There is nothing inherently better about an SLR camera beyond the ability to see what you are photographing with a reasonable degree of accuracy through the actual lens. While that is not a small benefit, it is not of use to everyone. I say that in the belief that the best camera is the one that you are actually going to use.
I will use my partner as a case in point. Michael is an amateur photographer whose work is on a professional level. He is a professional videographer. He has every piece of equipment imaginable. However, he isn't necessarily able to tote that stuff around while he is doing the sports stuff that he enjoys.
I bought him a compact Leica rangefinder, the D-Lux 4. That is a medium priced and fairly high quality piece (I believe there is a Lumix equivalent). The real advantage is that he is able to slip the camera in his hiking pants and take it wherever he goes.
His most spectacular photographs (as is the case with most people) are the result of being in the right place, at the right time, and with a camera handy.
Lugging around a DSLR is a commitment. I happen to do it all the time, often including a tripod and a selection of interchangeable lenses. However, when I travel it is quite a pain in the ass.
I agree with BG that Nikon and Canon make superb equipment. I happen to be partial to Nikon and Nikkor lenses. That said, if I were starting over today I believe that Canon has the advantage - especially with their DSLR cameras that shoot HD video (a serious investment).
What I might recommend to you is buying a good second-hand DSLR to start with. That way your investment is fairly contained and you have a good piece of equipment.
For example, I still use a Nikon D100 all of the time. It is a fantastic camera, works very quickly, and takes low noise photographs even in almost total darkness. Forgetting about megapixels and whatnot (that don't make all that much difference) that camera has been around the world with me several times and never hiccuped. You can pick one up on E-Bay or in a photo store for not a lot of money.
Here are a couple of example pics I made with that camera:
This is taken in total darkness without any flash with the Nikon D-100 and a Nikkor DX 12-24mm lens set at 12mm. This photo, likewise, use the camera's onboard multi-point autofocus (which is pretty great).
This is the same setup. While this is not a perfect photo it was taken in darkness with the only light coming from the oil lamps. Also, this image was taken by me handheld, no tripod. With a tripod it would have come out perfectly. Still, I believe this demonstrates that you can do available light photography very well with a machine that is nearly 10 years old and actually pretty cheap to acquire.
Buying second hand could give you a chance to learn what you like without shooting a hole through your wallet right off the bat.