It’s a damned good time to be a Batman fan.
DC Comics have pulled out all the stops by assigning their best creators to work on the Dark Knight, with Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert on Batman, but the world of comic book fans had a collective jaw dropping moment when Paul Dini was announced as the new writer of the monthly Detective Comics.
Dini is joined by artist J.H. Williams III for his first issue and Don Kramer and Joe Benitez for almost the entire run’s art.
Covers are supplied by Simone Bianchi , whom you may remember from his Green Lantern run and Seven Soldiers of Victory: The Shining Knight series. Both of which are really fantastic examples of his artistic skills.
Beginning with issue 821, the man known for working on many of DC Comics animated series such as Batman, Batman Beyond, Superman and Justice League brought a new feel to the Detective Comics series that has been missing since Greg Rucka‘s run, detective work. It sounds obvious, but in actuality, Batman spends most of his time untangling the threads of continuity, wrestling with personal issues or just bopping villains in the nose. He rarely detects anything, aside from the occasional kneeling in a pool of cape picking up a fiber that leads to the next scene or sitting in his comfy chair where his butler Alfred delivers him cocoa.
With Paul Dini at the helm, those days are gone. In this new take on the series, Batman is faced with the troubling cases of the Riddler, the Penguin and Poison Ivy and some new and deceptive villains.
Of particular note is a recent story in which Robin is ‘rescued’ from a beatdown by a stranger in a car who turns out to be the Joker himself. The entire issue features Robin trying to find some way out of the car while the Joker, in a a Christmas-fueled manic episode, mows down innocent bystanders on the streets of Gotham.
Paul Dini has shown that he is the master of dark comedy in animated episodes of Batman such as ‘the Joker’s Favor,’ so it comes as no surprise that the story is full of belly laughs as the Joker mockingly looks at Robin in shock after slamming into a pedestrian. Artist Don Kramer rises to challenge with some great physical comedy, including expressive facial moments from the Joker (which ain’t easy, remember the frozen grin on his face).
Just last month, though, I picked up the latest issue (833) with a kind of dull interest. I had things like World War Hulk on my mind and wasn’t in the mood for another trip into the poorly lit streets of Gotham. I read the new issue like it was a chore. It was an interesting enough story that quickly got my interest.
A recent character, the egomaniacal stage magician Loxias, had inadvertently caused the death of one of his stage assistants. Enlisting the aid of the magician Zatanna, Batman attempts to look for clues that point to the fact that Loxias is a muderer.
Due to the events two years ago in Identity Crisis, Batman and Zatanna aren’t exactly on good terms (she caused him to forget the fact that the Justice League messed with the minds of super villains). The two characters share some awkward moments which completely drew my attention away from the surprise ending.
After putting all the pieces together, Batman and Zatanna pay what they think is a surprise visit on Loxias, only to find that he is waiting in typical comic book villain form. As he explains the reasoning behind murdering his assistant, the unexpected happens and he shoots Zatanna in the throat. By kicking Batman into an electrically charged chair, there is nothing the Caped Crusader can do to stop Loxias from dumping Zatanna into a water tank.
Even at this point, I hadn’t figured it out.
Then I turned the page.
Quite a ‘gotcha’ ending, eh?
The new Detective Comics series had been such a treat that I often forget how good it is.
I can’t recommend it enough. You can find a collection of the first few stories but mainly it’s all in single issues right now, which is cool. Aside from the current story line, they have all been self-contained tales.
And I can’t wait to see the conclusion to #833 this month.