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Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 1: Faces of Death (The New 52) Hardcover Review

4 min read

The classic villains take the stage as Detective Comics gets back to brutal basics.

What They Say:
Bruce Wayne returns as Batman, and sets his sights on new villain the Gotham Ripper, who in turn has his sights on Batman. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne explores a budding romance with television journalist Charlotte Rivers, who’s visiting Gotham City to cover the gruesome slayings–while also trying to uncover Bruce’s own mystery. But time is running out as both Commissioner Gordon and Batman work to uncover the true identity of this new serial killer.

This volume collects issues 1-7 of Detective Comics, part of the DC Comics—The New 52 event.

The Review:
Having no prior experience with Tony S. Daniel’s work, I was curious to see how this series was since I’ve heard positive about his artwork and mixed on his writing. That pretty much sums up this book in that it’s a mixed work at best, but it’s the artwork that will keep you reading it for the most part. With the other main Batman book focusing on new characters, Detective Comics gives us a look at the familiar by bringing in the Joker, Penguin and a Catwoman cameo as well. Jim Gordon is a pretty solid addition here as well as his relationship with Batman is explored a bit more. But the main focus here is really the convoluted piece involving darkness and death.

Reading Detective Comics made for a decent bit of time spent, but it’s also something that I found in writing about it a day later that little of the story was memorable. The book works good in the first few chapters that are here as Batman is working to track down the Joker, someone he’s been chasing for some time due tot he number of murders he can pin on him, even if the police can’t. The opening arc is rather solid as we see him chasing him and going through the dance that they’ve always done, only for the Joker to get away in the end. Seeing how Daniel’s interpretation

What all of it leads to though is that there’s another group out there manipulating things, lead by a man known as the Dollmaker and his odd band of misfits that have their own agenda, but never feels like it really comes together. We get some standard elements here, with Gordon taken hostage, a young girl who may be a savior in a way but could also be a real problem, and so forth. The action is decent and while the story makes sense as you read it, it doesn’t leave you with much of an impression afterward. That it’s all part of the next story, more of a foundation for it, isn’t a bad thing, but it minimizes it overall. Especially since what it leads into goes in the opposite direction of highlighting the Penguin as he opens his new floating casino in the harbor and it gets all elegant and big time, only to turn into chaos. The book as a whole just feels like a mess, though some parts at times work very well.

In Summary:
I didn’t go into Detective Comics with too many preconceived notions since I’ve read a wide range of writers and writer/artists over the years tackle the character. The book has additional pressures in being the relaunch of the venerable magazine and really needed something strong to sell it, especially running in parallel with the other main Batman book. Tony S. Daniel has some good mood pieces here, some solid artwork and a lot going on, but the story as a whole is a mess and the narration dialogue just doesn’t feel like it flows well. There’s a distinctive voice that should come from it as we get Batman’s inner monologue about events, how he deals with things and the observations, but none of that shows through here. And realistically, I expected more of a detective story here and didn’t feel like I really got one at all, but just a series of set pieces. The Batman: Court of Owls story running elsewhere as a relaunch book gave me far more of a detective series than this. There are pieces I liked, but the book as a whole just pushed me away the more I thought about it and tried to pull it all together.

Grade: C-