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Book Review:
BATMAN: DARK DETECTIVE

Author: Bill Ramey
Tuesday, November 7, 2006

SYNOPSIS FROM DC COMICS:
"Don't miss this 144-page collection featuring the 6-issue miniseries reuniting one of the great Batman creative teams of the 1970s! In DARK DETECTIVE, The Joker enters a gubernatorial election using the campaign slogan 'Vote for me or I'll kill you!' Will it persuade voters?"

I’ve made no secret of my fondness for the 1970s version of The Batman. When I think of the character and that decade, it is the work of writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams that first crosses my mind. I was also a fan of the Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers run on DETECTIVE COMICS in the late 70s. In fact, many consider that team's work one of the best periods the character's history.

Many Bat-Fans were happy when the Englehart/Rogers team reunited and turned BATMAN: DARK DETECTIVE -- a 2006 mini-series for DC Comics, which (naturally) was recently released as a trade paperback.

Personally, I enjoyed the story quite a bit as it was for me a bit nostalgic. But I’ll level with you all here, OK? If you are around my age and/or fancy yourself as a Batman historian and scholar, you’ll dig it too. However, if you are, say, 10 to 20 years younger than yours truly, it may not be your cup of tea.

Also, DARK DETECTIVE serves to finish up their work on DETECTIVE -- which can be found in the TPB BATMAN: STRANGE APPARITIONS -- and give it a conclusion.

In short, DARK DETECTIVE features the return of Bruce Wayne’s former girlfriend Silver St. Cloud to Gotham as the fiancé of gubernatorial candidate Senator Evan Gregory. Her homecoming as a future politician’s wife has put Silver on a collision course with Gotham’s wealthiest man: former flame Bruce Wayne. And why is she a former flame? Seems that Ms. St. Cloud didn’t think she could handle Bruce’s nocturnal occupation.

So, do sparks fly when Bruce and Silver meet again? You'll have to read to find out.

Senator Gregory’s campaign is sidetracked by a last minute challenger: The Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime has even come up with a catchy slogan: "Vote for me or I'll kill you."

Thrown into the mix are two other classic Batman villains: Two Face and The Scarecrow. Two Face has taken it upon himself to get The Joker to give up his bid for the governorship, while The Scarecrow’s role is to give Bruce an opportunity to face his fears (via his fear gas). The Scarecrow part was OK, but I found this Two Face subplot sort of strange -- especially when you throw in his clone, “Harvey.” Yes, I did say clone.

I certainly liked the way The Batman was depicted in DARK DETECTIVE compared to the arrogant, paranoid, and belligerent sociopath that’s been found in the comic books for the last 20 some-odd years. However, there was something that bothered me just a tad about this Batman. It’s hard to explain, but maybe it’s simply because he talked too much for my liking. That’s perhaps a petty criticism, but if you read DARK DETECTIVE, you’ll understand what I mean.

Also, Bruce Wayne comes off a little too love-struck over Ms. St. Cloud. Look, I have no problem with ‘ol Bruce having a girl (the dude’s not celibate for cripes sake), but he shouldn’t act like a 16 year old with a crush either.

The depiction of The Joker in DARK DETECTIVE will disappoint few fans. He’s certainly insane as hell -- a true madman. If you liked Jack Nicholson’s performance in BATMAN, you’ll dig how he’s written by Mr. Englehart as it reminded me of Jack’s Joker. Furthermore, the “Ultimate Madman/Ultimate rational mind” aspect of The Joker and The Batman is played up quite a bit.

Props also to out to the people responsible for DARK DETECTIVE‘s artwork. Rogers' art seems better than it was back in the 70s. His nice use of panel layouts, perspective, and action shots nicely expresses exactly what the Englehart’s script called for. And Mr. Austin’s inking is terrific as well.

All in all, if you were a fan of this team’s work back in the late 70s, picking up DARK DETECTIVE is a no-brainer. Conversely, if you are indeed a fan of the ultra-dark, borderline psychotic Dark Knight, you’ll likely be disappointed. For those who fit the bill of the latter, I still say give DARK DETECTIVE a try and open yourself up to a bit more heroic take on your favorite superhero.

Bill Ramey, AKA "Jett," is the founder and editor in chief of
BATMAN ON FILM, BATMAN IN COMICS, and ON-FILM.NET.

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