SLUGFEST: Detective Comics #1

A comic review article by: The Firing Squad
A killer called The Rat City Gotham Ripper is on the loose on Spawn's Batman's home turf – leading Hellspawn Dark Knight on a deadly game of Chutes and Ladders cat and mouse.

Michael Deeley:
Karyn Pinter:
Travis Walecka:

Michael Deeley:

Once again, Batman fights the Joker while the police try to capture them both. The Joker is ultimately captured and taken to Arkham Asylum. There he meets a mystery man called The Dollmaker who cuts off the Joker's face.

Yep. Cuts it right off. Then hangs it on a wall.

Technically, this is a good Batman comic. Some fans will love it. It's dark, gritty and violent. Batman is portrayed as a terrifying figure of the night who never forgets the importance of preserving innocent life. His fighting skills and deductive mind enable him to defeat any opponent. He has a good relationship with Commissioner Gordon, but he's hunted by police and the mayor who think he's as bad as the criminals he fights. The art reminds me of "Dark Knight Returns" in both style and coloring. Batman appears powerful, racing through an unforgiving city. The Joker is as demonic as ever. This looks and feels like the noir comic book it should be.

My only complaint about the art is Batman's cape. It's drawn too big. His cape is constantly whipping around him or trailing behind him. It looks like he's wearing Spawn's cape. I can easily see that thing getting caught in a door, or torn to shreds in a single gunfight. I know superhero costumes aren't usually practical, but I prefer Batman's cape to hang closer to his body. Then it can be used for protection or gliding. This 20' bed sheet is a prime target for satire.

The comic as a whole is so dark it's depressing. It was like watching Se7en -- technically good, but not a lot of fun. We have a little girl in danger, cops being blown up, a killer wearing a mask made of skin, the Joker killing someone while naked, and the infamous final scene with the severed face. Ick. I can see why DC abandoned the Comics Code.

I'm trying to imagine the kind of person who would keep buying this comic. And they scare me. This comic failed to entertain me and make me want to buy the next issue. If it wasn't so well drawn and well written, I'd give it One Bullet. And if you liked this comic, cut back on the S&M porn.

Michael Deeley is proudly serving in the US Air Force while inoculating his fellow airmen with his liberal views. He’s currently struggling to balance a life that includes family, career advancement, video games, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 in addition to comic books. He currently buys only three monthly series: Irredeemable, Incorruptible and Dark Horse Presents. The rest are minis, specials, trades and back issues.

Karyn Pinter:

Okay, here we are on our second first issue of Detective Comics and man it couldn’t be more different than that golden issue way back in 1937. Back before Batman showed up to take the comic as his own, back when “Yellow Terror” was still totally acceptable to be printed and read, back when Slam Bradley was a guy no one messed with -- no one does still, but he’s sadly isn’t as relevant as he once was. Seventy-four years later, DC has tossed American pop culture history into the wind to have it blown back into their faces and it tastes like, well, a bunch of glossy paper. But it’s not such a bad thing.

Let’s go over what was the point of all this... None that I could see, unless you count money. Money makes a pretty good point and DC loves its money. I bet there's treasure baths 24/7 over there… except in the Wonder Woman department, where it’s a shower of cold, cold, shameful pennies. No, there was no need to cut off and redo Detective Comics. I do however, commend DC for going whole hog with this New 52 venture -- this had to have taken some steel balls to go through with. They can feed readers and fans all the B.S. they want, but most of us will argue that most of the comics were fine as they were and that this is just a big, shiny gimmick.

I look at the comic and see nothing different. It looks like a Detective Comic, it reads like a Detective Comic, therefore it’s a Detective Comic except that the issue number is #1 instead of #882. The issue does read nicely as a first issue -- it felt like a first issue and not a comic that’s shy of a 1,000. In a way I’m reminded of All-Star Batman and Robin but with less "God damn" Batman. It’s hard to explain, but sometimes Batman’s Batmanliness can really get tossed in your face. He can be too much of a brooding asshole for his own good and then he’s not enjoyable. I think I like this Batman. Tony Daniel did a good job at keeping Batman just a smidge sympathetic, as exampled with the little girl he rescues, but also keeping to Batman’s nature of punching the crap out of the Joker.

