Here’s a quick summary of Issue #1:
The issue opens with Batman hot on the trail of his old nemesis, The Joker. According to Batman, The Joker has been slicing and dicing his underworld “friends” in a grisly, serial killer-type fashion, and our hero is determined to stop the murderer before he strikes again.
Batman fails, arriving just after The Joker has stabbed the man (who happens to be wearing someone’s face, Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style) to death. The Joker escapes, and Batman saves a young girl and thugs it out with a Gotham police squad before returning to the Bat Cave.
Later, Batman meets with Commissioner Gordon, his only apparent ally on the police force, and finds out the Gordon has a squad of police moving in on The Joker’s location. It turns out to be a trap, and many of the police officers are killed in the explosion.
Batman notices The Joker making a getaway from the scene and pursues. A bloody and vicious fight ends with The Joker falling off a building and landing several stories below in a crumpled mess. Still alive, he’s taken to Arkham Asylum.
Alone in his cell, The Joker is visited by a mysterious figure he refers to as Dollmaker. The Joker is calm, expecting the Dollmaker. He mentions that only the Dollmaker can do the procedure, no one else. The Dollmaker replies that his son (the face-wearing guy The Joker killed earlier) would’ve been fine for the job, but he understands. Dollmaker produces a surgical scalpel and approaches The Joker. In the final image, some time has passed and we are now looking at The Joker’s face, no longer attached to his skull, nailed to the wall of his cell. The Joker comments that the procedure felt “fangasmic,” to which Dollmaker replies that tonight they will both celebrate their rebirth!
Daniel doesn’t skimp on the darkness! Batman always works best as dark, gritty, and gothic, and Daniel gives us a double-shot of all those goodies on every single page. Not a single word or panel is wasted. Each part of the story makes the nightmarish world of crime and corruption around Batman seep off the page and overwhelm the reader. It’s so common to see the intensity of a series lean on either the art or the story, but Daniel manages to succeed with both with astonishing grace, delivering story and art that are 100% worthy of each other. Daniel also nails Gotham perfectly, creating a city overrun with dirty cops and containing criminals who leave trails of bodies behind them. Detective Comics is every bit the dark, superhero noir that it should be!
An appropriately psychotic Joker! Daniel’s Joker is reminiscent of many classic versions of the character. Frank Miller’s serial killer, Alan Moore’s psychotic clown prince, and the late Heath Ledger’s agent of chaos are all present in Detective Comics’ Joker, but Daniel adds his own twist, pushing the serial killer angle so deftly that I felt like the character could have seamlessly wandered into a scene of The Silence of the Lambs and started carving up Buffalo Bill. This realistic and unsettling portrayal of the character works, making an old character impressively frightening. Daniel also gives his Joker some serious teeth, having him tear a throat out with his teeth, savagely stab Batman twice, and endure his face being cut off over the course of just the first issue!
The final page. Dark. Disturbing. Brilliant. The last page of this book is the kind of event the DC reboot was made for. Bold, brave, and unexpected, the final image is so provocative that any reader will be pulling their hair out over the fact that they have to wait a whole month for the next issue. This is the kind of writing that makes new readers sit up and say, “Wow. So, this is what all the fuss is about!”
Why wasn’t Justice League this @#$% good??? That’s all I got. Kudos, Mr. Daniel.
Here’s one buzz-worthy item I dug up on the internet regarding the new Detective Comics:
The Gotham Ripper! While the new villain introduced in Issue #1 is referred to as Dollmaker, the Wikipedia entry for Detective Comics refers to the series’ main villain being known as the Gotham Ripper. Is this the new identity of the faceless Joker?
Detective Comics #1 is a slam dunk, and I can’t recommend it enough. I will certainly be picking up Issue #2, and I urge everyone to pick up this book!
’Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer