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DETECTIVE COMICS #868
Author: John Bierly
August 28, 2010
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OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: A warped variation of the Joker drug has caused those who use it to suffer mental breakdowns and embrace anarchy and chaos. With riots cropping up throughout Gotham City, the citizens find themselves divided into two gangs: one led by a Batman impostor whose mission is to bring law and order back to the streets, and the other led by a Joker impostor whose purpose is to punish the innocent and set Gotham ablaze. And in the middle of it all is The Dark Knight – but can Batman stop an entire city?

While Tony Bedard over in GOTHAM CITY SIRENS gets this week’s “Most Improved” sticker, writer David Hine turns in some really solid work right here in the pages ofDETECTIVE COMICS #868.

The streets of Gotham have become a war zone between “Jokerz” -- regular citizens who shoot themselves up with Joker venom and cause anarchy -- and Batman impostors who’ve answered the call of a mysterious (but obvious) Batman impersonator using the Internet to call up a small army against the Jokerz threat.

And it’s all fun and games until people start dying.

(And if I end up being wrong about the all-too-clearly telegraphed identity of the fake Batman, I’ll eat my socks.)

Batman and Gordon try to hatch a plan to bring the resulting violence under control, while its original perpetrator -- a former Joker victim named Winslow Heath who just happens to be the CEO of a pharmaceutical company -- falls deeper into his own madness by hatching a plan of his own that will leave all of Gotham smiling for all the wrong reasons.

(I realize that Hine means nothing but the utmost respect by naming the bad guy after the late Mr. Ledger, but I think it comes across as more than a little distasteful, and I wish that an editor somewhere along the line had suggested changing it.)

This story still looks, feels, and reads like an above-average BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL arc, but I like this second installment better than the first. Though he doesn’t take it as far as I’d have liked, Hine tries to show that the impostor Jokerz and Batmen are just regular people who don’t have the slightest clue about they’re signing up for when then inject a smile or put on a homemade cowl.

The kinetic energy of artist Scott McDaniel is perfectly suited to the issue’s massive action quotient (which absolutely involves Batman himself), and McDaniel has a lot of fun with the designs of all the homemade costumes worn by the wannabe villains and heroes.

And while McDaniel is definitely drawing Bruce Wayne’s Batman, I’m pretty sure Hine is writing Dick Grayson under the cowl. Gordon makes a passing reference to Professor Pyg, and when Batman doses himself with Joker venom to test his resolve against it, I couldn’t help but think that surely Bruce Wayne had done that before (and we know he’s been under the influence of the stuff anyway, in Ed Brubaker’s THE MAN WHO LAUGHS). So even though the art says it’s Bruce, my brain deduces it’s Dick. But I’ve been wrong before.

All that matters is that this is a pretty fun Batman tale. And though the content is more suited to the pages of CONFIDENTIAL than DETECTIVE, I’ve once again got to applaud this creative team for filling up a whopping 30 pages of story and art. I’m still no fan of the book’s $3.99 price tag, but at least they’re doing their best to give us our money’s worth without the help of a backup.

Not the best Batman story I’ve ever read, but it still hits the spot. - John Bierly

GRADE: B

John Bierly still can't believe he
gets to write for BOF.
Check out JOHNBIERLY.COM to read about the other things he writes about.

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