Unlike today’s Batman Annual, Detective Comics Annual features not one but three short yet interconnected stories. And while Batman Annual started out as being from the perspective of a supporting character but quickly switched back to Batman, Detective Comics Annual is actually more about Jane Doe and Harvey Bullock than the Dark Knight!

I wasn’t so sure about this issue at first and even took a break after the first story concluded, the final two stories that dove deeper into the lives of Jane Doe and Harvey Bullock really made it a much richer, more fulfilling read.

The Cover

The cover by Andy Clarke and Brett Smith looked pretty cool at first and even showcases some very lifelike bats, but if you flip the image upside down (or right-side-up I suppose) you’ll see that Batman’s chin is gigantic.

Face in the Crowd

The first story is co-written by John Layman and Joshua Williamson with pencils by Scot Eaton, inks by Jaime Mendoza, and colors by Jeromy Cox. While not as Wrath-heavy as many might have hoped, this short does indeed feature the anti-Batman driving Detective Comics’ latest arc but he appears only briefly.

The true villain is the master of disguise known as Jane Doe. Surprisingly, this is the New 52 origin of the character. From what I gathered, she has never appeared in Gotham prior to this installment and I think her introduction was handled rather well. Yes, it’s a bit soon to be doing another shape-shifter kind of story what with Clayface getting so much face-time lately, but Layman and Williamson played up the psychotic aspect of the character enough that she and Clayface are definitely nothing alike. Not only is Jane Doe crazier, but she’s also creepier since her chameleon ability relies on her obsessively trying to master the mannerisms and voice of her prey and, last but not least, removing their skin and wearing it like suit (or at least a mask. I wasn’t 100% clear on how far she went with the gruesome task).

With Jane Doe’s notoriety on the rise, Wrath tracks her down and puts her to work infiltrating the GCPD. It’s a concept that’s deserving of its own arc and part of me wishes that the story had been given more pages to be fleshed out (poor choice of words?). The actual detective work of finding Jane Doe happens so quickly that the climax felt abrupt

The artwork was quite good and highly detailed. I think that Eaton’s style perfectly complements Fabok’s work and this will blend seamlessly into the inevitable graphic novel.

Spoiler
At first, I was compalining about how Bullock looked to thin or handsome in some shots, but that all made sense when it was revealed that Jane Doe was pretending to be Bullock (the real Bullock does look a little too thin and pretty in the third and final story in this collection though). However, I did wonder why Jane Doe had not skinned Bullock already. I suppose she keeps her prey alive longer and wears prosthetics while she continues to examine the victim and master their behavior before finally killing them and taking their flesh. Speaking of which, infection really must not exist in the DC Universe. Joker, Two-Face, and Jane Doe are proof of that.

Contained Multitudes

Spooky. Damn spooky. “Contained Multitudes” is written by John Layman and Joshua Williamson with art by Szymon Kudranski and color by John Kalisz. Kudranski and Kalisz were a perfect fit for this highly disturbing look at Jane Doe. I never paid much attention to this character pre-New 52, but this issue has made her absolutely horrifying. I can’t really get into specifics about this one without spoiling “Face in the Crowd” but I really think that these last two stories brought out the best in this over-sized annual.

Harvey Bullock, This Is Your Life

I really like Harvey Bullock a lot so any story that revolves around him will immediately catch my interest. “Harvey Bullock, This Is Your Life” is written by John Layman and Josh Williamson with pencils by Derlis Santacruz, inks by Rob Hunter, and colors by Brett Smith. Much like “Contained Multitudes” I really can’t go into detail about this one without throwing spoiler tags over everything. Just know that it’s a story that doesn’t take the easy route of showing Harvey as comedic relief. Bullock is portrayed as being a much more complex than many of the members of the bat-family and I really felt for him here.

Spoiler
Overall the artwork looked good albeit a bit too clean and refined at times, but the thing that threw me off most is that in a story centered around Bullock, Bullock should really look more… well, like Bullock. It’s understandable in the scenes with the doppelganger, but when Bullock is sitting at the bar he looks rail-thin and that ain’t right! Also, I would just like to say that I think Layman and Williamson did a great job of setting up a potential arch-nemesis for Bullock with Jane Doe, much like how Bullock and Croc were always at odds in the Animated Series.

Overall

The main story gets a little rushed toward the end but the remaining two short stories were fantastic and give us a great look inside the minds of Jane Doe and, one of my favorite characters, Harvey Bullock. I wish Bullock had been drawn better in the third and final story, but overall the artwork in this book looks great. This was the best bat-title I read today and I think if you’re a fan of Bullock then this annual might actually be worth your $5 bucks.

SCORE: 7.5/10