There’s really something to be admired about the artist/writer double threat. Some people may not like Tony Daniel’s work, art or writing or both. I’m not too familiar with his work outside of Batman, but what I’ve seen I’ve liked and what I see here in Detective Comics, I can whole heartedly get behind because he’s taken two jobs and made them one. When a writer can draw their own work there’s obviously a better translation. What Tony saw in his head while writing the script is what we get to see on the page, it’s like we’re reading his mind. This is exactly what Tony wanted to give us and what he gave us was a little messed up. Yeah, anyone who read this issue knows I’m talking about the last page. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t been spoiled already, so if you haven’t picked up this issue yet and you’ve been on the fence about it, go to your local comic shop, grab Detective Comics #1 and flip to the last page. Don’t read anything else, just look at the back page and then ask yourself two things -- 1) WTF? 2) Do I now need to know?

If you’re anything like me, the answer to #2 is yes.

I still reserve the right to be as skeptical as I want to be about the New 52, despite liking this new Detective Comics. After all it could be a total fluke, this could flat line after three issues… then again, this may also stand the chance of running for the next 70 years until DC gets another wild hair and pulls another fast one on the comic book readers around the world. In closing, for anyone who is genuinely uninterested in reading any of the new 52, I at least challenge you to the last page test. If you don’t care, then don’t care, but if it does happen to spark something, I hope you agree that Tony Daniel might be on to something here. It’s dark, it’s scary, it’s Batman. I do hope Slam Bradley comes back, though.

Karyn Pinter has been writing for Comics Bulletin since 2008. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and was one of those kids who was raised by TV, babysat by the likes of James Bond, Mary Poppins and Darth Vader. In college she spent her days critically analyzing Dorothy’s need to befriend a lion, scarecrow and man of tin and writing papers on how truth, justice and the American way ultimately lead to Superman’s death.

Karyn gladly accepts bribes in the form of carnitas burritos and/or Catwoman paraphernalia.

Travis Walecka:

As one of the more unheralded Batman writers of the bunch, you’ve got to give Tony Daniel credit for going his own way. He first served as Grant Morrison’s artist-in-crime with "Batman R.I.P." before moving onto his own run on Batman -- as both writer and artist -- that had its spectacular and forgetful moments. It’s almost unfortunate that Daniel’s admirable take on Dick Grayson under the cowl deemed impressive until a little writer by the name of Scott Snyder appeared upon the scene.

Ironically, that’s when things got a little musty, with Daniel’s initial central focus on the Falcone crime family spreading itself too thin amongst a horde of random characters. Fans were given Catgirl, Reaper, Dr. Faust, Hush, ninja clans and more holes than the British Open. Thankfully, Daniel’s dependability over the last few years earned himself the honors of writing DC’s most historically rich Batman title, Detective Comics.

What comes forward from the New 52 update of Detective Comics is surprising. Daniel always had a keen sense of action storytelling, yet it’s impossible to recall action in a Daniel Batman comic this high octane. This reboot debut is perhaps the best thing the writer/artist has ever written, merely for the fact the comic flies by with the same investigative initiatives found in Daniel’s earlier Batman. Don’t worry kids: despite the Joker and Batman going face to face for most of the comic -- with Bruce Wayne evading the Gotham PD in the process -- there’s plenty of detective in Detective.

That means more Joker. Daniel wastes no time throwing Batman’s number one villain into the spotlight, showcasing the brutal murder that led the Clowned Prince towards his most recent admission into Arkham Asylum. While Daniel’s depiction isn’t quite so much the snarling Heath Ledger-inspired personality found from Morrison, the writing still goes on to showcase enough awkward brilliance that makes this terror such a hoot. Almost as intriguing is the cockier -- yet not as confident -- Batman’s own questioning on his handling of the long-time nemesis.

Yet with all that said, and even with that terrifically traumatizing last page involving the most popular villain in all of comics, this week’s rebooted Action Comics, Swamp Thing and hell, even Animal Man, got more water cooler talk than Detective Comics. But I’m sure that’s perfectly fine with Tony Salvador Daniel. He’s been given the keys to the Batmobile, with complete control over his own Gotham City. No better reason to push forward now.

Travis Walecka has gone through more phases than Paris Hilton has gone through tan lines. Or, more apropos, more phases than there are Batman titles. Hip-hop critic. MMA fighter. Furniture mover. Screenwriter. Hollywood bouncer. This guy puts Dean Malenko to shame, or at least Hayden Christensen. Nonetheless, the newfound phase of this all-too-positive "Loose Cannon" (as monikered from various music and film review sites) is simply comics. And it's going on three years strong. After blowing the lot of his savings on graphic novels and stupid "collectible" figurines, Travis decided to leave them all in Boston and head to his next destiny: Hollywood, California.

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