Sep 8, 2014

Dini's Detective Comics

Dini's Detective Comics
Ben Smith

Welcome back to Back Issue Ben, the column that’s a lot like a lapdance from Harley Quinn. As scary as it is appealing, and with way too much clown makeup. This week, we’ll be covering what I consider to be an underrated run on Batman, by Mr. Paul Dini. Oh, it might be sufficiently rated by those in the know, but not nearly as high as it should be, and those not in the know, well they’re not rating it nearly as high as they would be if they knew.

The following issues of Detective Comics have would should be a guaranteed formula for success. One of the more fondly remembered writers from the hugely influential Batman the Animated Series, Paul Dini. A heaping helping of Batman’s most famous rogues. A done-in-one format where every issue acts as a case or mystery in itself. A capable crew of artists. Yet, for some reason, as near as I can tell these don’t make anybody’s best of Batman lists. That is simply incorrect, my friends. I hope to show you why.

Because each issue is a self-contained case all on its own (and because I’m lazy) I won’t be going into my usual level of detail on the specifics of the stories. Hopefully you’ll get enough from the words and pictures below to seek out the comics yourself.

Detective Comics #821 – The Beautiful People
Writer: Paul Dini; Artist: JH Williams III

Batman is on the case of a mysterious new criminal targeting rich socialites in Gotham. This comic features stunning art by JH Williams III, with pages approaching the gorgeous artwork of his Batwoman run, which made him into a star. Definitely worth checking out for his visuals alone.

Detective Comics #822 – E. Nigma, Consulting Detective
Writer: Paul Dini; Penciller: Don Kramer; Inker: Wayne Faucher

The Riddler and Batman find themselves on the same case, investigating the death of an acquaintance of Bruce Wayne. The clues lead them to the sordid sexual deviant underbelly of Gotham. Dini makes good use of the (at the time) current status quo of the Riddler being reformed and trying to make his way as a detective for hire. Unfortunately, he finds out that as far as detective skills, he still doesn’t measure up to the Batman.

Detective Comics #823 - Stalked
Writer: Paul Dini; Penciller: Joe Benitez; Inker: Victor Llamas

Poison Ivy is under attack by plants, the same type that used to obey her every whim. Batman hides her away in the batcave, only for them both to come face to face with a new monster Ivy unintentionally birthed into existence. Benitez provides some good cheesecake art in this issue, something I’m probably not supposed to admit that I like.

Detective Comics #824 – Night of the Penguin
Writer: Paul Dini; Penciller: Don Kramer; Inker: Wayne Faucher

Penguin’s attempts to go legit as owner of the Iceberg Lounge, are put to the test when a gambler is on an impossibly hot streak. Featuring a kidnapped magician, and an appearance by Dini favorite Zatanna, in all her fishnet glory. I’ve never found the Penguin to be all that interesting, as DC tends to either portray him as some fish-eating mutant, or as a wannabe Kingpin that Batman allows to operate for some reason. It has a magician aided gambling scam storyline and Zatanna though, so that makes up for bird man.

Detective Comics #826 – Slayride
Writer: Paul Dini; Penciller: Don Kramer; Inker: Wayne Faucher

Probably the most famous issue of the run, Robin inadvertently catches a ride from the Joker. All tied up and unable to do anything, Robin is forced to just watch as Joker runs down innocent pedestrians. An inventive use of the Joker’s sadism, and an (unintentional pun) intense ride as Robin struggles to break free. I love the Joker when he’s doing Joker things, and I can practically hear Mark Hamill’s voice every time he speaks.

Detective Comics #827 – Double Talk
Writer: Paul Dini; Penciller: Don Kramer; Inker: Wayne Faucher

Scarface is back on the scene, the only problem is, is that Wesker died a long time ago. Batman goes undercover using one of his established disguises to find out if Wesker has been resurrected, or who’s pulling the Ventriloquist act now. I love anytime Batman seems to be enjoying himself, as he is in the above picture, and I also love that he has a wide assortment of undercover criminal identities that are fully immersed in the criminal world of Gotham. The idea of Batman as a lowlife thug sitting in on the meeting with the Ventriloquist makes me smile. (On a side note, I think I’d feel very bad about myself if I was a hired thug working for the Ventriloquist. That has to be the lowest of the low for Gotham’s eccentric crazies. You’re taking orders from an actual dummy. It’s enough to make one consider going legit.)

Detective Comics #828 – Sharkbite
Writer: Paul Dini; Penciller: Don Kramer; Inker: Wayne Faucher

Batman is on the case of a childhood friend’s fishy (I hate puns) death. Once again, the Riddler is along for the ride, as they work together to determine the real reasons why Bruce Wayne’s former friend became shark bait.

I know it might all be in my head, but this Batman really seems like the same Batman from the animated series, which is by far my favorite version of the character. This is a Batman that is just as driven and determined as any other version, but also comes across as an actual human being as well. I also love the done-in-one format that sees Batman, gasp, actually using his deductive skills, which shouldn’t be that unheard of in Detective Comics. The artists are good to great, and there’s a steady lineup of Batman’s most famous villains. There really is no reason that this run shouldn’t be considered one of the best ever, but for some reason it doesn’t seem to be. Or maybe it is, I’m not an expert on the bat community.

Bottom line, if you like good comics and you like Batman, pick these up. You won’t be disappointed.

You can read this run in the TPB Batman: Detective:

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