While Tony S. Daniel is still drawing next month’s “Detective Comics” #0, it’s “Detective Comics Annual” #1 that concludes his run as the writer of the series. In doing so, he wraps up one of the two dangling threads about villains from his twelve issues, and that’s the return of the Black Mask. (The other, the escape of the Joker, will be addressed over in “Batman.”)
After getting his mask back during “Night of the Owls,” the Black Mask is on a rampage even as Batman tries to figure out where Black Mask has secreted himself. Unfortunately, that’s the bulk of the plot right there. There’s a thread with the Black Mask trying to go up against Mad Hatter; with Daniel having added a hypnosis power to the Black Mask’s mask he tries to draw a parallel with the other hypnotizing member of Batman’s rogue’s gallery. It never quite comes together, though. It’s a lot of preening and boasting but very little actual meat to the story. And while “Detective Comics Annual” #1 boasts a larger page count, I think that’s actually part of the problem here. This feels like a story that would have done better told in 20-page chunks; it would have fixed the pacing problem by ensuring some action and plot development in each piece. Instead, freed of that restraint, nothing appears to happen for far too long in this comic.
Romano Molenaar and Pere Perez each pencil half of “Detective Comics Annual” #1 and the end result is just all right. Perez’s pencils are the more firm and slick of the pair; nothing’s ever out of place when Perez draws a book, and this is no exception. It’s a good enough match for Romano Molenaar’s pencils, which share that rounded look but aren’t quite as cast in stone as Perez’s. There’s a little more texture to Molenaar’s pencils; everyone looks a little less idealized as a result. For a comic with two different main artists, though, there’s a strong level of cohesiveness between the pair.
“Detective Comics Annual” #1 ends Daniel’s run on the series as writer on a not great note. It’s not a failure, but I wouldn’t call it a success either. Daniel’s had some much stronger stories starring Batman over the years (his love letter to the “Batman: Year One” and “Batman: The Long Halloween” era of the character in “Batman: Life After Death” is probably his best), and it’s too bad to see it end at this point. Hopefully with a little time off and a recharge, his next comic as writer/artist will be back up to his regular strength.