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Detective Comics Annual #1 - The Abyss Review

4

Batman is caught in a war between Black Mask and another familiar villain. Find out what the future holds for Black Mask.

The Good

There's always been something fascinating about Black Mask. He's not one of the biggest villains in Batman's rogues gallery but he has the potential to rise in the ranks. He apparently died before but I was surprised by his appearance in DETECTIVE COMICS #9. With the history of Roman Sionis and Jeremiah Arkham, the power and pull of the Black Mask makes an intriguing story. We get hints of the existing continuity of the pre-New 52 mixed in with the current stories. I'm not sure how Sionis came back but it does make an interesting story especially considering Arkham is back running the Asylum.

This is where we get to see the follow up to what happened to Sionis. The battle to reclaim his throne among the False Face Society makes this feel like it should be Black Mask's annual and not Batman's. During Black Mask's journey, he finds himself going up against another Batman villain. It's a great rivalry and also makes this other character (I don't want to spoil who it is) more interesting in the New 52.

This story worked out great for an annual. Many of DC's new annuals out this week are simply continuations of this month's titles. This does continue the story of Black Mask from a few months ago but isn't directly tied into it. A reader can easily pick this up and dive into the action without having to worry about what just happened a couple weeks ago. This also adds value to the annual for those that might check it out in the future. We're definitely in the New 52 universe but it has a strong self-contained feel while still tying into the overall mythos of the current Batman stories.

The Bad

This is a Batman annual but he felt more like a peripheral character. That's not necessarily a bad thing but when he does appear, it almost felt like it was a contractual requirement with Batman's lawyer.

I'm still not clear on how Black Mask came back. It's possible I missed something or that this was just another tweak when the New 52 started. It's not a huge deal but more of a nagging question in the back of my mind.

Some of the fighting with Batman felt weird, especially when Batman was fighting a new threat, Mad Bull. I assume his armor suit allows him to take quite a beating. He gets thrown through some wooden supports on a roller coaster and is barely fazed. I prefer the days when Batman didn't take so much physical abuse because he was able to avoid it during fights.

The Verdict

Comic Book annuals should focus on the current story and not tie directly into or continue from the current series. There's needs to be a sense of being self-contained so that readers can read and enjoy the over-sized format. Thankfully this annual does that. There is a tie to Black Mask's previous appearance in DETECTIVE COMICS but this issue can be enjoyed on its own. It also serves to set the groundwork for Black Mask and another Batman villain so there isn't a sense that this is just a story that won't have any impact on the series or character. Batman does give up the spotlight as the focus lies on Black Mask. Let's hope this leads to him having a bigger presence in the New 52. If he survives this annual, that is.

15 Comments
Posted by cc1738

I almost got this, but decided not to. Daniel is an amazing artist, but sometimes his writing makes me cringe. The line "Someone took a bath. A blood bath." echoes in my mind every time I read something written by him. I really enjoyed the Dollmaker arc, but I haven't been impressed with anything after that with the exception of the Night of Owls tie in.

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

So is DC any better that when it started?

Edited by cc1738

@Jonny_Anonymous: It getting a new creative team in October. If you're curious, you should just wait to get it then.

Posted by landau_corinthian

@cc1738: You didn't like the David Caruso CSI:Miami inner monologue moment Batman had?

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous
@cc1738: Aaah I thought the creative team had changed already 
Posted by cincyducksfan35

Really enjoyed the annual. Hope Daniel lands on another title now that they took him off Detective. Maybe fill in artist for JL and JLA. It'd be nice to always have quality fill in art

Posted by cagedleo730

I doubt that Black Mask "died" the same way in the new52, if he died at all. Catwoman's regression means that they probably had no interactions. That probably also means that Stephanie Brown's torture is gone as well. Not that it's a big loss.

Posted by longbowhunter

As of #13 this is going in my pull list. I'm glad Daniels is exiting and I'm anxious to see what John Layman is capable of. Jason Fabok ain't to shabby neither.

Posted by danhimself

there were a couple of times when reading this I thought to myself "Batman would never say that!"

Posted by Booster_Bronze

Since when did Black Mask gain the new powers he had in this issue? I thought he was just a crime boss like Falcone, only with a mask.

Edited by entropy_aegis

@Booster_Bronze said:

Since when did Black Mask gain the new powers he had in this issue? I thought he was just a crime boss like Falcone, only with a mask.

Just now,this was a mediocre issue.Now they've given Black Mask mind control powers and they never attempted to clarify how they really work.He just has them.Lame and it hurts Mad Hatters character severely,what's wrong with Roman being a sadistic crime boss?

2/5

Posted by Utandi

Detective Comics is on my pull list so I will got the annual too. So excited!

Posted by Master_Prophet

I would argue that this annual was worse then anything I read from Batman: The Dark Knight, pre-issue number 9 in this New 52. Hell the end of it felt like a one off. There was no real explanation to what happened. Magical masks? Give me a break. Half the issue is spent with Batman beating thugs for info, and the other half is spent with Black Mask searching for his magical masks. It was a gigantic joke, and a big reminder of why I don't have Detective Comics on my regular pull list. I thought perhaps this annual would make me think twice about that decision, but it didn't. It just reminded me that I'm really not a fan of Tony Daniel's writing style, at all. Great artist, terrible writer.

Posted by NinaColada

@entropy_aegis: I completely agree. Why do all characters these days need to have powers, be mutated, aliens or be superhuman? That's why I got into the Batman series, because it was more realistic than the other characters. It started with crime, then more villains showed, then villains with powers showed, then aliens, mutants and all this crazy stuff, why can't they just be more simple. Plus they need to portray Batman with more weakness, afterall, he is still human.

Posted by DocFishstick

i found it to be ok. i do think it could have been a better story. Just some better writing. the art was great. i like Tony's art.