Over the past year, I think it’s safe to say that Tony Daniel hasn’t been the greatest writer that has written Batman, and to be honest, I think it’s safe to say that he hasn’t even been a good writer for Batman. So going into the monumental first issue of Detective Comics, to say the least, I had my doubts about his qualities. But all those doubts were immediately forgotten after the first couple pages as we see Batman trying to hunt the Joker down. This is followed by almost non-stop action paired with a good story that left me thinking that nothing could go wrong and then Tony Daniel reverts back to his old ways and doesn’t second guess his actions.
To call this issue bad would be a great injustice because there is a sense of quality to it, like it’s pacing. For one thing, Daniel never lets up on his convictions and for the most part his ideas come through clearly, like his Bruce Wayne who seems fully formed in his current predicament it was nice to get a hint of who Bruce is in this new universe, and that’s where I think he succeeds the most. It was nice to get back into Bruce’s head as he explains the logistics of fighting someone like the Joker and I’m glad to know that Bruce seems like he hasn’t changed much. I also like how Bruce seems almost unprepared for the climactic Joker fight on the rooftop it goes along with the whole re-launch thing and it keeps Daniel’s Bruce away from the almighty, all-knowing Bruce that we’ve seen in the past and all those things only go to show that Daniel has made leaps and bounds with his writing and it really shows in this issue because writing a Batman and Joker face-off isn’t the easiest thing to do because you need to get a number of things right in your head before you can even put pen to paper.
And if your going to be writing the first issue of Detective Comics it makes sense to start it off with a Batman/Joker story and like I said Daniel gets it right by making the two characters two great forces clashing against one another and that’s what makes this issue work by using The Joker, Daniel not only crafts a good story he establishes Bruce as a character which Justice League #1 seemed to kind of glance over. We see Bruce who enjoys being Batman but is kind of burdened by it because he wants to be Bruce Wayne (the playboy who wants to date and go out) and even though it was only, in retrospect, a glance into that world it’s what makes the character a whole. Daniel doesn’t over sell it or try to force feed that aspect where in the past he might have because it would have bogged and slowed down the story. But going back to the Batman and Joker, Daniel writes it in such a way where something can and will actually happen, the Joker isn’t just a side character like he’s been in the past, he’s a major player in the story and the fact that he constantly eludes Batman’s capture is essential to the character.
But that’s part of the problem, adding the Joker to the story. A new mysterious villain the Dollmaker has made his entrance into the criminal underworld and that brings up the question as to whether or not we need a new villain at this point. I really don’t have a problem with that but it seemed like Daniel thought that the Dollmaker wasn’t that interesting of a character so he added the Joker to try and boost his appeal. And again I have no problem with that but you can’t lead us down a path where we think it’s going to be a Batman/Joker story only to pull out a new, and from the little we’ve seen of him, lackluster villain. For me, Daniel should have just stuck with the Joker and should have totally written out this Dollmaker character because the Joker is the greatest foe not only in Batman history but all of comic history and to pair the greatest with the new, dwarfs the new villain's appeal and plus too, I don’t know if it’s right to use our respect and admiration for the Joker character to try to introduce a villain that your trying to get in the door. Daniel should have just either stuck with a Batman/Joker story or stuck with his Dollmaker villain without the help of the Joker. But who am I to tell someone how to write a Batman story or to say that there are only two avenues for your creativity? I mean, I understand that you need to expand upon your story but I’m not sure the Dollmaker was the way to expand it, why not just establish something rather than try to lay foundations for something different?
Anyways, that aside, this issue was written very well with it’s non-stop, heart pounding action and I honestly couldn’t ask for more story wise. But there was just something about the art I didn’t like, especially the Batman scenes. Bruce almost looks overweight and un-proportioned like he’s one big piece of round muscle that can’t button up his shirt because he’s too fat, it seemed like Daniel wanted to show the difference between Dick and Bruce but went a little overboard on Bruce. But other than that, art-wise it was a great effort by Tony Daniel and company the coloring by Tomeu Morey was the highlight for me because he absolutely nailed the Gotham exterior scenes and it’s trademark darkness. I also liked how Daniel and his crew shaved a few years off of Gordon and made him a red head again, it was a nice touch and it went along with how the character was written or revamped where he seems to believe in what the Batman is trying to do, but still has to play the balancing game because of his loyalties to GCPD and the mayor among other things, it seems like both Batman and Gordon are still trying to learn to fully embrace one another and prove something to one another which is an aspect of the book I’m excited to see play out.
All in all, it was a great attempt by Tony Daniel, like I said before Daniel has made giant improvements to his story and the way he writes and it definitely shows in these pages. And even though I didn’t like the Dollmaker story that doesn’t make the book itself less interesting, needless to say I can’t wait for the next issue of Detective Comics.
Detective Comics #1:
Reviewed by Dane