Rarely have I ever had as much to say about a single issue of a comic book.
Or so little. All I’d really need to tell you is that this comic was terrible. Among the worst I have ever read. And I’ve read my share of Ron Zimmerman comics. Deep down in my heart, that’s kind of all I want or need to say.
But it’s fascinatingly terrible, and I feel like that should be explored.
Let’s start with the fact that this, as DC touted in its press materials leading up to the big reboot, is the first time Batman has ever appeared in a first issue of Detective Comics. (The original Detective #1 had stories about a Fu Manchu rip-off and Slam Bradley, neither of whom are mentioned here.) Kind of a big deal.
So what do we get here? A Batman who’s pretty clearly a mishmash of Dark Knight Returns and Year One. Internal monologuing about how Batman is making mistakes — “Stupid,” he says—and art that makes Batman looks like he weighs about 300 pounds, with several direct homages to Miller’s work. (One panel is pretty much the cover to DKR #1.) So, in terms of that character, we’ve regressed to somewhere around 1986, though lines like “His modus operandi changes like the wind. And it’s been windy in Gotham City” would likely make even Frank Miller cringe.
To be fair to Tony Daniel, his art has actually improved a lot since “Battle for the Cowl” and all that. Maybe the inks and colors help, but (repugnant cover notwithstanding), the lines are cleaner, the characters look better and the storytelling isn’t too bad, even when we get forced, pseudo-symbolism garbage like Batman and Gordon being halves of the same person or whatever the hell that’s supposed to be somewhere in the middle of the book.
Sadly, Daniel’s writing has gotten much, much worse in the past few years, it seems. Let’s go through this issue plot point by plot point just to be sure. (Spoilers, of course.)
Okay, first, Batman goes after the Joker because the Joker’s been making phone calls (?) to people Batman knows to be his friends (???) from a hotel room and killing them. Cut to the Joker meeting a guy with a skin mask in that hotel room and ripping his throat out, then stabbing the skin-mask guy while the guy thanks him.
Batman arrives. The Joker sets the building on fire. A girl who is apparently the skin-mask guy’s niece, who I guess he just brought along because wouldn’t that be fun, gets trapped under some rubble. Batman saves her. The police show up and run Batman off.
Then we get a Batman-and-Alfred scene where we hear the same “Joker’s out of control,” “Canceling another date, Master Bruce?” back-and-forth we’ve been hearing for decades (new! exciting!). Then the Batman-and-Gordon scene where we learn the little girl got picked up by her family and just happened to know the Joker’s hanging out at a drug store (nothin’ suspicious there), so Batman and the cops go there.
It’s a trap, of course. The building blows up. But Joker’s there anyway. Batman catches him. He gets sent to Arkham. But it was Joker’s plan all along!
See, Joker wanted to go to Arkham so he could meet up with (anybody can just waltz in to any room they want at Arkham at any time I guess) some guy named the Dollmaker. Turns out the guy Joker killed at the beginning was Dollmaker’s son. But Joker didn’t want to see him, he wanted to see the real deal, who it seems set up this meeting with him a while ago, anyway? And was in Arkham all along, so Joker could have just gone there to begin with? Dollmaker’s totally cool with Joker killing his son (and lots of other members of his family), by the way.
Then Dollmaker, at the Joker’s request, cuts off the Joker’s face! Because isn’t that badass? That’s how the comic ends.
Look, I know the Joker’s craaaaazy and loves killing people and stuff, but I guess in the DCnU nothing he does makes any goddamn sense at all?
I said on Twitter that this comic reads like they took an old Spawn script and did a search-and-replace with Batman’s name. For real: There’s a little girl who is somehow weirdly linked to the bad guys in danger. A killer does crazy killer shit and mutilates himself for its own sake. It’s all broody.
But it also kind of feels like somebody took a Papa Roach song and made it into a comic. Detective Comics #1 is the Papa Roach of comics.