"Detective Comics" #14 by John Layman and Jason Fabok makes me think twice about limiting my regularly purchased Batman titles to one or two a month. With the glut of Batman titles available from DC and the restrictions inherent to a comic book budget, I've been very selective in Batman-related comic book purchases. After all, if I bought them all, I'd have no budget for anything else.
"Detective Comics" as a title shouldn't be ruled by the notion of having Batman (or his allies) deduce the methods and madness of his foes, but crime scene investigation and further prevention should at the very least be a factor in the adventures of the Dark Knight Detective. John Layman puts the detective skills front and center, but masterfully balanced with action, intrigue, character development and some damn good art.
Jason Fabok handles the art -- not pencilwork with an inker by his side, but the art. It's all Jason Fabok, from the white of the paper to the black of Batman's cowl, and it is magnificent. The cover, while gorgeously rendered doesn't do the interiors nearly enough justice. From the opening splash page to the final cliffhanger, every panel of every page is rendered in stunning detail, including scenes in the Batcave and at a pharmaceutical factory. Fabok's characters are lively and strong, with an expansive range of expressions and physiques. To top it all off, however, joining Fabok is Jeromy Cox, who is everything an artist could want in a colorist. He provides detail to Fabok's drawings, such as the leaves on Poison Ivy's outfit, the taste buds on her tongue and the streets on the projected maps in the Batcave. Nothing is overly saturated, but nothing is muted. Quite simply, the art is amazing. Dezi Sienty's lettering puts the icing on the cake, blending into the scene as evidenced in the fiery "fwhoooosh" that blazes above Bruce Wayne's head on page one. The trio has quickly come together on this title and they make "Detective Comics" look good.
Layman has crafted an intriguing, intricate story for Batman that stands quite nicely on its own while recognizing the zaniness in the Batman corner of the DC Universe. The writer chooses to provide a look into Batman's thought process through caption boxes and abundant dialog, which comes together swimmingly and reads naturally. In "Detective Comics" #14, Layman delivers a fun-to-read Batman and a trio of Batman's most noteworthy foes, including a surprise final page appearance. Other Bat-scribes Scott Snyder and Peter J. Tomasi have done a great job delivering very good Batman stories since the relaunch and with this issue, John Layman proves his name should be in the same conversation. This is a Batman comic I didn't think I wanted to read, but now I cannot wait for more.
The backup by Layman with art by Andy Clarke is exquisitely drawn and brilliantly written. Layman sheds some light on Poison Ivy's recent escapades all while making the conclusion of the opening that much more poignant. Layman provides insight into Ivy's thoughts through caption boxes and almost makes her a likeable character. Clarke, in stark contrast, drains all hope and life from Arkham Asylum, providing the reader with absolutely nothing hopeful to cling to while drawing dazzling characters and settings littered with winks and nods to every Batfan who reads "Detective Comics" #14.
While I'm always hesitant to get started on another title, especially a Bat-title, I decided to give this one a whirl based on the talent involved and the characters present. John Layman, Jason Fabok, Penguin and Poison Ivy were enough to get me to check this book out. "Detective Comics" #14 was enough for me to lock in a return to this title with the next issue.