they’d never have to be apart? All four issues of the first arc feel like this all the time.
And while something seems amiss with the tone struck by the villains in this series, there’s something equally strange about the version of Batman DC presents. There’s a certain swagger carrying the cowl in this series that doesn’t totally gel with my perception of either Bruce or Batman. As Bruce, he’s a swarthy playboy, actively inventing lies to tell to the woman he’s pretending to care about. That feels more like Tony Stark than Bruce Wayne to me – and it also seems totally trivial compared to what Bruce is up to in both Batman and Batman and Robin. This aspect of the series isn’t wrong, necessarily – it’s just so much less compelling than the alternative. And I think the same applies to the bad-assery of Batman himself. He still does cool shit, but it somehow feels hallow, even kinda pointless:
The second arc – while less Saw-like and dark – lacks the tidy direction of the first. I’m not really 100% on what’s going on in this one. Penguin runs a floating casino off the coast of Gotham (international waters? just hard-to-prosecute-national waters?) and operates a sort of crime-bank. Oh man and the criminals that use this crime-bank are WEIRD. There’s an invisible dude, a skull and cross bones floating in a red aquarium, a glowing-blue energy man named Mr. Combustible, and someone with strange green glasses. Between my reactions of “huh?” and “yawn,” it’s hard to get a grasp on what these dudes are up to.
I’m hard on this series because I don’t see the point. Also, I’m tired from writing all weekend. Under other circumstances, I might have moderately enjoyed my experience reading this book. I love Batman and Gotham, and this series gives me some extra Jim Gordon to boot. It’s even occasionally very clever. This set of panels from the first issue hinted at a parallel between the Commissioner and the Dark Knight is really cool, but there isn’t much follow-through on this concept as Gordon becomes a damsel in distress in the first arc and is absent in the second.
Tony Salvador Daniels pulls double duty writing and penciling this series all by his lonesome, so I guess I can forgive that both lack subtly. Some of Batman’s little voice-over bubbles are really poorly written and betray a Batman that’s just too douchey for my liking. He’s also kind of an asshole. In issue 6, he interrogates a sleazy motel owner. The sleaze-ball points a shotgun at Batman, who naturally turns the gun back on his TOTALLY NON-THREATENING OPPONENT and MAIMS HIM.
I’m going to hang on to this series for the Night of Owls back-ups (and because, as I mentioned earlier – I’m a sucker for completion), but I just don’t understand it’s need or it’s appeal. With so many truly incredible series that feature the character, I don’t know why we should have to wade through this grim, mean spirited mediocrity. But I am prepared to be proven incorrect. Or perhaps just curmudgeonly. Tell me where I got it wrong, Peter.
Peter: Going in, I was really excited about Detective Comics. It is one of the few books that I am reading that are written and drawn by the same person. This, and well, Batman, drew me to the book initially. In the past I have really loved Tony Daniel’s work. His run with Battle for the Cowl was pretty good, and I enjoyed that story. I also got the sense that he writes better in shorter segments, short story arcs. That being said, Patrick, I don’t really know how to tell you that you are wrong. This isn’t Daniel’s first time writing for The Dark Knight; he wrote and illustrated for the main Batman title back in 2010 for a while. But those were different. They didn’t seem as disjointed overall, or, dare I say, as forced.
That is what Detective Comics feels to me so far: it feels forced. Daniel’s writing is showing some inconsistencies thus far, both in terms of a cohesive direction, but also with character dialogue and structure. I cannot get my head around Daniel’s Batman. He is a little darker and more gritty, which is okay, but he doesn’t jive with the Batman in my head. Just the way he talks makes it weird for me, and the disconnect between his speech bubbles and his inner monologue don’t seem very Batman-like at all.
This just doesn’t seem like Batman to me. You know talks like this? Spider-Man – he taunts is foes and makes jokes, but not Batman. That’s what Robin is for. Also, Daniel is going back and forth with this very ‘noir’ feel to the writing, particularly Batman’s. I half-expect that when I turn the page that it will suddenly be in black and white with exaggerated shadows, and Batman will be Sam Spade from The Maltese Falcon.
The art in these books is really what keeps me coming back. Daniel’s art is superb, and fits what he is writing incredibly well. The whole art team for Detective Comics has been doing a superb job, especially with shadowing and lighting effects. I really felt this in the first story arc. The whole thing felt incredibly grim, and it fit the Dollmaker story very well.
The really liked the first story arc. I like the idea, the characters, the Joker’s minor involvement, the Dollmaker, that was a cool idea. The implementation was a little off, specifically with the Joker, and his death/disappearance/skinning. In issue 5, Batman continues his search for Joker, which is a perfectly fine plot continuation, but the context is off. There is a mob of protesters demanding Batman’s head on a pike? Whaaaaa? Whether you’re a fan of Batman and his methods or not, no one in Gotham should find themselves feeling sympathetic and rooting for the Joker. I feel Daniel could have come up with a better plot device to structure Batman’s hunt for the Joker around, because this one just doesn’t work too well.
All in all, this isn’t a bad book. I think that it just needs to focus a little more. In the second arc, Daniel is all of a sudden juggling more characters, and it isn’t as graceful as it could be. I hope that as this goes on, it will improve.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?