Detective Comics #4

A comic review article by: Ray Tate

The Dollmaker, a psychopath who fashions patchwork skin from his victims, has kidnapped Commissioner Gordon, with the Joker's permission removed the Clown Prince's face and captured Batman. Now, the Dark Knight must battle a clot of human Joker marionettes with knives as the Dollmaker intends to sell the Caped Crusader to the highest bidder. That of course is the Dollmaker's second mistake. To quote another incarnation of the Joker, "Lex! Lex! Listen to someone who knows. Don't Wait. Do it now." Of course, the Dollmaker is crackers, and a bid from Penguin plus the discussion of terms gives Batman the respite he needs.

Batman's Second Wind

Damned idiot didn't even think to take the precaution of removing Batman's utility belt, but that's characteristic of the Dollmaker's arrogance. He's so sure that he's defeated Batman. So many have thought that.

Nasty Grin

If you haven't figured it out, I am very pleased with this issue of Detective Comics. This is how Batman should read. He's "the world's greatest detective." He is an unparalleled escapologist, but where a magician learned his trade to entertain, Batman learned the art to survive. He's a critical thinker, and he is hell to crime.

Holy Crap!

Batman goes through the Penguin's men and the Dollmaker's men like a scythe through wheat, and as he beats the snot out them, he makes some chilling promises. Meanwhile, Commissioner Gordon's sympathetic nature saves him from the Dollmaker's plans, and the Dollmaker must bid a hasty retreat with his henchwench nurse.

The story also incorporates elements introduced in the other Batman titles. We finally get a sense of when these titles are set. Internal Affairs threatened Bruce Wayne in Batman Dark Knight, and their blonde bozo representative is back on the roof with Harvey Bullock threatening Gordon and Batman. Regular cops actually refer to Internal Affairs as Shoo-Flys.

When the case ends explosively and all leads have died like embers, Batman takes some R and R with Gotham reporter Charlotte Rivers, and while some might consider these throwaway scenes, Daniel makes the most of them.

Whereas for some reason in the previous universe, the one that made no sense, writers suggested Batman was antediluvian in his thinking. He was out of his depth when it came to computers and needed younger hackers like Robin or Barbara Gordon to carry him through these strange, new pathways. He also lacked an understanding of social evolution; the whole fiasco where Batman appears not to approve of gays and lesbians. Bruce Wayne is like every other modern businessman, connected, and savvy.

Thoroughly Modern Bruce

Detective Comics is quickly paced, lean and mean. Tony Daniel's artwork sends shivers up the spine, and I'm not even all that keen with the length of Batman's ears. Too short, yet there's no doubt in my mind that every scene depicts Batman at his best.



Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups, where he reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.

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