Sunday, June 30, 2013

Detective Comics: Faces of Death (comic)

Writer/Artist: Tony Daniel
Collects: Detective Comics (vol. 2) #1-7

I've always liked Tony Daniel as an artist, but as a writer he leaves something to be desired. The plots are rarely gripping and it's easy to forget a lot of what you just read. Even with this book, which I read a week or so ago, I've been struggling to recall what happened without going back to the book for a refresher. Never a good sign; even worse when we're talking about one of the flagship Batman books in the wake of a line-wide relaunch.

Don't be fooled by the cover, either; after the first issue, the Joker vanishes, not to be seen again until Scott Snyders "Death of the Family".

Faces of Death actually focuses on a new villain. A laudable approach that I'm all for DC doing more of. Trouble is, said new villain has no spark. The Dollmaker is not much of a character beyond the fact that he cuts faces off, which is an MO we could get from any old grimdark comic book. Without an interesting threat, the book just kind of falls apart.

Still, I enjoy Daniels artwork, as always. A lot of people give him flack for being too "90's", but his style's always worked for me. He's not quite as reliably good an artist as some - he seems to like to experiment with technique a lot, which doesn't always pan out - but when he's on top he can make some really memorable images. Memorable as in "wow, that's a cool splash", not "uhh... huh, a splash page of Jokers severed face". Unfortunately, those type are in short supply here, but the art is still pleasant enough.

Even so, there's nothing here that you just gotta see and it's not quite good enough to make up for the lackluster story.

My Opinion: Skip It

Faces of Death isn't really "awful", but it's forgettable enough that I'm comfortable saying you don't need to bother. Kind of a dud, all things considered. Tony Daniel's done better.


  1. I read the first issue and...yeah. Some people were "shocked" by the ending or whatever, but like you said, it just seemed like a needless attempt at the "grim & gritty" aesthetic. Kinda reminded me of the Charlie Huston/David Finch Moon Knight series, actually.

  2. I actually never got around to reading that Moon Knight run, but I'd heard it was pretty grimdark, yeah.

    Dollmaker kind of personified needless grim and gritty, yeah. If it's in the service of a good story, I'm fine with some grim and gritty in Batman comics, but Faces of Death is not that. If nothing else, it's pretty boring. That's worse than being outright bad, to me.

    I think one of his earlier efforts hit a better balance. Life After Death. It was kind of dumb, but it wasn't boring. That actually reminds me, TD isn't that great on following up on things he introduces. That "Catgirl" thing really went nowhere, didn't it? Plus I don't think the mob has appeared since. That story was ambitious but had zero followup.

    TD's got one more volume, so I might be in for that as long as the library has it. But make no mistake, what I'm waiting for is volume 3. John Layman on Batman? Hell. Yes.

  3. After my initial comment, I saw that another library has Faces of Death, so I went ahead and ILL'd it. My hopes aren't high, but I'm curious to see the other issues and free is free.

    As much as a part of me hates to see great indie creators like Layman, Jeff Lemire, and Nathan Edmondson get snapped up by Marvel and DC, I have to agree...that should be interesting (and hopefully good).

    And here's the Moon Knight image the first issue of Faces of Death made me think of (from the first or second issue):

  4. Uhh... wow. Yuck. The Joker page is practically tasteful in comparison. Kind of amazed that made it through in a mainstream Marvel comic. The shit you can get away with on books editors don't pay attention to, huh?

    I actually kind of like indy creators getting snapped up, now. For one thing, it puts them out there; take a guy like Layman, who made a good following with Chew, but will probably see MORE sales now that people know him from Detective and will likely check out what else he's done. I've done that numerous times; liked a creator on a mainstream book and wiki'd their other stuff.

    Plus they've been finding more time for their own stuff, lately. Image just had their expo today and it was basically bomb after bomb dropped, with most of Marvels top guys announcing a new creator owned project. They seem to be finding more time lately, so it's less a matter of "they're on a big corporate book, so they don't have time for the other stuff" anymore.

    As for the library, oh yeah. Always check in on them. It's how I review half the stuff I do. I'll even pick up bad books just to see how awful it gets. It's free, right? So it doesn't cost me anything beyond some time. It's pretty much the only reason I'm reading Amazing Spider-Man past Ends of the Earth.