Detective Comics 8

Today, Peter and Drew are discussing Detective Comics 8, originally released April 4th, 2012.

Peter:  If there is one thing I can’t do it’s throw in the towel. I’m a bit of a completionist. Sometimes, it’s really easy for me to finish something because it’s really good. Sometimes it’s really easy for me to finish something because despite it being impossibly hard, I enjoy doing it, and at the end, I feel extremely satisfied, even if completing it was stupidly hard and I probably will never be able to do it again. (Battletoads, I’m looking at you!) But I will say that continuing to read Detective Comics is putting me to the test.

We pick up this new story arc with Batman chasing Catwoman through Gotham. Catwoman is tweaking on fear gas the entire time. Batman chases after her trying to get some information from her, but since Catwoman is on the gas she sees Batman as Poison Ivy. Once Batman catches up with her, and gives her an antidote, she calms down. Batman gets in her face demanding information from her. Very Christian Bale. We find out that Scarecrow gave Batman a 1 hour time limit, in order to save Gotham. Batman finds out from Catwoman that she was meeting with Digger Jones, a local dog fighting organizer, and what I would assume is other illegal activity. Once Scarecrow calls Batman, he drops the ball and lets him know that he is watching. Batman confronts Scarecrow, who tells him that someone is stealing his act, and that they have a child held hostage. Batman heads to the building where Digger said he was meeting to confront the Scarecrow wanna be. He beats his way into the building, and confronts the mastermind: Eli Strange, alleged son of Dr. Hugo Strange. Eli talks to his father on the phone/TV, who alerts him that the police are en route. Batman busts in, and beats him, during which he realizes that the picture of Scarecrow gave him of the boy, is in fact a picture of Eli. Eli goes to jail. The end.

This is a massive departure from Daniel’s previous books. It is a completely stand-alone story. While having lots of loose ends, and moving through the story faster than the Barry Allen reading a magazine, it’s its own book. Which is why it’s super weird. I mean I guess that you could say that the introduction of Hugo Strange, who is giving the orders to Eli will come back after the Night of Owls. But issue 8 doesn’t really seem to fit anywhere. Is it okay that I am okay with that? I think that this is something Detective Comics could be. It could be a series of stand-alone stories, or maybe two issue stories, but something new every month. Which would not be completely unheard of. If fact, it would harken back to the original Detective Comics, which wasn’t a continuing storyline, but something new all the time. I think that would enjoy that, but only if it got better.

This could be considered a step in the right direction, but the story doesn’t flow as well as it could and Batman’s dialogue is still not fitting the character very well at all.
This isn’t super believable, since Batman doesn’t really get in people’s faces like that unless he is interrogating them. Since Batman and Catwoman have had this on and off relationship-thingy, I don’t think he would go from saving her life by giving her the fear antidote, and then grab her by the face and yell at her. That just seems out of character for Batman, even at his Christian Bale-iest.

Next thing I want to point out, and I’m sure that someone else has figured this out, but if you read the press release from DC about what was going on in this issue, it read like this:

Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend, investigative journalist Charlotte Rivers, tries to protect a long-hidden secret even when her own life hangs in the balance. The Scarecrow is after knowledge only she possesses, and he’ll stop at nothing to get it from her. Can Batman uncover Charlotte’s secret past in time to save her future? With the clock ticking and a dose of newly designed fear gas in the air, Batman must first fight his own nightmare as all of Gotham City turns against him.

And here is what actually happened in Detective Comics 8:

Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend, investigative journalist Charlotte Rivers, tries to protect a long-hidden secret even when her own life hangs in the balance. The Scarecrow is after knowledge only she possesses, and he’ll stop at nothing to get it from her. Can Batman uncover Charlotte’s secret past in time to save her future? With the clock ticking and a dose of newly designed fear gas in the air, Batman must first fight his own nightmare as all of Gotham City turns against him.

Um, what? Really?! I mean I don’t really mind that Charlotte wasn’t getting a lot of attention, I didn’t really like her that much, since she was pretty much a Vicky Vale knock-off.

I did like the new Scarecrow design, even if it does remind me of Cillian Murphy from Batman Begins. He is supposed to be scary, and I can see that in this design. But I still do miss the classic Scarecrow look. Don’t get me wrong, this one is good, it lends itself to Scarecrow being, in addition to a criminal, a well educated man. Also, the mouth effects, with the stitches are really well done.

But I’m still at a loss for this book. I just can’t get into it. I wonder if it will get better when it gets included into the Night of Owls storyline next month.

Also, there really is no reason why Batman needs to be upside-down in this panel.

Drew: Man, Thank you for pointing out that arbitrarily upside-down image of Batman — what is with that? What perspective are we taking here, a drunken hunchback’s? The image makes way more sense if you flip it over, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as DRAMATIC! or EXTREME! Really, that image is indicative of this whole title’s interest in putting whatever is DRAMATIC! or EXTREME! above anything that makes even the remotest sense.

Take, for example, THE FIRST LINE OF THE ISSUE: “The woman falling to her death is Selina Kyle, A.K.A. Catwoman.” I mean, the fact that she’s a woman named Selina Kyle who is also known as Catwoman is factual to the point of not being worth saying, but “falling to her death” isn’t just over-dramatic, it’s straight-up incorrect. You know what happens in the next panel? She lands gracefully on a roof. If someone is “falling to her death,” that scene sure as shit better end with that someone either dying or being saved by an outside entity. If they land gracefully because that’s the kind of shit they do every night, I really don’t think you can consider it a life-or-death situation.

