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The ’00s Revisited: Detective Comics #826

detective_comics_0826Slayride

Writer: Paul Dini
Penciller: Don Kramer
Inker: Wayne Faucher
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover: Simone Bianchi
Assoc. Editor: Michael Siglain
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: February 2007
Cover Price: $2.99

Hard to believe even this issue was published OVER 12 YEARS AGO, but then, it’s been 8 since the announcement of The New 52, and it’s been a decade longer SINCE Tim Burton’s Batman than IT was from the ’60s series. Time flies. This issue is from a period where I’d largely stepped away from the Bat-books, before I came back for Batman RIP and Battle for the Cowl and such. So though I obviously knew Detective Comics was out there, I was not buying it regularly in 2006/2007. I actually found out about this issue from a post on Facebook with a discussion of "favorite Tim stories," and decided to track it down. Sort of surprisingly, the very first place I looked for it, I found it–for about $4, or "only" $1 more than cover price, and perfectly in line with what would be paid for a contemporary 2019 new comic!

This issue opens on Robin–Tim Drake–speeding away, being chased and shot at after winding up in the middle of rival drug gangs. As his bike is totaled, a minivan pulls up and someone throws the passenger door open, calling to him by name. Not looking a gift-horse in the mouth, Robin leaps in…to be greeted by The Joker! When Tim awakes from the Joker’s gas, he’s bound to his seat, the heat in the vehicle is on, the seat-warmer is on, and the original owners of the vehicle are dead in the back. Tim’s in for a hell-ride with one of those most deadly individuals he’s come up against, as the Joker drives over pedestrians and generally tortures Tim with his inability to DO anything. We get some flashbacks to some "human" moments Tim has with Dick…that also lend context to Tim’s eventually distracting Joker enough to escape. Unfortunately, he’s unable to capture the Joker. Batman appears, and the two leave the scene, knowing this is anything but the end of their old foe.

I don’t know if I’d consider this the greatest Tim story ever–but for reading it as a sole, single issue, completely out of any context of issues surrounding it, and getting a complete story in one issue…this is definitely an excellent issue TO get as a one-shot!

Adding to my enjoyment of this issue was having just watched a couple episodes from early in Batman: The Animated Series. Perhaps that this issue was written by the same Paul Dini that wrote those episodes, this had a certain vibe that fit right in with that…especially for being a complete story told in a short amount of time!

The cover is primarily black-and-white…with only the title logo "Detective Comics" in red. Bianchi is a hit-or-miss artist with me…but for a cover, this works very well! It also helps that the cover is actually RELEVANT to the CONTENTS of the issue–something that seems to all-too-rarely be the case in 2019, where "variants" rule and the cover doesn’t often seem to matter.

The interior art is quite good as well. I would not say I’m familiar with Kramer‘s work by style or name, but I was able to follow the story quite well and "get" what was going on, with no great distractions to yank me out of the story. If the art doesn’t "blow me away" with sheer awesomeness, then I greatly appreciate when–as with this issue–it recedes to the background and simply does its job. BY receding to the background it’s better as it becomes part of the story, the issue, and doesn’t take anything away. That said, this is probably one of the best-looking Jokers I’ve seen, and I WOULD welcome this art for the Joker in more contemporary stories!

Story-wise, the writing is very good, and along with presenting a solid story about Tim as Robin–facing and surviving The Joker–it gets into character moments/downtime with the character, and manages to give us a complete story in a single issue! Nowadays something like this one issue would be stretched to at least 3 issues, if not somehow 6 to be a full graphic novel, if one wants a "complete story." While it might be slightly toned back, this would be an excellent episode of Batman: The Animated Series.

Having thoroughly enjoyed this issue, I’m reminded that I may have read that there was a time with the title where Dini was doing a bunch of done-in-one issues…and I will definitely have to "investigate" that as that’s something I would almost certainly enjoy reading more of!

If you’re a fan of Robin, of Tim Drake, of Joker stories, or just getting a full story in a single issue of a comic, I’d highly recommend this! I consider it to absolutely be "worth" $4 or so…and anything under that is a bargain!

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Detective Comics #853 [Review]

Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? part 2 of 2

Writer: Neil Gaiman
Penciller: Andy Kubert
Inker: Scott Williams
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Andy Kubert
Publisher: DC Comics

There’s something to this story that makes it fit in quite well with the stuff that we’ve had from longtime writer Grant Morrison. The abstracts and symbolism, the nods to other eras of continuity and obscurities of the Bat-verse…these are all pretty much at home in my limited understanding of Morrison’s works. At the same time, where this sort of story wouldn’t work for me coming from Morrison, there’s something about the “history” that I have in reading Gaiman’s books and enjoying, understanding, and simply “getting” them that makes this story work very well.

The story is pretty simple, with not very much action here. A large chunk of story is Bruce talking to an image of his mother, sorting out where he is and what he is seeing. As the issue progresses (everything in the previous chapter having set up the foundation for what we get here, now) we begin to see a bit of a cyclical element to the story–one that actually reminds me just a little bit of Ragnarok, the final Thor story a few years ago from Marvel.

