Thursday, September 19, 2013

Detective Comics: Scare Tactics (comics)

Writers: Tony Daniel, Gregg Hurwitz, James Tynion IV
Artists: Tony Daniel, Ed Benes, Pere Perez and a metric ton of others in the backups
Collects: Detective Comics (vol. 2) #8-12, #0, Detective Comics Annual #1, plus all the backups

Volume One was a swing and a miss. The focus on a new villain was laudable, but Daniel forgot to make him interesting, despite having six issues to do it. Volume Two manages to fix some of the issues that plagued the first, enough to be worth the read, but it's also Daniels last. He seemed to catch on to what needed fixing just as he was leaving.

Figures, right?

Length has a lot to do with the improvement. Perhaps it's because he was winding down his run, but Daniel decided not to go with another six issue plotline; instead, he busts the page space into smaller chunks. None of the stories go past three issues. In fact, the majority of them are all of a single issue. As regards actually writing a comic, Tony Daniel is as hit or miss as they come. By keeping the length under control, he's made it easier to deal with the losers of the bunch; after all, if a given story is a dud, it's far easier to sit through when it's only a single issue as opposed to six.

As a side benefit, there's a fair bit of variety to Scare Tactics. The Court of Owls are around for an issue, the Mad Hatter pops up, Dr. Strange cameos, Daniel introduces what I believe is a new villain in Mr. Toxic - who holds the only multi issue plot in the volume - and Catwoman even pops in for a few pages. Scarecrow's around too, but despite the obvious allusion to him in the title, he's there for all of two pages. The book doesn't just sit around, content to stick with one focus; since one issue stories make up the majority of the volume, we're constantly moving to something different.

The annual is the last issue Tony Daniel scripted. In a way, it's his run on the character coming full circle. Life After Death was far from the greatest comic to ever hit the racks, but it's easily the biggest story Tony Daniel ever did with Batman; it warranted tie-ins, a miniseries that acted as a prologue or side story and references throughout the line. Fitting then that Daniel revisits the Black Mask one more time before departing.

It's the quintessential "putting the toys back in the toybox" story. Life After Death was meant to retool the Black Mask character in the wake of his death way back when, putting a new face beneath the mask. With the relaunch, that's no longer necessary - plus that story sort of removed the one Arkham figurehead Batman could interact with - so with a a cursory reference to his death and a handwave, Roman Sionis is back. It serves its purpose - and what follows is a fairly decent little adventure - but it's far from remarkable.

Part of the problem is that I just couldn't get used to Daniels take on Black Mask. My favorite voice for the character has always been the one we got out of Judd Winicks "Under the Hood"; Winick gave him intelligence, purpose and a dark wit that elicited sincere laughter out of me on several occasions. In comparison, Daniels take lacks personality; as a result, it feels as though he's only used so Daniel could use the relaunch to fix a few things.

None of the stories are all that remarkable, but at least I didn't forget it after about a week like the last volume. The collection finishes with a series of backup strips; I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I believe it's every one up to the last issue of this collection. They range from good to dull to outright bizzare; Two-Face chills with some zen monks or something? The one about Jokers severed face is the best. They aren't worth the price of admission alone but they're nice extras.

My Opinion: Try It

The last hurrah of Tony Daniels Detective Comics is an improvement over the prior volume, yet still far from remarkable. Worth a read if you see it in the local library, since there's no need to have read the first. Not sure it's worth a purchase though.

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