Review by Frank Plowright
When DC re-launched all their Batman titles under the ‘New 52’ banner it surprised some people that Tony Daniel was handed Detective Comics as his playground. The evidence backs up the decision in most respects. Most tellingly, at the end of the first chapter Daniel delivers a genuinely shocking, and stomach turning, conclusion, which is no mean feat given the wealth of Batman material over the years. Whether it crosses a line in what is ostensibly a title marketed at a regular audience is another topic, but this entire book deals with extremely unsavoury matters.
Daniel depicts a highly stylised Batman amid well designed pages that catch the eye, tell the story and convincingly convey the seamier aspects of Batman’s world. It’s apparent from the breakdown that Daniel’s more interested in choreographing fight scenes than living up to the title, but then that long ceased to have relevance other than as a home for Batman. His central character is a new villain called the Dollmaker, a surgeon of some considerable skill, and a man who delights in the sadistic aspects of his trade, but never to the detriment of financial gain. He’s a careful plotter who’s managed to remain beneath Batman’s radar over the years, and with his patchwork face and dreads Daniel’s delivered an impressive design. Other plot elements are more problematical. In one sequence it’s described how Batman is paralysed down one side, and how that will spread rapidly. It barely impacts on Batman, who still manages to punch out an entire gang and drag one of them away at the end.
There are no further surprises to match that of the initial chapter in the first story arc, but in the second Daniel manages another for journalist Charlotte Rivers. His portrayal of her to this point has verged on the smug and irritating, and it highlights an aspect where Daniel isn’t as competent. His dialogue stands out all too often. Some of jocular material is feeble, and elsewhere it’s just too glib and unlikely to ring true. A poorly written black comment about a bloodbath was circulated widely online.
Credit should be given for the number of new characters thrown into these stories. Many writers working for mainstream companies don’t bother these days as the rewards are minimal, but Daniel has designed half a dozen new eccentric looking gang bosses and thrown them out there for someone else to use.
Overall this is nicely drawn, but middling Batman. Yes, there are a few problems, but there’s enough entertainment to gloss over them, and Daniel’s next volume is an improvement.