Silverwolf’s Den: Detective Comics #1

Hello all! Today I decided to review Detective Comics #1, continuing with my exploration of DC’s New 52. Like Action Comics, this series has been around since the late 1930s and is one of DC Comics’ most famous staples (heck, for those that don’t know, DC actually even stands for Detective Comics). Usually following the adventures of Batman, Detective Comics delves into the darker, grittier side of the DC Universe. While Superman and Action Comics stand in the Sun taking down meglomaniacal villains building giant death rays, Detective Comics instead deals with sadists and murderers, setting the Dark Knight on an endless quest to track down these madmen before they can bring anymore harm to his hometown of Gotham City.

As with Action Comics (which I reviewed last week, here), Detective Comics is so well known that it needs to be better than a normal series. The series has tons of devoted fans, perhaps more than most of other comic series as the Caped Crusader is by far DC’s most popular character. With so much riding on this title, and as it was released the same day as the stellar Action Comics, could Detective Comics prove exceptional or is it merely mysteriously malign?

Back in Black: The Dark Knight charges across Gotham rooftops in his first in-comic appearance in the new Detective Comics

Detective Comics #1 puts Batman right on the case, following a string of gruesome murders that have haunted Gotham City for over a year. The Caped Crusader’s prime suspect is none other than the Clown Prince of Crime himself, Joker. With lives on the run and time running out, Batman gathers all the clues he can in hopes of stopping this killing spree, all the while pursued by the Gotham City Police Department who, with the exception of Officer Gordon, think the Dark Knight is a threat. Yet, beneath all of these events, something darker is transpiring, a mystery much more complex than Batman could have ever imagined…

As with Action Comics, this series relaunch goes right back to the core of the character: Batman battles the Joker and hunts for clues while the GCPD, with the exception of James Gordon, peg him as a threat and try to stop him whenever possible. As with the other New 52 titles I’ve read, DC gets back to the meat and potatoes, giving us a very recognizable Bruce Wayne, while still managing to put some clever twists on the new character (a slightly altered costume, holograms to protect the Batcave, a team of flying Ro-Bat cameras to help him spy on foes, etc.). You probably are tired of me saying this by now, but the series is essentially a modern twist on a classic and famous character.

The plot of Detective Comics #1 is fairly straightforward, but well written. More than a few mysteries are introduced in a short time, and I’m already intrigued to see what unfolds as the series progresses. The characters are all written true to their histories, especially the Joker who has a few choice lines and scenes that really exemplify his persona even for those new to the Batman mythos. Batman also has some cool one-liners and fans won’t be disappointed to see him pulling his trademark vanishing act on Officer Gordon. The end of the comic is an insanely suspenseful cliffhanger, especially because of its visceral nature. That may be what I like best about this comic: while Action Comics is bright and heroic, Detective Comics is dark and gritty, full of grisly murders and double deals. Tony S. Daniel does a superb job of showing a Gotham that truly is “a hell hole” as Gordon puts it, accomplishing this descriptive endeavor in just a few pages. While there was one scene that seemed a bit rushed and unnecessary, I think that overall the writing shined.

Ryan Winn does a superb job on the artwork in Detective Comics #1. His images perfectly fit and mirror the gruesome and macabre story that unfolds on the comic’s pages, pairing grisly grays, blacks, and whites with splashes of green, violet, and, of course, red. The panels are drawn in such a way that your eyes are pulled towards specific objects, and many of the pictures seem in motion such is the quality of the art. Two scenes that accomplish this particularly well are when Joker attacks foes with a knife: the first time it is an unnamed assassin, the second it is Batman himself. These scenes make the reader feel amidst the action, the hectic movements of the Joker appearing to break through the thin paper separating him from the reader. Batman’s redesigned costume also gets my seal of approval: it’s almost the same as his classic suit, albeit it looks a bit more like body armor which in my eyes makes sense and looks cool. All in all, the artwork was stellar, and I’m excited to see how it evolves as this tale unfolds.

To conclude, Detective Comics #1 is a great read, though I’m not sure if it’d appeal to everyone. First off, you have to be ready for darker stories and able to stomach some more…unsavory…situations. Secondly, I know certain people find mysteries boring, and if you’re in that category then this comic definitely isn’t for you. If, however, you like detective stories and a grittier, perhaps more realistic take on the world of superheroes then this series is a great fit.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Brett Simon is a twenty-one year old recent reconvert to the world of comics. The cover of this comic (seen at the top) makes him think of the ‘nom nom nom nom babies’ song by nicepeter (check it out here, it’s pretty funny).

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