New 52 – Detective Comics #8 review

I’ve found “Detective Comics” to be pretty terrible since the 2nd issue. The last arc was a definite low point in which nothing made any sense or had any real impact, and Penguin (who was shown on 3 covers in a row) never actively participated in the story until the final issue and even that only lasted two pages. The book needs a shot in the arm and everybody wants to know if issue #8 is it. Just look at it! It has Scarecrow on the cover, Two-Face in a back-up story (and not the One-Face kind of Two-Face, but REAL Two-Face), and “Spawn” and “Penguin Pain & Prejudice” artist Szymon Kudranski handling the back-up story’s art. Is all of that enough to pull this series out of a nose dive? Is it enough to validate the price hike to $3.99?

The Review

Here is how DC Comics teased the plot of issue #8:

Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend, investigative journalist Charlotte Rivers, tries to protect a long-hidden secret even when her own life hangs in the balance. The Scarecrow is after knowledge only she possesses, and he’ll stop at nothing to get it from her. Can Batman uncover Charlotte’s secret past in time to save her future? With the clock ticking and a dose of newly designed fear gas in the air, Batman must first fight his own nightmare as all of Gotham City turns against him.

Here’s what actually happens in issue #8:

Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend, investigative journalist Charlotte Rivers, tries to protect a long-hidden secret even when her own life hangs in the balance. The Scarecrow is after knowledge only she possesses, and he’ll stop at nothing to get it from her. Can Batman uncover Charlotte’s secret past in time to save her future? With the clock ticking and a dose of newly designed fear gas in the air, Batman must first fight his own nightmare as all of Gotham City turns against him.

It’s quite a bit of unnecessary false advertising, yeah? Or maybe it’s just misdirection and the folks who write the plot synopses did it as a joke since very few (if any) fans give a crap about Charlotte.

The poor man’s Vicki Vale doesn’t get any mention at all, but that’s fine. Instead of Charlotte, we get a cameo by two fan favorite female characters, one of which Daniel draws exceptionally well. This issue is a one-and-done self-contained adventure that anyone can pick up and enjoy. There are a total of 4 classic Batman rogues making an appearance and if you prefer the Frank Miller, brutal interrogation Batman over other interpretations then you’re definitely going to want to check this issue out. This is a Batman who either pummels you until you black out or shouts at you until you’re drenched in spittle. This Batman’s detective work isn’t about collecting clues or, well, thinking. This Batman beats up bad guys until they answer the question “WHO ARE THEY!?!?” and then he goes and beats up those bad guys until they answer the question “WHERE ARE THEY?!?!” and when he finally finds the main bad guy he beats him up and goes home.

My bad jokes aside, it’s easily the best issue since  #1 and although I didn’t find it to be worth a dollar more, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. The art still looks good, and as much as I dislike the way Daniel writes it’s absolutely amazing how he’s able to put out this level of work month after month. Sure, Batman’s incessantly angry facial expressions are becoming rather comical, but there’s a hell of a lot of detail in every panel. There’s a surprise character (you’ll see on the first page) who Daniel drew really well and his Scarecrow is a nice design reminiscent of Cillian Murphy’s portrayal in “The Dark Knight”.

Here are some of my problems with the book that involve spoilers. Read at your own risk.

SHOW SPOILER ▼

As for the back-up story…I don’t really know what to say about it story-wise. It’s only 8 pages of setup and it’s something about how if charges are dropped against Two-Face then he can become D.A. again…which seems incredibly hard to believe. If Daniel did a story about crazy-ol’ Two-Face being deluded enough to think that he could run for office again, that might be fun. One big political campaign of terror. But having him find a loophole to actually get back into office as if he isn’t an infamous murderer with countless charges on his record….I don’t think so. But like I said, it’s only 8 pages and it’s not totally clear what is exactly going on, but the art looks great. Well, except for an awkward shot of Two-Face where it doesn’t look like he has a neck. Other than that, it’s a wonderfully gritty style that I fell in love with during “Penguin: Pain & Prejudice”. Kudranski’s heavy use of shadow is perfect for Gotham and he draws a pretty nasty Two-Face.

Issue #8 is a definite improvement on what I’ve seen lately from “Detective Comics”, but it’s still not good enough to warrant a $3.99 price tag. Not when there are so many better books that come out on the same day. Examples would be “Animal Man”, “Swamp-Thing”, “American Vampire”, “Supurbia”, “Ultimate Spider-Man”, “Avengers vs. X-Men” and even “Batwing” is a far better read if you just want something bat-related.

SCORE: 6/10

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