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October 24, 2011

Someone Old, Someone New: Detective Comics #2

Posted by on Oct 24, 2011
Detective Comics #2

So you worked yourself up into a New 52 fever and bought every debut issue you could get your hands on.  Now, the adrenaline high of seeing so many new titles simultaneously has worn off, and you’re wondering which are still worth pulling.  And, since no one other than Bruce Wayne can afford to buy all 75 Batman titles DC puts out, you’re going to have to make some Bat-Choices.

Does Detective Comics suffer from a sophomore slump?  Or does it remain a perpetual paragon of parables?  Should you keep consuming this classic chronicle?  The dynamic duo of Tom and Jon, the Boy Wonder, are back to let you know!  Same nerd time, same nerd channel!

Jon: A LOT happened in Detective Comics #2, and as a result the quality slipped  from #1 – it only slipped a tad, but it did slip.  The entire first scene – where Bruce Wayne is free soloing indoors and is joined by Hugh Marder seemed a bit forced.  Marder rips off his shirt (quite bromantically), showing biceps larger than his face, making comic noobs like myself think, ‘Hm. He’s jacked, he can compete with Bruce and displays a certain lack of fear – he’s going to be important.’  Even though I do not know who Marder is, this was all a little too over-the-top obvious.

Can anyone say 'Cheesy?'

The next scene – our first Detective Comics love scene – also felt forced.  Charlotte Rivers is waiting in Wayne’s office for a ‘surprise visit’ – and like Marder, her presence and involvement in the scene convinced me that not only will we be seeing more of her, but her role will likely extend beyond just being a reporter and Bruce’s fling. The dialogue, such as Rivers’ line “Kiss me before you bleed to death” echoed cheesy dialogue from a plethora of shirtless Matthew McConaughey films. However, I was pleased that they left us wondering who this Charlotte Rivers really is – while it’s painfully obvious she’s important, not much was given away as to what her role will be.

They say third time’s the charm.  If only our own Third was as charming – well, you can’t win ‘em all.  But digression aside, we see our third new character introduced (like I said, maybe a little too much happening in this issue) by name – Harvey Bullock.  All he does in this issue is give ‘Commish’ Gordon a not so charming report, but we are immediately drawn to his laid back, confident, and disheveled nature. He looks like the type of guy I would wanna grab a beer with.  I bet he would have some amazingly hilarious and inappropriate stories.

As for the rest of the issue, it is straight up dark.  After reading issue #1, I knew that this would be no breezy walk in the park, with the birds singing Zip-a-dee-do-da and the story ending ‘happily ever after.’  But dang.  The first issue covered the Joker, whose insanity and fearlessness lends the story to turn bizarre – ending with a mysterious someone entering his prison cell and taking his actual face off.  Pretty extreme.  And in this, the second issue, the introduction of The Dollmaker (our fourth new major character…) is terrifying – both visually and conceptually.  I don’t want to know how he does what he does – and I really don’t want to know why.  Severely creepy.  The art of the last panel, showing the new ‘modified’ Jim Gordon, is enough to wish that we had the faceless Joker back.

And you know, I DO wish we had the Joker back.  #1 depicted him in such an interesting and appealing (weirdly so) way, and we want to see what insane (-ly awesome) plan he comes up with next. But I applaud the writers for omitting him, while still referencing him through Batman’s thoughts, keeping him freshly on our minds. The more mystery that surrounds his whereabouts and doings, the more we readers will be hooked.  Not like we weren’t hooked already.

Tom: While I agree with Jon that there was a slip in quality from the previous installment of Detective Comics, I found that slip to be unfortunately and precipitously steep.  So much so that I’m having trouble believing the same man, Tony Daniel, wrote both issues.  From the confounding shirtless rock climbing with Hugh Marder to the awkwardly executed seduction of Charlotte Rivers, the entire first half of this issue was a mess.  It’s almost like Daniels is as bored with the Bruce Wayne storyline as his readers will be.  It shows both in the clumsy conversations and in the sub-par pencils.  And that worries me because the Bruce Wayne half is just as important to a great story Batman story as The Batman himself.  So far, Daniel’s Bruce Wayne is as bad as his Batman is good.  Case in point, I learned more about the character development in this issue from its comiXology description than I did from reading the issue itself.  Seriously.

Things picked up somewhat once cape and cowl were donned, both in art quality and in storytelling.  Unfortunately, that respite was an all too brief rooftop conversation between Batman and Jim Gordon.  Then, things really went off the rails.  Spoilers follow.

The Dolls

I thought the character design of The Dollmaker and his family of “dolls” was horrible.  Grotesque without actually being scary, it reminded me of rejected concept art from a mid-90′s Image title.  I mean, really?  A mad scientist with a patchwork face and dreadlocks?  That’s all you got?  Batman has one, if not the, most robust rogues gallery in literature.  Daniel already gave us a fresh, successful take on The Joker.  If he felt the need to add more enemies, why not do the same with another one of Batman’s storied opponents?  If Joker needed a surgeon, why couldn’t it have been Hush?  If you’re going to invent an enemy for Batman, it better be a damn good one (see Harley Quinn).  The Dollmaker isn’t.

The “cliffhanger” that ended the issue was also so over the top that there’s no way I believe it will last.  While I heard the same criticisms of the first issue, The Joker’s so damn crazy that I believed how far things went in that case.  Here, I don’t.  If Daniel has the balls to permanently disfigure Jim Gordon in his second issue, I’ll eat my hat.  More than likely it’s some trick involving the head of the dead cop that was mysteriously missing a few panels earlier.

We all know why we fall.  Right now, I”m just really hoping that Detective Comics can get back up.  The strength of the first issue bought this book a ton of good will, so I’m going to keep reading.  I’m just not sure I want to.