New 52 – Detective Comics #5 review

There is NO reason for you to spend $2.99 on this comic. Why? For starters the first 5 pages of this comic are online as a free preview. 5 pages. Free. Not out of the ordinary, previews are quite common. Well, in the case of “Detective Comics” #5, those 5 pages make up 41.67% of the content of this comic’s main story. See, what you get for your $2.99 isn’t a whole comic, instead it’s two halves of two seemingly unrelated stories. It feels like writer/artist Tony Daniel either couldn’t meet a deadline or he just needed a break. Which is understandable, handling both writing and artwork can’t be easy. But I would have rather suffered a delay than suffered through these half-baked stories.

Unless you read up on upcoming comic book news from sites like ComicVine and CBR, you have no idea that what you’re getting here is a prologue and a back-up story. Unlike last month’s “Action Comics” #4, there’s no hint on the cover that you aren’t getting a whole issue and it comes off very jarring and almost underhanded.

In the previous issue, Dollmaker got away and Batman just lets him go. No chase scene to bring him down there and no more follow-up on that here. As we all know Batman is a passive character who has no problem letting villains go especially those who threaten the life of Jim Gordon, aided the Joker, and have clear ties to the wealthiest of Gotham’s underworld…oh wait—that’s the exact opposite of Batman’s characterization.

The last issue also explicitly stated that Batman would be going after Penguin next, making this story’s big reveal inert. That’s right, sorry I didn’t give a spoiler warning, but the big reveal of this chapter’s final page (which is on page 12) is that Penguin is the main baddie. How shocking! It’s not like he wasn’t on the cover of the comic…oh wait! He was on this cover AND the variant.

What do you get in these 12 pages? A nonsensical parody of Occupy protests, an unexplained heist in which Batman loses the perp AGAIN (I swear Detective Comics Batman is the most worthless of all the Batmans), and a cut to Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend (kind of…he’s also banging Catwoman, but that’s when he’s Batman, so that makes it okay, right?) who meets up with that guy Hugh (who you was introduced in a couple pages back in issue #2) as they are going to the grand opening of the Iceberg Casino. That’s it. Oh, and she dresses up as a maid…or maybe it’s a waitress outfit. I don’t know. But she’s a reporter so you’re left to assume she’s going to do some investigative reporting on this place because it’s the Penguin and he’s bad. Penguin, who is watching her through a hidden camera, orders his henchwomen to kill her…which is kind of jumping the gun and doesn’t seem that smart. “Investigative Journalist Found Dead at Notorious Crime Boss’s Casino Grand Opening” doesn’t seem like the best headline for ol’ Cobblepot right now. And that’s the problem. This comic expects me to shut my brain off and I feel that the “Detective” title should be the sharpest written of them all.

Another big problem with “Detective Comics” is that none of the characters have a clear motivation. Joker cut off his own face—why? There are hundreds of Joker fans protesting in the park—why? Why would anyone be cheering on the Joker? It would be like seeing bands of teens gathering in Oklahoma City to worship Timothy McVeigh. Why is Penguin spying on Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend? Why is she disguising herself as a maid/waitress? I get that she’s a reporter and she’s probably going to do some digging into the Penguin and the casino—but why what leads does she have? Why should we care other than the fact that she is inevitably going to be a damsel in distress by the end of issue #6?

The only thing I did enjoy about that 12 page short was that Tony Daniel’s artwork is still excellent. I really liked the Sydney Opera House look of the Iceberg Casino, but in the end comics are as much about the story as they are the visuals and this book, like “Batman: The Dark Knight” needs a writer.

And when the back-up story cropped up out of nowhere to round out the final 8 pages of this comic, I thought, okay, a short story by a different writer. This could lead to some fresh ideas and maybe lead to some new talent on a Batman title in the future. Well, I was wrong. It’s written by Tony Daniel as well which means that this is padding.

This story is all about introducing a new character to the Batman mythology: Eli Strange, the illegitimate son of Hugo Strange. Now, let’s all say it together: “Hugo Strange had sex?”

This guy? This forever-alone, Batman-obsessed geek had sex? You’re kidding. And just to make things clear: that’s a mannequin he’s sitting next to, not a real woman.

That’s from one of the best Hugo Strange stories ever written and one of the best Batman stories of the past 20 years. It’s called “Prey” and it’s written by Doug Moench with art by Paul Gulacy and Terry Austin. It’s must-reading and until January of last year, we all thought it was going to be a major source of inspiration for “The Dark Knight Rises”.

Why would anyone think it’s a good idea to create yet another villain offspring like Enigma or Kitrina Falcone? The last thing writers need to do is blow up the balloon even more. There’s 70 years worth of material to work with here. It’s like Jazz: there are endless, increasingly complex variations to be had with the instruments on the stage. We don’t need to be adding more, more, more. More villain babies, more side-kicks, more Robin, and more Batmen.

Not only is it the introduction of an unnecessary character (whose existence doesn’t even make sense because if anyone of Batman’s rogues is impotent, it’s Hugo “I drink cognac with my mannequin” Strange), but the story doesn’t make any sense! Sure the art’s great, Kudranski is the same artist working on “Pain & Prejudice” and he handles quiet moments, shadowy places, and faces extremely well. But this story has Catwoman using Eli as a side-kick to rob an underground poker game…BUT he does nothing. He serves no purpose but to get caught. Catwoman sneaks in the background, empties the safe, and nobody realizes it. The poker game was happening with or without Eli’s involvement. Instead, the bad guys realize that Eli is cheating and Catwoman has to emerge and fight everyone. He serves no purpose in this story. Catwoman does everything. Eli. Is. Useless.  And so is this issue of Detective.

SCORE: 2.5/10