In “Detective Comics” #5, we get a main and a back-up feature. In theory, it’s a good idea on how to give Tony Salvador Daniel a slight break from the art while still advancing his stories overall, but the actual execution ends up weakening both features just a tad.
The main feature, written and penciled by Daniel, follows on from the earlier issues of “Detective Comics” to date. We’re finally circling back around to the mystery of the Joker from the first issue, and while there isn’t much movement on that front, it’s a good refresher for that development. In some ways it feels almost like a reminder, so that whenever the answer to the question of the Joker’s whereabouts is revealed, we won’t have forgotten that he’s missing in action.
With the shortened length of the story, though, there isn’t much time for that much else. Because there’s no traction on the Joker plotline, it makes the main feature feel underwhelming. The final pages at least serve as a lead-in to “Detective Comics” #6, but it’s almost too little too late; we’ve suddenly jumped into a story involving the Iceberg Casino, but the teaser doesn’t have enough of a hook to draw you in on such short notice. Daniel’s art, though, still looks great. Daniel is spending a lot of time on the overall look of Gotham in “Detective Comics,” and as much as I enjoy Daniel’s skylines and textured capes flapping in the wind, something as simple as seeing the parks of Gotham is a pleasant change of pace. Gotham continues to look like a real city under Daniel’s pencil, even down to having the Jersey-esque beaches a few miles away.
The back-up story is illustrated by Szymon Kudranski, who more and more feels like the next artist in the line established by Bill Sienkiewicz or Barron Storey. The script from Daniel isn’t terribly exciting, and unlike the first feature which felt too short, it feels a tiny bit too long. But with Kudranski’s art attached, I found myself not caring that much. Kudranski can draw people’s faces with a startlingly lifelike end result, something that adds a level of danger to this poker game with mobsters. When Kudranski draws things like the outside of the warehouse, with its washed out edges and faded colors, it feels wonderfully moody and atmospheric. More art from Kudranski is always a good thing, and helps justify the back-up feature’s existence.
“Detective Comics” #5 isn’t quite up to par overall; it’s a great-looking comic, but neither feature quite manages its length properly. In some ways, each story feels like it took something away from the other story’s pacing. It’s not a bad comic, but we’ve seen better from Daniel in the past.