Detective Comics #1
The new 52 from DC Comics is definitely a mixed bag. From the outside, it looks to me like the perfect opportunity to reach a new readership. In reality, it is not as clear as all that. Some books such as Action Comics and Justice League are clean restarts while others are minefields of continuities leaving readers confused as to when the new issue takes place. In addition to the question of continuity, there is the issue of tone. Superhero comic books have been criticized as being far too violent of late and Batman has not escaped that judgement. One would think that a character so heavily promoted by video games, cartoons and children’s shoes (on the back cover of a book showing the Joker’s bloody face amidst a pile of severed baby heads) would have a tamer comic. In the recent past, the Batman comics have featured serial killers and other gruesome images such as a duffle bag of severed gangster heads.
No matter the past, a fresh restart is the ideal opportunity to clean up DC’s act, right? Well… not so much. I’m not damning the new Detective Comics for not being less violent, just pointing out that it was an option that DC Editorial passed on in this case.
Tony Daniel surprised many Batman readers when he took over the writing chores in addition to the art duties last year. In the new version of Batman, Daniel has continued his high quality work with an intelligent and suspenseful script. This is what most fans think of when they want an ideal Batman book; some detective work, rooftop hopping, gritty realism and a devilish villain. This issue hits all of those notes while setting the stage for what’s to come.
In the new DCU, Batman is seen as a vigilante by Gotham City Police and a public nuisance by the Mayor, eager to bring the dark knight in to earn the support of voters. Investigating a plague of violent mutilations and murders, Batman earmarks the Joker as the perp. While hunting the Joker, Batman stumbles upon a new threat to the people of Gotham. Unfortunately, Batman is blinded by his need to defeat the Joker and thus misses the possibility that it is not the clown prince of crime at all, it’s the sinister Dollman.
The new Batman is good, very good. Uncluttered by the mess of past continuity and crossovers, this is Batman doing what he does best, fighting crooks, dodging the cops and trying to keep one step ahead of his foes using cunning and high tech gadgetry. I’ve tried several times to collect Batman and Detective Comics over the years only to lose patience due to fill-in issues and cross-overs that interrupted the flow of the monthly book. I want a good Batman book. This could be it. Batman and Robin was far lighter in tone, but Detective Comics would appeal to a reader looking for a stripped-down Batman fitting the tone of the Chris Nolan films and Arkham Asylum videogames.
Detective Comics #1 has sold out but a second and third print are both available. If you’d rather read a digital copy, it is available for direct download at Comixology.