Each weekday, Tim will take a look at what we know about each of the upcoming 52 new comics from the September DC relaunch, one series at a time. Today: DETECTIVE COMICS!
The Concept and Characters: This September, Batman will star in four ongoing series, not including his participation in the Justice League or his likely appearances in the rest of the “Batman Family” comics like Batwing or Batgirl or Batwoman or Catwoman. But let’s say you were counting all of those, even tangentially, as “Bat-books.” That means that nearly 20% of DC’s entire output will revolve around Batman this fall, which sounds about right, considering the popularity of the character. But Detective Comics, the series that not only launched Batman but also became the very name of the company itself, looks to be the worst of that 20%.
And the creative team is where this book suffers.
It’s Batman. Gotham City. You know the score. This isn’t the first Batman comic I’ve written about this summer. And what we know about the opening story arc sounds run-of-the-mill. It’s Batman vs. a serial killer (someone calling himself or herself “The Gotham Ripper”). And Bruce Wayne possibly involved with a new love interest. It’s boilerplate Batman. Batman 101.
The concept and characters of this series aren’t likely to be surprising. The series may end up focusing a bit more on the “detective” aspect of its title than its other Bat-centric peers. And that’s all well and good, but the one thing Detective Comics has that the other Batman books are lacking is the participation of writer/artist Tony Daniel.
The Creative Team: Tony Daniel writes and draws. Unlike most of the DC relaunches, which feature new combinations of creators on new series (with the notable exception of the Green Lantern comics, evidently sticking to the status quo as much as possible with their creators), this new version of Detective Comics is written and drawn by the same guy who has been writing and drawing the regular Batman series for the past year or two (and drawing it, from Grant Morrison’s scripts, long before that).
If you want to see what a Tony Daniel Batman comic looks like, what it reads like, you can pick something from a pretty large stack. He’s got experience with the character, and the world of Gotham City.
But none of the comics he has written and drawn are very good.
They can be entertaining, in a sleazy, cheap late-nite movie kind of way. And maybe that’s the kind of Batman comic you’re looking for. But reading multiple issues of a series written by Daniel don’t engender a lot of love. While I don’t disdain his writing and art as much as some vocal readers, I do think he’s a less interesting artist than everyone else drawing a Batman comic this fall, and he’s one of the weakest writers working at DC.
Recommendation: It’s easy to say Skip It, and that’s what I’ll do, but I do realize that this series will have its fans. Because, like all of Daniel’s work, it will aim low and hit the mark. It’s the Hawaii Five-O of comics. The Two and a Half Men. Some readers will be comforted by the clearly defined conflicts and the methodically unfolding story.
It’s not going to be a crime against humanity. It’s just a Batman series that’s not as good as the other ones. But it will still feature a guy in a cape and a cowl, fighting crime amidst urban decay. For some, that’s enough. For everyone else, there are better choices than this.
Tim Callahan writes about comics for Tor.com, Comic Book Resources, Back Issue magazine, and his own Geniusboy Firemelon blog.