The New 52: Detective Comics #1
[Editor's note: DC Comics' "The New 52" initiative aims to bring a new audience into the DC Universe by rebooting or significantly changing all of their superheroes and restarting them back at issue #1. In this series, the comic book newbies of The Crimson attempt to evaluate the quality and accessibility of The New 52. —Brian Feldman, Arts Web Editor]
The first issue of “Detective Comics” I ever read was published 27 years before I was born (Issue #345 The Blockbuster Invasion of Gotham City). I like comic books that start and end in a single issue. I like solid artwork where the superheroes are larger than life but not steroid junkies or Picasso melt-aways. But reading DC’s new “Detective Comics” #1 was quite the new experience. The journey begins with some introspection about the Joker, and then quickly transitions to a lengthy action sequence.
The first scene with The Joker is actually quite confusing—it shows Batman's nemesis struggling with an unknown man. What follows is some strained dialogue that isn't entirely comprehensible, with lots of “Crash”, “Whump” and “Shhock” sound effects adding to the pandemonium and overwhelming chaos of the introduction.
Batman clearly represents a darker section of the DC universe so it is to be expected that the imagery is much darker in regard to coloring and tone. The opening images of blood and gore are actually quite vivid and frightening.
Disturbingly, the body count grows very quickly; the amount of destruction and violence inflicted on innocent bystanders leads this comic down a particularly dark path. Once Batman enters the picture and takes on the Joker, the fighting becomes easier [easier how?]. Batman chases the Joker throughout the night, with Batcave, Alfred, and Commissioner Gordon making appearances along the way.
The story is both strong and exciting at points and the artwork makes the action easy to follow. However, as much as DC is trying to reboot the series to readers without any prior knowledge, writer Tony Daniel gives vague insight into Alfred and Commissioner Gordon. Even though the relevance of these characters is not fully explained or examined, careful attention to dialogue gives the reader only the essential knowledge. Daniel does a decent job describing Batman’s substantial physique and determination through Batman’s inner thoughts. For example, after being stabbed twice, he thinks to himself, “No vital organs, but the pain is searing.”
Much like “The Dark Knight,”—where viewers could not get enough of Health Ledger’s version of The Joker—the portrayal of The Joker here is intense, especially when comparing and contrasting the insanity of the Joker with the morality of Batman. In one passage, when The Joker is finally beaten down to the ground he simply laughs and says, “What a ride.”
Likewise, “Detective Comics” #1 is indeed a ride that ends with a gory, unexpected cliffhanger, further showcasing The Joker’s genius and insanity [w/c see above]. For an entry point into the Batman mythos, the issue is compelling due to its frantic action and intriguing finale.