Written and pencilled by Tony S. Daniel

Published by DC Comics

Price: $2.99

32 pages

In stores now!

With all the fuss this week seeming to revolve around Action Comics # 1 (and justifiably so, seeming as it’s excellent- read our review here) the fact that DC is also launching the number one issue of their other flagship book, Detective Comics, seems to have gone a little under the radar. It’s half their fault really, as for Action Comics they went to the effort of getting Grant Morrison- a legend in his own right, who has redefined more superheroes than I care to count- yet for the new ‘Tec book they settle on Tony Daniel for both script and art duties. Now, if that sounds like an insult then I should probably explain my line of thinking. Daniel is a talented artist- his work with Morrison on Batman RIP was masterful- yet, as a writer, his run on the main Batman title never reached the heights of his contemporaries. It wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it did fall in that awkward middle ground between average and just plain okay.

So, it was with slight trepidation that I picked up this issue and, if I’m honest, I only did so because a) it’s the first time that Detective Comics has ever been relaunched, which is the sort of historic event I couldn’t resist being a part of and b) everyone who had read it promised that it featured a stunning last page reveal. And the verdict? Boy, am I glad I picked this up. After years of Morrison’s Batman- which was a weird hybrid intended to deconstruct the character- and then Scott Snyder‘s grim and gritty run which closed out the last volume of Detective, it feels surprisingly good to read something that is- for lack of a better word- extremely classical in its sensibilities. Yes, it’s gritty and dark, with some extreme violence that matches anything in Snyder’s run, but once again Batman feels like an actual superhero, flinging himself from explosions, soaring through the air and just generally kicking ass with ease. Call me old fashioned, but this is the kind of simple take that I’ve missed- yet I somehow didn’t even realise it until now, after reading this first issue.

Daniel has a much better grip on the Bruce Wayne Batman’s voice than he ever did with Dick Grayson and, if the dialogue is occasionally a little flat, it’s more than made up for with tight plotting and superb panel layouts. Ryan Winn‘s inks and Tomeu Morey‘s colours add tremendously to Daniel’s already impressive pencils, giving the overall aesthetic a distinct feel that, arguably, his previous work was lacking. Simply put, this book looks stunning.

In this opener we get a lot of Joker action, as Batman once again goes head-to-head with the clown prince of crime. The plot is creepy and more than a little disturbing- new villain The Dollmaker is already embedded in my memory like a bad recurring nightmare. With its tight focus on a small number of characters (Bruce, Alfred and Gordon) this series looks to be firmly establishing its own identity amongst the many Bat titles (re)launching over the new few weeks. It’s a solid start to the new series and, based on the seeds that Daniel has sown for future issues, looks like it will only get better.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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This article was first posted on September 7, 2011