Jason Fabok is killing it! Detective Comics #18 looks great and it’s a fun story but it would be a whole lot better if it didn’t try so hard to tie into so many other titles and just focused on doing its own thing.
I appreciate when the Bat-titles try to connect to one another but it’s starting to deter from a plot that I thoroughly enjoy in Detective. I find the whole Penguin downfall storyline with Ogilvy to be incredibly interesting and I love the way that author John Layman keeps Batman constantly busy. It allows each issue to be exciting and easily accessible to new readers because the central story of each one usually has a beginning, middle, and end all its own while the Emperor Penguin plot operates quietly in the background. However, issue #18 had editors notes that tied into Batman #16, Batman #17, Batman Inc. #8, Talon #3, and there’s even a nod to Catwoman #9
DC Comics stands for Detective Comics so it’s odd to see the series bow to so many other titles especially when it has a strong enough writer and artist with the potential to rise above the rest. Trying to figure out the timeline for all of these adventures existing together would make your head explode so I recommend you don’t even try.
I’m sure a lot of folks might be picking up this comic for the first time today due to the awesome cover by Fabok that’s part of this month’s big Requiem thing where all the bat-family is mourning the death of Robin. Readers looking for Batman Inc. #8 fallout will be mightily disappointed because Damian is addressed for only two pages and then we’re back to business as usual. Batman doesn’t behave like he’s pushed to the edge over what’s happened or anything. I think that’s the angle Snyder is going for in next week’s Batman, but that’s not how the Dark Knight behaves here. We have a couple pages at a graveyard and it’s never spoken of again. Still, I expect to see this comic sell out pretty quickly based on the cover alone.
Instead of getting an ode to Damian comic what we have is one of the first issues in some time to really focus on the Emperor Penguin with a subplot regarding the escape of Zsasz. It’s worth noting that Zsasz is the only one mentioned to have escaped so I guess Riddler and Two-Face are still locked away. I think if you ignore the nonsensical timeline connections to Death of the Family and Batman Inc. you’ll enjoy yourself quite a bit with this one. Seeing Penguin’s downfall is really satisfying and as I said in the opening sentence of this review the artwork is outstanding. One two-page spread in particular of Batman at Arkham not only looks great but it has a couple cameos of some of Gotham’s worst. And if you read my review of Batman: The Dark Knight last week you’ll know how much I love Batman crashing through a skylight– we get some of that here as well.
The backup this time is all about Zsasz and focuses on the character’s origin story and escape from Arkham. It gets a lot done for how few pages it has so you’ve got to applaud that. The New 52 origin of Zsasz is much the same as it is in the original telling back in Batman Chronicles #3 all those years ago and the origin told in the Arkham Asylum/Arkham City video games so a strong connection to the Penguin is still there and it complements the main story well. One discrepancy that could go easily overlooked in all of this is that, from what I recall, the Iceberg casino just opened a year ago. I thought that the Detective Comics appearance of the Iceberg Casino was a grand opening (Tony Daniel’s run) yet here we see a young Zsasz visiting the place in a flashback. The artwork by Henrik Jonsson lends itself really well to Fabok’s interpretation of Gotham and he does a great job of making Zsasz look deranged. I also think that Henrik draws one of the best Penguin’s I’ve seen in some time. As much as I like Fabok’s design, the nose just isn’t long enough. However, Henrik did forget to add the curly chin beard that we saw on Zsasz earlier in the comic as drawn by Fabok.
As much as we all like to discuss continuity, Detective Comics‘ focus on connecting to the timeline of other titles is bogging down an otherwise great story. I can’t help but think that the collected TPB of this is going to be kind of confusing with all the references to other books… Anyway, it’s a fun read and the artwork in both the main story and the backup is great. Don’t pick it up because you want some Damian Wayne cross-over like the cover would have you believe. Pick it up because it’s a good story about Penguin’s demise and the rise of Zsasz and Ogilvy.