What a strange comic. It begins with business deals done over rock climbing, the most intricate and unsexy roleplaying before sex I’ve seen in quite some time, some outtakes from the latest episode of “Criminal Minds,” and ends with a villain entirely lacking in subtlety, wit, or entertainment. “Detective Comics” #2 has a singular vision behind it and it shows in every scene that seems like it was a tweak or seven away from becoming something interesting, something that won’t be forgotten in a year, or, worse, remembered as that run by Tony Daniel where Batman fought the villain that likes to sew skin onto people.
The Dollmaker may just be the villain that proves that there are no new interesting villains left to create. Batman’s villains usually have something extra to them; some element of theatrics or depth beyond ‘skins people and then sews the skin on elsewhere.’ It’s downright mundane and the Dollmaker’s personality matches that. What we see of him here suggests a poor man’s Professor Pyg, except without the ludicrous pig mask and Dollotrons that screamed ‘comic book supervillain’ instead of “Silence of the Lambs” sequel reject.
The Dollmaker and his twisted family would be easy to write off and power past if Daniel’s Batman had any discernable personality. Instead, he sort of stumbles through the issue, first as the cipher that is Bruce Wayne and, then, as the heavy handed hard-boiled narrator that never says anything of consequence. Batman comes off as an empty, passive force in this comic, not so much a hero but a figure we’re familiar with and presumably will follow along with because of our familiarity with him. Where’s the part that actually makes readers want to get behind the hero and root for him?
Surprisingly, Daniel’s art is at its best in this issue when drawing scenes featuring Bruce Wayne. The opening pages of the book surprised me with softer line work than I’ve previously seen from Daniel. Tomeu Morey’s warm colors complement Daniel’s softly shaded and rounded line work on those pages. It looks almost like the work of another artist. When the book shifts to Batman at night, the coloring takes on a flat, lifeless purple-blue hue and Daniel’s line work becomes sketchier and harsher, less attractive and inviting. Some of his choices of perspectives for panels are oddly conceived as well; a shot of two of the Dollmaker’s sons attacking Batman is shown from above and looks awful as a result.
Much like the first issue’s ‘shocking’ cliffhanger, this issue ends on a moment that will surely get people talking. And, much like last issue’s end, it comes off as cheap and something meant for the moment but will be forgotten quickly. “Detective Comics” #2 doesn’t deliver a Batman comic that’s engaging and entertaining, it’s too mired in sickness and grime without cleverness.