With "Night of the Owls" having retreated back to the pages of "Batman," it's time for "Detective Comics" to kick off a new storyline. In this case, though, writer Tony S. Daniel is joined for issues #10-12 by Ed Benes and Rob Hunter on art (presumably to let Daniel start drawing September's issue and beyond). So far, I'm not sold on this pairing.
Under Benes' pencils, "Detective Comics" and Bruce Wayne in particular takes on a much more sinister tone than I think Daniel would have wanted. When Bruce goes to visit Charlotte in the hospital early on, we get the line, "Here... I brought beautiful flowers for a beautiful woman." A cheesy but innocent enough line from Daniel, to be sure. Benes draws Bruce as looking at Charlotte with narrowed eyes and lips, though, like he's barely able to force these words out. This isn't a drawing of a boyfriend, or someone who even cares on a friendly level. Bruce Wayne looks like he's about to kill Charlotte in cold blood.
The strange thing is that this isn't an isolated incident. All through this scene, Bruce looks to be a combination of ticked off and murderous; I'd never been so glad to get the stereotypical scene where someone looks away and when they return their attention to the room, Bruce has left (to go change into his Batman outfit). Add in sketchy drawings of a legion of evil Batmen that look only half-rendered for the big pages 2-3 splash, and we end up with an unattractive comic. I don't think that Benes and Daniel's styles as artist and writer work well together, unfortunately.
The story itself feels a little overly complicated (Fake Batmen! Mr. Toxic! A Hadron Collider!) and while this is admittedly the first chapter in a multi-issue story, it comes across like Daniel throwing too many things at the reader too quickly. Later issues might smooth the story out a bit, but for the moment I keep getting the feeling that this is a story that might have worked a little better if Daniel had paced out all of these reveals into later down the line.
The Two-Face back-up story continues here, and Daniel's script feels very non-threatening and by-the-book. There's nothing particularly out of the ordinary about Daniel's take on Two-Face, but there's also nothing wrong about it either. I am a big fan of Szymon Kudranski's art, and this issue is no exception. For a story cloaked almost entirely in darkness, he does a good job of playing with outlines of people within the shadows. John Kalisz's colors mesh well with Kudranski's creations here, too; they're a strong match for one another.
"Detective Comics" on the whole has been a series that's gone up and down in quality since the relaunch, and this is unfortunately one of the weaker installments. With this issue originally being solicited as Daniel drawing the main story, I'm hoping that the art problems here merely had to do with deadlines, and that it'll come together a bit more in #11-12. For now, though, it's a rough first chapter to a new story.