Friday, October 24, 2014

I Reads You Review: DETECTIVE COMICS Volume One: Faces of Death


INKS: Ryan Winn, Sandu Florea, and Rob Hunter
COLORS: Tomeu Morey
LETTERS: Jared K. Fletcher
COVER: Tony S. Daniel and Ryan Winn with Tomeu Morey
ADDITIONAL ART: Szymon Kudranski
ISBN:  978-1-4012-3466-9; hardcover
176pp, Color, $22.99 U.S., $25.99 CAN (2012)

Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger

When The New 52 brought forth “new” Batman comic book series, I found myself crazy-in-love with Detective Comics #1, produced by writer-artist, Tony S. Daniel.  In fact, I preferred Detective Comics to Batman #1 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.  I only read the first two issues of Daniel's Detective Comics, but I thought that the first issue reminded me of the first “book” of Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns more than any comic book I had read in a long time.

I bought the first hardcover collection of The New 52 Detective Comics.  Sadly, it took me two-and-half-years to get around to reading it.  In that time, Snyder and Capullo's Batman became one of the bestselling comic book series in North America, and a favorite of mine.  On the other hand, Daniel departed Detective Comics after issue #12.

Batman – Detective Comics Volume One: Faces of Death collects Detective Comics #1 to 7, which comprises two story arcs.  Detective Comics begins with Batman in the midst of a dangerous mission.  He has to find The Joker and also discover what is behind the grisly murders of several of the Joker's acquaintances.  Eventually, Batman battles The Dollmaker, a killer who removes the faces of his victims and even some of their organs.  He uses them as macabre building materials to create new people.  The Dollmaker is also seeking revenge against Commissioner Jim Gordon.

The second story arc centers on The Penguin's off-shore gambling palace, The Iceberg Casino.  The casino is also a front for Penguin's money-laundering operation.  The story also involves Gotham City Mayor Hady's re-election campaign; the mayor's election-year war on Batman; reporter and Bruce Wayne love-interest, Charlotte Rivers; Rivers' sister, Jill; and a cheap hood named Jack Houston, whose ability to change his face has earned him the name “Snakeskin.”

Having finally finished the Faces of Death collection, I have to say that, three years later, “The Dollmaker” arc still thrills me.  I think it is a definite heir to Frank Miller's seminal Batman work from the mid-1980s.  Daniel's Batman is a combination penny dreadful and Saturday matinee thriller; each chapter ends in either a cliffhanger or with a shocking reveal.  Batman fighting in the darkest corners of Gotham, with the threat of death hanging over several people, but especially over him.  Several times, I actually believed that Batman was going to be killed.  I knew better, of course.  Batman isn't going to die-as-in-stay-dead, but still, those stories...

“The Iceberg Casino” arc is entertaining, but is an average to above-average Batman story arc.  It is sort of a Batman as action movie/crime thriller.  Of course, there are some cliffhanger-styled thrills int this story, but this is nothing particularly special.

I think Tony Daniel was unable to maintain the promise of his opening Detective Comics story arc.  In Batman, Snyder's story and Capullo's art create a gripping narrative with striking graphics, one issue after another.  Daniel with inker Ryan Winn also created a graphic narrative full of high-drama and edgy visuals.  Visually, Daniel and Winn offered a Batman that was a bird of prey, and the art had a sense of movement so that Batman always seemed to be racing across a dark, but alluring landscape.

As the second story arc advanced, Daniel's art took on a Neal Adams-quality that moves, but lacks something... perhaps, the edginess it had in “The Dollmaker” arc.  I first discovered Tony Daniel's work back in the mid to late 1990s, on his Image Comics series, The Tenth.  The early issues of that series had the characteristics of a raw, but promising talent.  With Marlo Alquiza inking his pencil art, Daniel delivered art that grabbed the reader with its horror-themed creatures and characters.  After Alquiza stopped inking The Tenth, what was raw, but promising became unfocused and undisciplined.

I'll remember Tony Daniel's New 52 launch of Detective Comics for the promise the early issues offered, with joy, but also with some disappointment.  That promise plus 11 pages of preliminary art, thumbnails, sketches, and pencils have encouraged me to give Batman – Detective Comics Volume One: Faces of Death a high grade.  By the way, Daniel is now working on another relaunch of the DC Comics' character, Deathstroke.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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