Sometimes I go into a comic fully expecting to come away unimpressed, that’s how I felt about this book. Writer/artist Tony S. Daniel made his name in Bat comics doing pencils in Grant Morrison’s run on Batman (if you haven’t read it pick it up, it starts here). After the bat shake up resulting from Final Crisis, Daniel went on to write and draw Batman. I’ve never read any of his run, and I’ve heard it was actually pretty well received. It was just…not ground breaking. That in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but in this strange and wonderful DCnU I’m looking for the best and the brightest books. I was expecting Scott Snyder’s Batman book (coming in two weeks) to be the better bat book. But to my surprise, Daniel brought his A game, and he’s giving Snyder a run for his money.
Daniel starts out with the big guns. The Joker. The grail of Batman villains. Writers such as Morrison and Snyder have left some pretty big marks on the Joker lately, (Morrison literally) so it was a bit ballsy of Daniel to bring the character out so soon. But it makes sense, this is the first bat book of the DCnU. This is where Batman got his start, and the book deserves to have a high-profile. The plot deals with Batman’s misgivings for having let the Joker run wild for so long. At the same time there are signs of a new mad man in Gotham, one who skins his victim’s faces and is offing the Joker’s pals. The plot at first seems a little…unoriginal. Besides the Gotham PD being a little more anti-Batman than we’ve seen lately, this is essentially your typical “Joker does something bad, Batman catches him” story. If that had been all it was then I would have come away from the book the way I expected to, having enjoyed the book but not being awed by it. But in the last three pages Daniel turns the story on its ear, flips it around and cuts it to pieces. The final page cliffhanger made my jaw drop, and is easily the most shocking last page of a comic I’ve ever read.
I don’t know what Daniel is going to do with this, but as the underdog he has me hooked. I literally have to know what happens next. Well played Mr. Daniel, well played.