Or how about this image:

We don’t see what happened immediately before this, but let’s break it down: Batman — on a timeline, mind you — apparently tied Digger up, found a raw porterhouse steak, rubbed it all over Digger, and took them both to wherever Digger kept his dogs chained up. Does dangling criminals off of buildings no longer work? Is it just too damn efficient? Oh, right, it just wouldn’t have been as DRAMATIC! or EXTREME! as threatening him with hungry dogs.

Details, details. Who cares if the observations or the actions of the hero make any sense as long as they’re AWESOME!? Well, maybe Scarecrow does, which is why he totally needlessly manipulates Batman to stop a crime. Scarecrow has somehow missed the memo that Batman WOULD PROBABLY WANT TO STOP THIS CRIME ANYWAY. Does Batman suddenly only stop gigantic drug shipments when little boys may or may not be involved? There is no reason Scarecrow couldn’t have called this in as an anonymous tip and gotten the same result. OH WAIT. That wouldn’t have been DRAMATIC! and EXTREME!

Okay, all of that is insulting to the characters and the readers, but I’m going to go ahead and say that Daniel actually commits a bigger crime by insulting the very fabric of storytelling. Check out the last page of this story:

Don’t bother reading all that text — it sucks — but isn’t it weird that there is so much text on the last page? It’s because Daniel thinks it’s a good idea to cram most of the exposition in after the climax. It’s what literary professors call ASS-BACKWARDS. I guess I can’t blame him — there wasn’t really any room for exposition earlier in the story what with all the DRAMATIC! and EXTREME! shit — but I also can’t muster the interest in this character to care AT ALL about any of the information dumped here. I hate to whip out the old “a four-year-old could have done better” criticism, but man, maybe a four-year-old would at least have a more vigilant editor. That’s right, Mike Marts, I’m calling you out for letting this shit past your desk: hold Batman to a higher standard.

I’m soooo ready to be done thinking about this issue, but I can’t not mention the back-up: one of the classic kinds of Two-Face stories where he flips the coin at the beginning, and we wait until the end to find out which side came up. Only this issue has a lot more blow-torch torture. Guess which side came up? I guess blow-torch torture is EXTREME! enough for the bad side, but it’s not nearly as DRAMATIC! as if it was the good side, so the good side it is!

I have to admit that Two-Face is my favorite villain, so the carelessness with which he’s treated here may offend me unduly, but WHAT THE FUCK? The point of Two-Face is that he has a bad side and a good side, not a bad side and a worse side. When treated well, he represents the same kind of duality as Batman, a kind of dark mirror-image of Bruce Wayne. Half of him is still the upstanding public defender that worked so tirelessly to put criminals away — and not just because he hated crime; he genuinely believed in the justice system. His experiences may have left him jaded about due process, but I don’t think that pushes him towards being cool with torture. Hell, I don’t even think it makes sense for his bad side to do something like that, let alone his good side. But that’s not nearly dark enough for Daniel, so instead of a compelling villain with strong, clear motivations, we get an arbitrary dickwad who does whatever seems like it could be the worst thing is right now.

God this book sucks. I didn’t even mention the needlessly cryptic intro where we see Harvey injured in some kind of set-up. There’s really not that much to say, so I’ll leave you with the thought most worthy of further consideration: Is Vinnie wearing a Tibetan robe?

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?

15 comments on “Detective Comics 8

    • Haha, an issue this EXTREME! and DRAMATIC! warrants an equally EXTREME! and DRAMATIC! review:

      Detective Comics 8 is worse than a truck full of supermodels falling off a cliff into a pool of shark-infested nitroglycerin. BARF!

  1. Move over Aquaman, we’ve got a new Retcon Punching-bag.

    This really is a horrible issue, but I think I prefer it to the previous. While the story here didn’t make sense, I could at least follow it (which isn’t something that can be said of the whole Iceberg Lounge arc).

    When did Scarecrow turn into the Riddler?

    ALSO, that dogs and steak scene… it’s like Daniels sorta remembered a similar scene in Watchmen and was like “Yeah – I’ll do that and it’ll be AWESOME.”

    • I prefer it to the previous as well. Like I said, if it had tighter writing, Detective could be very successful as a 1-2 issue per story arc book. It’s very doable.

      The dog and steak scene just makes me think it would be something the Punisher would do. Like when I tells a bad guy that he’s burning him with an acetyline torch, but in fact, he’s just rubbing his back with a popsicle and burning a steak. Except of course then go ahead and feed Digger to the dogs.

  2. I think a lot of the problem is Daniel is trying to make his characers, especially Batman more edgy, and the execution is just lacking on almost every front.

  3. This has got me thinking about comic book economics. Is it possible that they know Detective Comics is going to sell just fine – regardless of quality – so they don’t mind when a given issue is a shit-show from start to finish?

    • But why not also make it good? Then they’d get additional buys from people with discerning tastes. Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if there were two Snyder-and-Capullo’s-Batman-quality Batman titles? Or ten? If they really don’t care (if the audience really is captive), why bother to pay Daniel to do anything? Christ, a book of blank pages would actually be less dumb than some of these — it would at least be less insulting to my intelligence.

  4. It’s not that Batman is upside-down in that image, the ENTIRE image, is upside-down. It’s like it got put into the proof for lettering upside-down and they kept it.

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