A year has 365 days.
On only 12 of those days, I get a new issue of DETECTIVE COMICS starring Batman.
And here we have an issue…without Batman.
Coming off of "Heart of Hush," one of my all-time favorite Batman stories by regular series writer/artist duo Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen, I shouldn't complain.
But I will.
Batman being "gone" is nothing new. He was gone for a while when Bane broke his back. He was gone for a while following the earthquake in "No Man's Land." Then there was the whole "One Year Later" business where Batman was missing for a year.
And now we've got "Last Rites," which follows on from "Batman R.I.P.," which I'm not ashamed to say that I still don't understand and really don't care to attempt to. Did it have some bad-ass moments? It actually had lots of them. But all this craziness? It's too much.
The good news is that at least this Batman-without-Batman installment is brought to us by the deservedly legendary Dennis O'Neil, who, along with artist Neal Adams, made Batman serious again in the 1970s. More recently, he wrote the novelizations of BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT, the former particularly benefiting from more of a back-story for Ra's Al Ghul, who himself was an O'Neil creation.
Having read a lot of O'Neil's writing in the three hardbound collections of Neal Adams's Batman artwork (that you should really check out because they're gorgeous and amazing) in recent months, I've got to say that you really get a feel for the flavor of O'Neil's writing here. He still has the same voice, and it comes through beautifully.
I just wish it was coming out of Batman.
Instead, the star of this book is Dick Grayson, whose struggles to accept a Gotham City without Batman (again) are played against the story of an actress who gets Two-Faced by some goons who wish they were Two-Face. Two-Face even makes an appearance, with O'Neil referencing his recent appearances in Nightwing's solo book and guest artist Guillem March depicting his scarred side to look more like Doomsday in some panels than a ruined Harvey Dent.
The scene between Dick and Barbara Gordon was a bit too been-there/done-that for my tastes, but there are some good moments between Dick and Alfred (with a wry nod from O'Neil to a classic line from BATMAN BEGINS).
There's not particularly anything wrong with this issue. I just want Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen back, telling awesome Batman stories starring Batman. Is that too much to ask?
With DC preparing to take Superman out of ACTION COMICS and turn the regular SUPERMAN title over to his supporting cast, I guess it is.
Oh, Bruce and Clark. I hope you're having more fun doing whatever you're doing than I'm having reading your comics without you in them.
This story is continued later this month in BATMAN #654, which also probably won't feature Batman. - John Bierly