Reading this month’s issue of “Detective Comics,” it’s hard to avoid the behind the scenes drama that went on here. This was originally the issue slated for the return of Batwoman from Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III, before Rucka left the character and plans were made to move Batwoman into her own title. So it’s probably a safe bet that David Hine’s story for the next few months was put together on short notice.
At the end of the day, though, all people are going to remember down the line is how the story itself was, not the creative decisions that brought Hine and Scott McDaniel together here. And reading “Detective Comics” this month, it feels like a good idea that just didn’t solidify into a strong finished product. The idea of merging flash mobs and a psychoactive drug is an interesting one, and when you make that drug a version of the Joker’s serum, well, this feels like the start of a classic Batman story. But just as soon as the idea appears, it starts to crumble.
None of the characters ever seem to ring true here. Batman might as well be Bruce Wayne rather than Dick Grayson, with Hine treating the two (even away from the public) as one and the same. Batman, himself, seems slightly out of character in places, flippantly ignoring calls for help and dismissing what even to an outsider feels like a dangerous situation. The dialogue is a little weak in places, too, and I never thought I’d see “Detective Comics” using the most mockable part of Lars von Trier’s film “Antichrist” as what I can only suspect was supposed to be serious, here. “Detective Comics” this month goes from interesting to dull in a matter of pages.
It is nice to see Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens providing the art, at least. Their blocky, slightly exaggerated art was nice in the backup features of “Trinity,” but they’ve managed to work on titles I wasn’t reading since then. When the Joker Mad Mob first hits the mall, McDaniel and Owens manage (with the help of well-placed letters from Todd Klein) to make the double-page spread look deliberately cluttered and chaotic, while still having everything stand out in just the right places. It’s the perfect depiction of what the innocent people at the mall are going through, and it’s that larger than life look that continues throughout the comic.
In the end, if you like McDaniel’s pencils then “Detective Comics” might have hit the jackpot for you. But at least for now, Hine’s story just isn’t holding up its end of the bargain. Maybe with more time the remaining installments will be stronger. As a story that feels designed more to just stall until the arrival of Scott Snyder in November, though, I suspect Hine’s “Batman: Imposters” will be largely forgotten before long.