Who's it by?
Detective Comics #1 is written by Tony Daniel, who also shares art duties with Ryan Winn.
What's the history?
The first issue of Detective Comics was published in 1937. As the source of DC Comics' name, the title is one of the most important in the publisher's catalogue, not least because it featured the debut of Batman in issue #27.
As well as introducing the world to the Dark Knight, Detective Comics gave debuts to Robin, Commissioner Gordon, Batwoman, and even the Martian Manhunter. Villains including Penguin, Two-Face, Hugo Strange and Riddler were also seen for the first time on its pages.
Detective Comics ran for a staggering 881 monthly issues before the 'New 52' initiative was introduced, making it the longest continually-published comic in the US.
The relaunched Detective Comics takes a back-to-basics approach. With no Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl or any other sidekick in sight, the Caped Crusader operates as a lone vigilante in Gotham City with only his faithful butler Alfred watching his back.
Daniel joins the title off the back of his work on the Battle for the Cowl miniseries and his acclaimed run on DC's core Batman title. Winn has also worked on Batman, and contributed illustrations to such major events as Blackest Night and Brightest Day.
Batman uses those legendary detective skills to track the Joker across Gotham after the insane clown commits a spate of grisly murders. The Caped Crusader has a run-in with the city's law enforcement before becoming embroiled in a brutal encounter with his arch nemesis. After taking the Joker down, Batman hands him over to Dr Jeremiah Arkham. Soon afterwards, a mysterious player referred to as 'The Dollmaker' steps into the ring and thickens the plot.
What's the verdict?
Tony Daniel delivers a gritty, mature take on the subject matter with Detective Comics #1. There isn't much here that we haven't seen myriad times before, but it's handled well and the tone feels like vintage Batman.
Unlike Grant Morrison's Action Comics #1, which is told entirely in the third-person, Daniel places us directly inside Batman's head. The ongoing narrative gives the reader insight into the Dark Knight's methods and paints him as a tortured soul bent on doing his duty for a city on the brink of eating itself alive. A short segment is told from Commissioner Gordon's perspective, but it's an entirely predictable take on the police chief, presenting him as a man of high moral fibre with unwavering loyalty to the Bat.
Alfred Pennyworth and Harvey Bullock are introduced briefly, though not enough for the reader to form an overall impression of them. Alfred struggles to manage Bruce Wayne's social calendar, while Bullock comes across as a hard-boiled cop with loyalty to his comrades and nothing but contempt for Gotham's rogues.
The razor-sharp dialogue carries the story, though there's no shortage of action segments either. Batman is seen caught in explosions, brawling with a SWAT team, and going toe-to-toe with the Joker. The final battle with his nemesis is the kind of thing long-term readers have seen a time and time again. We all know Batman will never cross that line in the mainstream DC Universe, but it's always exhilarating seeing him pushed to the brink.
An arcane character referred to as 'The Dollmaker' steps into the playing field towards the end of the issue, giving rise to a handful of burning questions. The end result is a sense of ambiguity and intrigue, not to mention disquiet at the gruesome climax.
Daniel and Winn's artwork is classic Batman, paying homage to iconic plotlines such as Year One and Hush. The issue is rendered in dark hues with some effective use of shadow. None of the characters have been dramatically redesigned. Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Bullock look a good few years younger, suggesting that this arc takes place near the advent of Bruce Wayne's crimefighting career, but they are recognisable. It's a familiar approach that the fans will no doubt appreciate.
Daniel and Winn have erred on the side of caution with Detective Comics #1. Despite taking Batman back-to-basics, nothing about the title that has worked in the past has been tampered with. There is a hint of big changes to come, and whether they work or not remains to be seen, but the relaunch issue starts the series with a Bam! Kapow!
> Buy the digital version of Detective Comics #1
> Read our review of Swamp Thing #1
Watch the 'New 52' introduction video from DC Comics below: