Someone Old, Someone New: Detective Comics #3
Is third time really the charm? Last month’s issue of Detective Comics left both of us wanting more. With such a strong start in issue #1, our hopes have been high that the return to greatness will come sooner as opposed to later (…if it comes at all). With Tom as Someone Old and Jon as Someone New, we resume our quest in search of the brilliant Detective Comics turnaround.
Tom: When your opening panel has Batman matter-of-factly debunking the scene that had him screaming in rage in the final panel of your previous issue…we’ve got issues. At first, I thought maybe Batman was putting on a show with all that yelling, giving Dollmaker a false sense of security in his ruse. But, on the next page, he tells the Dollmaker that his “Gordon” really isn’t the Commissioner, making me wonder why Batman got so worked up about it in the first place.
While escaping from Dollmaker’s hideout, Batman manages to take a henchman with him. After bringing said henchman to one of the many isolated/abandoned buildings in Gotham, Batman viciously beats “Jack-in-the-Box” while pressing him for information. After he realizes (a little belatedly) that Jack-in-the-Box won’t talk because he can’t talk (his tongue having been removed by Dollmaker), Batman gives him one last kick for good measure and leaves. Let’s recap. After unproductively torturing an incredibly strong, deranged member of a serial killing/mutilating gang, Batman knocks him out and decides to just leave him, unbound, hoping that law enforcement officials will stumble across him (in an abandoned building) before he wakes up and be able to re-subdue him without getting injured or killed. Nice.
Let’s talk about Batman’s “breakthrough” on the case. After returning to The Batcave, he references a hereto unmentioned file from a decade old case. Then, his computer seems to magically link Dollmaker to said case through some advanced facial recognition/assimilation program. If you read the issue (which I can’t say I’m recommending) you’ll understand how bizarre this segment is. How does Batman know the Wesley Mathis case files would be of help? Prior to his computer gimmickry, there doesn’t seem to be any link between Dollmaker and the cold case, but Batman references the file before the computer makes the connection. It’s like after he was done scripting this issue, Daniel didn’t have anyone review it for him to see if it would make sense to anyone who doesn’t already know where the entire plot is going. Because it doesn’t.
Credit where credit is due, the best part of this issue doesn’t involve horrible leaps of logic or grotesque character design. Olivia’s scene on the roof of Gotham Central is terrifying in the way that a Detective Comics story should be. That’s the kind of stuff I’m hoping we’ll see more of in following issues because, yes, I’m going to keep reading.
For my money, there isn’t a better Batman artist working. I’m just hoping that Tony Daniel finds his stride in the end of this arc or that DC brings in someone to help with writing duties. Because, while the art in this book continues to be amazing, it seems like Tony Daniel is, like a comic book version of Michael Bay, hoping that the pretty pictures will distract his readers from the lack of any internal logic or cohesion in the storytelling. While I definitely appreciate this title’s willingness to tackle more gruesome cases, I just want a little more actual detective work out of a comic called Detective Comics.
Jon: When a series starts out strong, it is always disappointing when the quality does not continue. So yes, you guessed it, I am disappointed.
At the end of our review of issue #2, Tom stated that if Tony Daniel had the balls to seriously disfigure Gordon, he would eat his own hat. For better or for worse, Tom’s hat hasn’t even the slightest hint of teeth marks. We find out in the first panel, through minimal detective work, that the body is not in fact the commissioner. Big surprise there.
We don’t get to find out much about the Dollmaker in this first scene, except that he apparently is a fountain of cheesy lines – “Of course I have him.. I can have you join him, in fact” and “Fool! You leave me no choice!” This really takes away from the grotesque nature of this serial killer’s work. Which is a shame, because I think visually the Dollmaker and his posse are straight-up terrifying.
Now I cannot spend all my time being negative, because let’s be honest – that is fun for no one. With my limited comic experience, I have been (and remain to be) pleased with the art in this issue. With the exception of an anime-looking Olivia, the art is masterfully well done. I especially enjoyed Daniel’s depiction of faces – he is able to portray emotion on his characters faces in a very real way. Exhibist A and B – the look of annoyed frustration on Harvey Bullock’s face while being grilled by Rivers, and the exhaustion and pain on Gordon’s face while locked in the Dollmaker’s cage. Bravo.
Now, one thing I did like was the inclusion, albeit brief, of Bullock and Rivers. Even though we only see them for a hot second, we do get minor character development, and it keeps them both fresh in our minds as characters. Rivers comes across as a focused, brash reporter who will push and push to get at the truth, and Bullock reappears as the disheveled, take-no-bullshit, hard-nosed cop. That scene, unlike most of the others in this issue, was well done.
I am not sure what Detective Comics was like before the reboot, but this issue involved just about zero evidence that Batman is actually working like a detective. All of a sudden, we cut to Wayne Manor, where Bruce is digging in files of Wesley Mathis. Maybe it was just me, but the logic he uses in connecting Mathis to the Dollmaker is, to be generous, far fetched. And while Batman may be a technology guru, that facial recognition software that pieces parts of the different victims faces together to build the Dollmaker’s current appearance was not even remotely believable.
The end of the issue was… interesting. Batman, after being warned by Gordon (who writes the ‘R’ in Mercy Hospital backwards) that something was not right, is captured and placed in some sort of fighting arena with his wrists tethered to cables like a giant marionette. We are left with the idea that thousands of viewers, via streaming video, are tuned in to watch Batman fight ‘The Jokers” – a whole slew of similarly tethered Joker lookalikes. It’s an OK concept, but the Dollmaker’s logic of “To see if you’re the real deal” doesn’t really strike a chord with me. Why does the Dollmaker want to see if Batman is the real deal? There is no connecting the dots on who he is or what his motivations are as a villain.
I also cannot honestly recommend this issue to anyone. We will continue reading, continue reviewing as “Someone Old, Someone New”, and hold out hope that this series will turn around. Fingers (and toes) crossed.