Have you ever met someone that was incredibly attractive and seemed to embody everything you’re looking for in a person, but as soon as they opened their mouth to speak you lost all interest? That’s Detective Comics, Vol.2: Scare Tactics.
The first volume, Faces of Death, wasn’t a great read by any means but it at least featured the much-talked-about issue in which Joker has his face removed. In Scare Tactics, however, there is nothing of great importance. Nothing that sent ripples through the rest of the bat-titles. That is unless you count its atrocious interpretation of Black Mask, which, thankfully, no other bat-titles have pursued further.
Now, I know I could sit here and make snarky remarks about this book all day but I truly don’t want to. I’m not in the mood for it. I’ve vented enough about Tony Daniel’s run already when these issues were published the first time around. In fact, whenever I get a hardcover or paperback collecting comics I’ve reviewed before, I always like to re-read it all again before doing a graphic novel review. But I couldn’t with this. I thumbed through the pages and struggled to find anything that conjured up any positive memories. It’s a large hardcover that bundles issues #7-12, Annual #1, and issue #0 and in that selection I recall enjoying these elements:
- The artwork by Tony Daniel. Jaw-dropping action panels, an emposing Dark Knight, and stunning splash-pages
- A somewhat competent Scarecrow story told in a single issue
- Issue #0, written by Greg Hurwitz, showing a young Bruce learning an important life lesson high up in the Himalayas
- 2 backup stories by James Tynion IV, Szymon Kudranski, and Henrik Jonsson. One was about the GCPD in the days leading up to Joker’s return and the second, taken from issue #0, had Alfred alone in the manor awaiting a young Bruce away traveling the globe.
Those are the highlights and they account for 2/7 or 29% of the book. The rest is really awful. It pains me to think about it. There’s the bastardization of Black Mask by turning him into a magical hypnotist, a nonsensical plot about a hadron collider being built in secret in the upper level of a skyscraper, and even Two-Face shows up to get kidnapped by ninjas! That last bit isn’t even the strangest thing about that Harvey Dent story. If an image comes to your mind when I say “Quaid, start the reactor.” then you have an idea. Poor Harvey, outside of a couple lines in Snyder’s Batman in issue #1 and issue #16 he really hasn’t been given any respect in the New 52.
I would rather get you excited about reading Batman comics. I love them and that’s why I pretty much only write reviews for books rooted in the mythology of Gotham. But this collection is not a good example of what Batman stories should be. Tony Daniel is a phenomenal artist, his latest work on Action Comics #19 was breathtaking, but he shouldn’t be writing Batman and he sure as hell needs to stay away from Harvey Dent. If you’re a big enough fan of Tony Daniel’s pencils then this might be worth picking up just so you can admire the illustrations, but it’s not enough for me. I think that Detective Comics should be the sharpest, most complex series of all the bat-titles and Daniel’s run was big on action and short on ideas.
Issue #9 variant cover by Jason Fabok. That’s it. It’s a nice cover, don’t get me wrong, but some more extras would’ve been nice. Pretty weak sauce.
The price of this comes out about even to what you would have paid for the monthly floppy issues. At cover price it’s $29.99 for 6 issues plus the over-sized Annual #1. That’s six $4 dollar books and one $5 dollar book , which would be $29.00 not counting tax so… you’re probably saving a little, but nothing substantial. Amazon has it for $19.97, which is more reasonable for something of this quality, but in the time it took me to write this article I saw that Amazon at one point offered it for about a buck cheaper. Look for it to go on clearance. Plus we should take re-read value into account and I don’t think I would ever want to re-read anything from this collection. Most of the community around here would agree that Tony Daniel’s run is something best forgotten.
I would rather forget these stories ever happened, truthfully. Tony Daniel’s artwork is brilliant and the brief contributions by other writers like Hurwitz and Tynion IV are a good read, but everything else is quite bad. Sometimes rage inducing. Daniel’s Detective run and Finch’s Batman: The Dark Knight issues are easily the worst Batman stories to come out of the New 52. I can’t recommend that you pick this one up unless you’re just a big fan of Daniel’s pencils. At least with Volume 1 Daniels showed some ambition what with the surprise of Joker’s face being removed and the gruesome Dollmaker storyline, but Scare Tactics is aimless and its Two-Face backup story is one of the worst things I’ve read in my time as a reviewer.