Detective Comics #1

Tony Salvador Daniel's run as the writer/artist on "Batman" the past couple of years was wildly variable, but the ups were frequent enough to keep me tuned in to see what he was shooting for next. Having read his entire "Batman" run, I thought I knew what I was in store for with his taking over of "Detective Comics."

Boy, was I wrong.

Daniel goes for broke in the first three pages, putting his cards on the table for everyone to see. We've got the Joker on the first page, a bold statement by using the most iconic villain to appear in a Batman comic. And then you turn the page -- and waiting for you is a two-page spread of Batman running through the rooftops of Gotham City that is worthy of turning into a print and framing.

It's a tightly drawn, careful portrait of the Dark Knight; from the wrinkles in his cape (which is neither too big nor too small) to the treads on his boots, it's thoroughly detailed but not distractingly so. He's moving forward, carefully posed, but not feeling static. And as for the background? It's beautiful, with the fog clouds rolling in a thick white mass, while numerous buildings poke through and each one different. Add in some bats (this is a comic starring Batman, after all) and a large full moon, plus some deliberately non-glowing colors from Tomeu Morey, and the end result is breathtaking. And we're only on page three.

"Detective Comics" #1 has a strong script from Daniel; it's the sort of story where you've jumped into the middle of a situation between the Joker and a new character, but by the end of the first issue you can flip back to those early pages and find that the originally enigmatic statements all fit into place perfectly. The Joker's new scheme is a chilling one when you stop to think about it, and makes sense in a deranged and awful sort of way.

Batman himself feels more or less the same as ever, although his relationship with the Gotham City Police Department appears to have shifted back to the iconic troubled nature from years past. But some things remain a constant, like his dealings with Commissioner Gordon, or the presence of Alfred. (Although based on some of the dialogue, it makes me wonder if Alfred's skill sets have vastly changed, or if this is not the Alfred that we are used to.)

As for the new villain, we only get the briefest of glimpses, but it's enough to give us a horrific final page reveal that will repulse or intrigue readers, and quite possibly both. It's a moment that is meticulously drawn and provides that "gotcha!" moment to make me want to see the next chapter.

Visually, it's also one of Daniel's better issues, with Batman leaping and springing from page to page. He makes some interesting style choices along the way; characters like Harvey Bullock are drawn with a modern flare, but scenes at the train station evoke an old-school, earlier-days feel with the big gleaming engine, or the woman in a hat and coat with fur-lined collar. It's good stuff, though, and I love some of the little touches like Gordon's reflective-glasses that serve almost as a mask in their own right.

Daniel has brought his A-Game to "Detective Comics," and it's most definitely paid off. Even if you sampled Daniel's "Batman" run before, I'll urge you to give his new "Detective Comics" #1 a chance. I had high hopes and I was still pleasantly surprised. Here's to every issue of "Detective Comics" being this strong.

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