Review by C.J. Bunce
I am a big fan of Jim Lee’s Hush series, which appeared as Issues 608-619 of the Batman title. Jeph Loeb’s story and Jim Lee’s pencils, along with Alex Sinclair’s use of color and Scott Williams’s inks made a for a classic and definitive Batman story. Both Loeb and Lee’s artistic influence can be seen with the feel, tone, even the inner thought fonts and speech boxes, of the new Batman in DC’s new 52, in both Justice League #1 and last week’s release, Detective Comics #1.
Detective Comics, back to issue 27 in the early 1940s, has always focused on the Caped Crusader’s real superpower (actually the absence of any superpower, to be correct), that of sleuth–as a modern Sherlock Holmes. The modern Batman since at least Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One has remained a modern twist on Holmes, without all the necessary quirkiness of Arthur Conan Doyle’s master detective. A brilliant series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (who is filming the role of Bilbo Baggins in next year’s The Hobbit from Peter Jackson), recently began airing from the BBC. Titled Sherlock, that series, created by the great Stephen Moffat of the Doctor Who fifth series fame, will be reviewed here later. Like the modern look at Moffat’s Holmes, you would expect similar treatment with a modern Batman in the new DC 52.
And writer/artist Tony Daniel and co-writer Ryan Winn do not fail to deliver on that expectation. Not only is the new Batman in Detective Comics a smart, master detective fluent in modern sleuthing techniques, the villainy he must face is disturbingly real. Back in the 1970s, true crime and real-life detective mags were everywhere, and they often had uncensored, shocking photos. The new Detective Comics seems almost inspired by this old sub-genre. Is the Joker more vile than ever, or no different from his past psychotic nature? The art seems to be pushing the bounds here and the new Detective Comics is not for the squeamish. If there are new DC Comics titles directed toward kids then this title definitely is drawn for the mature viewer. In one panel, the Joker’s face has been surgically removed by a new villain, the Dollmaker, and the remains are left hanging on the wall. The result is as grotesque and grisly as it sounds. As the Joker’s characteristic insane laugh and killer jokes are how we’d expect to see the Joker, the treatment here hangs at the precipice of being over the top.
Beyond the pursuit of the crime element we get short shapshots of a classic Alfred Pennyworth, as true to his past form as ever. Commissioner James Gordon is also the class-act we would hope him to be. Readers can’t really have enough Commissioner Gordon, so hopefully we’ll see a lot more coordination between him and Batman. Once we saw Gary Oldman provide such a definitive performance as the unflinching cop in The Dark Knight, fans just can’t get enough of this character.
As Bruce Wayne, our hero is consistent with past Batman and Detective Comics stories. One thing is for certain, if DC Comics is changing the face of certain superheroes in its universe, Batman is the same as ever. A very good thing for such a key figure in the new universe who is featured in nearly a dozen titles. Will the Dark Knight continue in this title to be this dark, bleak and gritty? We’ll check out the next issue to find out next month. But if the story sticks to its current grisly path this may not be an ongoing ‘zine for this reader.