The art, though it doesn’t really jump out at me all that much this issue, is still extemely strong, capturing a classic feel without making me feel like this is actually a comic from decades past. Visually, there’s not much of anything I can think of that’d make it much better.

Gaiman references an old children’s book to great effect in this issue. It’s a reference that is fairly key to the whole thing, bringing a lot of stuff to a fitting close…and a reference that to me, makes this that much more a great story.

Though this doesn’t really serve as a hard bookend, closing the door on a version of the character, it still provides a nice breaking point, a send-off of sorts to characters well-known and loved in the Batman continuity. The story that began last year in RIP, continued through Final Crisis and Last Rites actually continues in the mini-event Battle for the Cowl and into some relaunch-type material in a couple months…perhaps the marketing or something else makes this feel like more of a side-story…a “What would happen if we DID decide to end things now?” kinda thing.

On my first read-through of this issue, I was not sold on the ending. Upon further reflection and asking a friend about the book I thought was being referenced, I realized the brilliance of this story. Whether you’ve been a longtime Batman reader or not, you should have no real trouble following this 2-part story. In fact, you might actually enjoy it all the more being aware only of characters’ existence and not being steeped in the history.

Whatever the case, if you can find the story now as single issues, it’s only two issues and so quite worth snagging that way…if you’re unable to get the story as singles, I very highly recommend picking up the collected volume when it comes out this summer.

Story: 9.5/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9.5/10

Detective Comics #852 [Review]

Reconstruction

Writer: Paul Dini
Penciller: Dustin Nguyen
Inker: Derek Fridolfs
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Andrew Robinson
Publisher: DC Comics

As far as I can tell, this issue opens shortly after Heart of Hush (and handily spoils said story, which I have not yet read). Thomas Elliot has gone from top of the world to having nothing, thanks to miscalculations in his last attack on Batman/Bruce/Catwoman. This issue follows him from being defeated and suicidal on to several incidents where he is able to successfully impersonate Bruce Wayne. By doing so he begins to reconstruct his power and wealth while regaining confidence in his ability to get revenge. The issue’s end plays a bit in the metatextual realm–I for one was put in mind of Iron Man and how amusing this could be to play on that character–and ends on a nice little moment that I’m sure would mean so much more if I’d read Heart of Hush.

The art on this issue is pretty good. I recall Nguyen’s art from a stint he had on Batman back in ’04 or so; I think I like this current work better than that, though. Nguyen’s art seems to work well with this story, and I have nothing worthwhile to complain about with it.

The story itself works well despite the cliched rags-to-riches bit. Even so, it builds on established continuity and continues to build on the Thomas Elliot character in a believeable way, keeping the character’s story moving forward. The character is being developed in a way that–to make a comparison–feels much more organic and reasonable than what’s been done with Jason Todd. For that I certainly have to give Dini points.

It’s been a couple months now since Batman: RIP wrapped up, and I wish I’d had a clearer map/checklist of what the Bat titles were going to do for these last few months as they’ve been all over the place with fill in stories and whatnot. This is another story that looks to be the same creative team with the story appearing in both Detective and Batman. With a story like this, though…I could handle reading Dini’s stuff in both Bat-books and be quite satisfied.

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 8/10

Detective Comics #851 [Review]

Batman: Last Rites – Last Days of Gotham part 1 of 2

Writer: Denny O’Neil
Art: Guillem March
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Guillem March & Tony Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue seems to introduce a new character–at the least, I am unfamiliar with this character, not having read this title much in a lotta years. This character has elements dating back to the Gotham Earthquake (Batman: Cataclysm), and also has Two Face back in action, even as a doppleganger apparently is running around using his name. As the last guy to really deal with Two Face and with Bruce missing, Nightwing answers the call of duty and goes into action.

There’s something to the art in this issue that makes me think it’s got some manga influence, as the visual style puts me in mind both of that and some sort of adaptation of some cartoon I can’t think of. The art’s far from bad, though it being a bit stylized turns me off to it somewhat. Characters that I believe are intended to be recognizeable are, while other characters seem to look as they should based on what I get from the story’s context.

The story itself is something I really wanted to like, given this brief return by Denny O’Neil. Unfortunately, this issue just didn’t work for me, and I found myself having to force myself to read each page instead of skimming over to get to more interesting stuff. This feels like a fill-in; whether it is or not I don’t pretend to know; though the fact that it’s to be continued in an upcoming issue of Batman is rather telling. If you’re a longtime fan of O’Neil and steeped in Bat-lore from around the Cataclysm stuff and are a fan of Two Face, you’ll probably enjoy this. I came in as someone fresh off Batman: RIP interested in seeing the impact the absence of Batman himself has on everyone, and just was not engaged by the story.

All in all, a fairly disappointing issue for me, though I hope I’ve contextualized that above. The cover is what I must credit with drawing me in, combined with realizing O’Neil was penning the story–this cover image would make a great poster, I think.

Story: 7/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 6.5/10

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