There will be no wiseguy remarks here. This is the review where I’m marking the relaunched Detective Comics as the first full-fledged disappointment I’ve read in The New 52. Clearly, I haven’t picked up Voodoo, but there you go. (Okay, please let that last wiseguy remark slide).
This isn’t my first actual disappointment (that would have been The Fury of Firestorm #2), but this is the first disappointing completed story I’ve looked at. With the first story arc with The Dollmaker finished in issue #4, Detective Comics is likely the first New 52 title I’ll drop completely no matter whose face writer artist Tony Daniel nails to the wall again.
There are smatterings of signs that there will be more upsets coming to DC’s line in general, given the changing of artistic teams and the announcement of crossovers. Maybe with the early signs of a “big plan,” I should have expected things to return to crossover hell all along. Still, given the pointless of Flashpoint, the New 52 books seemed almost a chaotic exercise that suggested infinite chances for good and bad. But now DC is tightening its reigns, and more of business as usual is on its way.
You have probably already surmised that there are spoilers here, but if you purvey sites like Bleeding Cool, there’s likely not much to spoil at this point.
The relaunched Detective Comics seems geared to the hypothetical new reader who might pick up a book due to the movies. Ironically, it’s the continuity laden but superior Batman title that’d I recommend to a new reader. Writer/artist Tony Daniel attempts to tell a story in a Batman: Year One type setting (Batman just starting out, not trusted by police) while adding in a new character called The Dollmaker who may or may not be a pastiche of the other doll-like DC characters (my continuity knowledge is stronger in the animated DC).
The dialogue in the first issue was doing almost all of the heavy lifting to invoke the mood of a drawn out chase and fight between Batman and The Joker. Maybe it’s the workload Daniel has–and give a writer/artist credit, he is amazingly on time with this book–but in addition to the inconsistency of some of the art (his style as the sole artist seems less consistent than even some of the pages drawn by multiple artists in the new Action Comics) , he is really working against the show-don’t-tell philosophy.
That is until the literal money/facial shot after Joker is taken to Arkham Asylum (as planned) to be worked on by The Dollmaker.
Sadly, it doesn’t really go anywhere from there.
Following issue #1’s splash page that both delighted and disgusted fans, we then follow Batman as he tries to track down the Dollmaker, responsible for the Joker’s removed face and later the kidnapping of Commissioner Gordon for reasons still unclear three issues later. The story started out as a whodunit and a slightly weak one given that the suspects can’t be anything but newly introduced characters. This is more a genre restriction to any mainstream title, but it could still have been a well told story. Unfortunately, by issue #4, it becomes less of a story and more of a series of events that are obviously meant to titillate but left me underwhelmed.
The Dollmaker collects bodies and parts. He discards Joker’s face but prizes Batman a whole. Why? Not sure. A kid seemingly kidnapped by The Dollmaker goes on a murder spree. Why? Not sure. Was/is she in cahoots with Dollmaker? Who knows? And I get the sense that my lack of knowing is not from any successfully built up intrigue but more because something has been intentionally left out. Hell, there was more time building up a pointless interaction between Batman and a henchman, none of which contributed to the hero’s progress and therefore served as a aimless distraction. A point could have been made in place of that.
Four issues into Detective Comics, a story allegedly finished, and nothing gets resolved. There’s only a faint hope that maybe some day soon something more than cliffhangers will actually happen with a reshowing of the Joker’s face (preserved now) on issue #4’s finall page. It’s far less exciting the second time around, just as readers are likely less excited than when they were at the end of issue #1. It’s like watching a juggler who doesn’t drop his balls but walks behind the curtain to finish his act, expecting us to applaud.
Sorry if that’s a little too much like a wiseguy remark (and for any other cracks I let go unintentionally). I’m just too bummed right now to notice them.