COMIC BOOK REVIEW

DETECTIVE #843


Author: John Bierly
Monday, May 5, 2008

SYNOPSIS: "A member of Gotham's underground threatens the livelihood of the DCU's resident magician, Zatanna! That is, until Batman decides to lend Zatanna a hand. Plus, an appearance by Scarface and the origin of the new Ventriloquist!"

First of all, my sincerest apologies go out to Jett and BOF's readers for the ridiculous lateness of this review. It's been a bad month but things are on the up-and-up.

Whereas DETECTIVE COMICS #842 was one of the worst Batman comics I've ever read, I'm excited to say that #843 is one of my absolute favorites that I've read in quite some time.

One of the big selling points for me is that the story features Zatanna, my favorite female character in the DC Universe. I particularly love her when Paul Dini writes her, and there are some interesting developments that come out of his obvious love for the character in this issue.

More on that in a bit.

We begin with Batman rescuing a security guard from an erupting volcano inside of a building.

Huh?

As it turns out, Johnny Sabatino's new club is opening in a week, and someone has sabotaged the gas tanks (that operate the fake volcano) by remote control.

(And the reds on these opening pages by colorist John Kalisz are to die for.)

Honestly, the only thing I don't like about this issue happens on page 2, when Batman tells the panicking guard that he'll knock the man's head in if he doesn't hold still during the rescue. I realize he's trying to get results and that the best interests of the man are ultimately at stake, but it seemed a bit harsh.

Anyway.

I love the scene that follows, as Batman visits Oswald Chesterfield "The Penguin" Cobblepot for answers about who might have wanted to blow up Johnny Sabatino's club.

The dialogue here is typical crackerjack Dini writing, from the sexual innuendos Cobblepot aims at a potential female employee to the way Batman calls Penguin "Pengy" when he knocks out the lights and jumps him in the kitchen.

Batman: "There was a fire at Johnny Sabatino's new club earlier tonight."

Penguin: "As I have often noted, it sucks to be Johnny Sabatino. Anything else?"

Brilliant and fun! Cobblepot explains to Batman that he doesn't need to sabotage Sabatino because he's got something Sabatino will never have: a name in this town.

Next we zip out to Las Vegas, where Johnny Sabatino is doing his best to get more out of Zatanna than just an appearance at his club. But Zatanna sees right through his smugness and turns the tables in a hilarious way that's vintage Dini: When she tells Johnny she's going to slip into something more comfortable, she emerges from her dressing room wearing tennis shoes, sweatpants and a hooded sweatshirt.

Zatanna sets him straight and says she'll open his club for $50,000 donated to the charity of her choice. Nice touch, especially when she tells him he'll get his final answer when the check clears.

And on opening night, we get an extra special surprise when the celebrity participant in Zatanna's magic act is none other than Bruce Wayne. I love the whispering between them as she prepares the trick.

Zatanna: "How are the locks? Too tight?"

Bruce: "Already popped 'em."

Classic.

The trick ends with a heavy slab of spikes falling on the spot where Bruce was lying just moments before, but as soon as it smashes down, Bruce is suddenly sitting across the room at the bar with a drink in his hand.

And here's the cool part: Zatanna didn't talk backwards! Which means that the illusion was carried out with Bruce's involvement, and not magic! Deception and theatricality indeed, Mr. Wayne. Brilliantly done, and a lot of fun. I love this book.

And then Dini does it again with another clever use of a villain's ability. Johnny Sabatino gets a surprisingly suggestive phone call from Zatanna asking him to meet her in his office. But when he gets there, it's not Zatanna at all, but the new Scarface! Same creepy little dummy, but it's now being operated by an extremely sexy blonde bombshell of a broad. If she can do the voice of the dummy, it makes sense that she could do all kinds of voices, and I like that Dini thought to add that ability to her repertoire of tricks. It makes her more interesting, and she'll get even more interesting later in the issue.

Back at the bar, a mutual friend of Bruce and Zatanna's remarks that the two of them seem awfully familiar. I like this because it builds on the previously established fact that Bruce and Zatanna knew each other as kids because their fathers ran in the same charity circles. (See issues #833 and #834 for more details.) It also builds on their obvious mutual attraction.

Bruce quickly dismisses the notion. (Perhaps because of what's going on with Jezebel Jet over in the pages of BATMAN?)

Zatanna calls him out on how quickly he said, "No," but Bruce is too cool for school. "Did I lie?"

"No," she says, "but you've never investigated the option."

"I wasn't aware that option existed."

"Well, it's here and it's wearing a top hat."

Nothing sexier will be written in a comic book this year. Mark my words. Whew.

(If you're not interested, Bruce, please give me her number.)

And Dini just keeps upping his game, with Zatanna telling Bruce that even though Batman was there when she got shot by The Joker (in issues #833 and #834), it was Bruce Wayne who sat beside her all night and made sure she was okay. "A girl gets attention like that, she starts thinking there's something more to a guy than anger wrapped in a cape."

"There's more," he says. "There has to be, considering our history."

"The past doesn't interest me as much as the future," she responds. "What do you see for us?"

And then Bruce, with the awesome comeback: "I believe clairvoyance is your realm of expertise."

But the flirting is interrupted by gunshots from Scarface's goons. Zatanna breaks out the magic and Bruce knocks her out of the way of some gunfire.

Not that he wouldn't have done that anyway, but yeah, I'm pretty sure he's got a thing for her.

Johnny Sabatino takes a bullet to the shoulder during the melee, and Bruce Wayne gets taken as a hostage by Scarface.

Zatanna shows concern. Bruce simply looks at her and says, "I'll be okay."

You're damn right he will be.

(I'd love to see this scene play out in a movie.)

Scarface escapes with his hostages and we get yet another awesome scene in his getaway car. As soon as she makes Scarface the dummy say the words "Bruce Wayne," something snaps the lovely female ventriloquist out of her stupor. "Bruce?"

I love it! He recognizes her as Peyton Riley, a sweet girl who used to be engaged to one of his friends. She's obviously not in control of the puppet. The puppet is in control of her. But the dummy regains control ... and opens fire on Bruce Wayne.

To be concluded next issue!

I loved it. I'm still loving Dustin Nguyen's unique artwork, and Dini's stories really make Gotham come alive. There's a real noir feel to the dialogue. Especially with all the chemistry between Bruce and Zatanna, this is one sexy issue of DETECTIVE and I can't wait to see what happens next.

I especially like the deepening mystery of Peyton Riley's connection to the Scarface dummy, and I can't wait to see what Dini's got in store for that, either.

See you soon! - John Bierly

Indiana native John Bierly started writing for publications when he was 17 and never stopped.
His favorite things in life are family and friends, concerts, burgers, Mountain Dew, and of course...
...THE BATMAN!
You can read his blog at JOHNBIERLY.COM.

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