Continuing the spirit of celebration from BATMAN
#700, comics legend Dennis O'Neil's returns to The Batcave in this stand-alone, 40-page issue! O'Neil spins a tale of the Dick Grayson Batman intertwined with those classic days when The Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder, patrolled the mean streets of Gotham City!
As hard as I've been on DC Comics for the direction they've been taking some of their biggest and best characters lately, I can't deny that the company hasn't exactly been making it easy for me to be a fan of Superman and Batman, the world's first -- and still finest -- superheroes. After a long and grueling period where Superman hasn't even been in his own books due to a New Krypton storyline that wasn't even wrapped up in that miniseries but rather in a satellite book of one of its own satellite books, I'd really hoped we'd get back to basics of Superman in Metropolis -- loving Lois and fighting the good fight. Instead, they're beginning another "event" where Superman is going to walk across the United States. Wow. That's ... really awful, actually. I'm seriously hoping that Bruce Wayne's return doesn't go in a similar direction.
In the meantime, I could argue that there's possibly no writer on the planet who loves Batman more than Grant Morrison. He's just completely insane in the way he tells his stories. Look at the recent BATMAN #700, for example. Lots of great stuff, but also certifiably bonkers to the extent that while I appreciated it, I didn't necessarily find it engaging. But, as always, I absolutely love the way Morrison writes Dick Grayson as Batman. None of the other current writers have come close to nailing it as well as our resident Scottish madman.
DETECTIVE COMICS #866, available at your local comic shop today, is being billed by DC as "continuing the celebration from BATMAN #700." And the man behind the typewriter is none other than another fellow who loves Batman -- Dennis O'Neil, who, along with artist Neal Adams, used the 1970s to take the Batman back from the campy sci-fi tales of the '60s and bring him more in line with the character's original incarnation. These action-packed tales were serious and cool without being overly dark or grim, and I highly suggest tracking them down.
At his best, O'Neil told tales that combined adventure and mystery with earnest, simple sensibilities. And just a few pages into this issue, it's delightfully apparent that the decades haven't softened his ability to tell a classic Batman story while still keeping the flavor current and relevant.
Dick Grayson's Batman is facing three armed thugs in an old, decaying, rotting house that wasn't always thus. But when the floor beneath our new Batman gives way, he lands in the dirt and dust below in a position that just so happens to place his supporting hand right on an old, gold medallion that brings back memories of the first time he -- as Robin -- and Bruce's Batman stood inside this house on the night of their first patrol together.
The resulting flashback includes just some of the following ingredients…
A Joker caper!
Bruce Wayne's Batman involved in a sword fight with an opponent wielding an ancient sword that's ON FIRE!
And so much more!
And then, when we come back to the present, O'Neil writes some thoughts for Dick Grayson that challenge Morrison for the "Best Writer of Dick as Batman" Crown.
An example: "I stepped over the spot where an innocent man once died. The blood stains had long since faded. But the memories? Well, he was the third murder victim I'd ever seen. The first two were my parents."
And O'Neil continues to build from there, proving page after page that he not only understands Batman and Dick Grayson, but that he understands exactly how Dick would -- and should -- be as Batman.
It's glorious from cover to cover, hitting a perfectly exhilarating balance between old-school awesome and way-awesome modern.
And then, there's the art. The equally perfect art.
Dustin Nguyen is my favorite modern Batman artist, and his stuff in this issue (with layouts and cover by Nguyen and finishes by longtime partner-in-crime Derek Fridolfs) is everything I love about his style. Particularly fun are the flashback pages, which combine a little bit of 1950s with a little bit of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. Colorist David Baron uses deep, dark, bloody hues for the present with a bright, high-contrast pop to the flashbacks. The art is clever and dynamic throughout, as it usually is with this team of guys.
(Collectors, be aware that there's a rare variant cover by another legend, Walter Simonson.)
There's no backup story this time, but you do get 30 full pages of story for your $3.99.
This issue is a modern classic and I personally found this so-called "continuation" of the "celebration" of BATMAN #700 to be a much better celebration of Batman than BATMAN #700.
DC's website still says the next issue is the return of Batwoman and The Question, but those plans have changed. Instead, we're getting the start of another storyline by David Hine. In the previous two issues, Hine couldn't follow Paul Dini and Greg Rucka. I hope he can follow what Dennis O'Neil did with this issue, but then again, every Batman writer since the '70s has been trying to do that, haven't they? Much love and respect to one of the true masters. - John Bierly