26 September 2011

"Detective Comics" #1 (Nov 2011)

Detective Comics #1
Written and Drawn by Tony Salvador Daniel
Inks - Ryan Winn
Colors - Tomeu Morey
Lettering - Jared K. Fletcher
Cover - Tony Salvador Daniel
Assistant Editor - Katie Kubert
Associate Editor - Janelle Asselin
Editor - Mike Marts
Batman Created by Bob Kane
Date of publication: 7 September 2011
$2.99, 32 pages

I hadn't even intended to buy this, but after spending most of the day with my wife babysitting for a friend of ours, I felt entitled to splurge on the way home.  Barnes and Noble still had this on the shelves, along with one remaining copy of Action Comics and the one book I hoped they'd have: Batwoman.  It was storming late tonight/early this morning and since I was still wide awake, I decided that the storm would make for the perfect ambiance for reading 'Tec.  Turns out, I was more or less right.

In a recent discussion on his blog, Ty Templeton lamented that this character calling himself The Joker bears little resemblance to the character as he has been presented and known for the last 75 years.  He's right.  Despite using a high voltage joy buzzer and popping off a couple of bad puns, there's no sense of even dark whimsy about this character.  He's a pure sadist, committing acts of violence befitting a character wishing to be taken seriously by an audience that has grown up with the Saw movies.  I'm not that audience, but I confess: I kinda dig this issue.  It calls to mind some of the Legends of the Dark Knight stories I used to enjoy in my youth: gritty, without advertising in every panel that they're gritty.  Tony Daniel has written and penciled a striking first issue for Detective Comics's relaunch; it moves at a great pace and, like Batgirl #1, it took me a solid 20+ minutes to read so I felt pretty good about the amount of substance here.

I do hope, though, that Daniel shores up some of the cliches in future issues.  For instance, when Batman and The Joker are finally face to face on page six, the former announces, "Forget about it, Joker. You can't run. I own the night."  I'd already seen The Joker butcher a dude, and it was Batman who made me cringe.

Perhaps the greatest microcosm for the small parts of this issue that didn't work for me is that before Batman can rescue a little girl, the Gotham City Police Department storm in and pursue...Batman, who has to lead the dimwitted cops out of the building to safety.  It works to extricate The Joker and frustrate Batman, but it doesn't feel terribly new.  We've seen the police chase Batman umpteen times; in three of the to-date six live action movies and the animated Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, to say nothing of countless TV episodes and comic books before.  How familiar is it?  Familiar enough that Daniel can show the entire chase on two pages, told mostly in shorthand.  We don't need to see the whole thing; Batman can narrate his irritation, tell us what he's going to do and then pull into the Batcave on the next page.  It's all too perfunctory; Daniel himself knows this isn't the real action of the story, but rather an obstacle that allows the antagonist to escape.

Mostly, these are minor quibbles.  The real dilemma is what to make of the darkness of the plot--involving a mass murdering Joker who now apparently hacks away at his victims in the nude and seems to have begun hiring challengers to try to kill him.  For a lot of readers, it may work as a Batman story, but leaves a lot to be desired as a Joker story.  I'd be lying if I said I was in love with a Joker without much of a sense of humor, but I'm sufficiently intrigued that I'll likely buy the second issue to see where this is going.

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