Current Reviews


Detective Comics #821

Posted: Saturday, July 8, 2006
By: Ray Tate

"The Beautiful People"

Writers: Paul Dini
Artists: J.H. Williams III, John Kalisz(c)
Publisher: DC

The premiere issue of the newest incarnation of Detective Comics is easily the best Batman book I've read since the Batman section of the Adventureverse folded. This comes as no surprise. Paul Dini was one of the writers of Batman: The Animated Series. He knows Batman and the Batman family inside and out, and most important, he knows how to write a damn good story.

The tale with which Dini opens his hopefully long run is believe it or not a stand-alone fairplay mystery. The clues are laid out. The reader can follow Batman or, if she can finish The Times crossword puzzle in pen, solve the mystery before Batman arrives at a logical conclusion.
Except for those that are iconic there are blessedly no other trappings in the story. Dini's story is a tight little number introducing a new Batman villain, with a psychological bend that turns him to crime. Batman stops him. That's all.

Dini focuses on the characterization of Batman, his relationship with Robin, Alfred and Commissioner Gordon. He does not go off tangent to find a way to mention bits of continuity that do not pertain to the story. Everybody, not just psychotic fan-boys who demand every scrap of garbage be tossed into the story, is meant to read the book. For instance, Dini does not namecheck Infinite Crisis or the events in James Robinson's story. He writes Batman, in fine fettle, as if "the world's greatest detective" was always this way, as if the only wound he ever had to seal was the gaping hole left by the murder of his parents.

The tale opens with a simple mugging that turns out to be anything but simple. Using various techniques, J.H. Williams illustrates with an attention toward the mood and atmosphere. When Dini focuses on Bruce Wayne once again entering the world of the social elite to suss out a cuckoo hidden in the haute couture nest Williams turns to more simple lines that offer a more skeletal look that perhaps symbolizes a stripped down memory. When Batman meets with the Commissioner and faces the unusually designed villain, the illustration gathers depth and becomes more realistic in appearance.

John Kalisz in keeping with the artistic themes of the book makes some daring choices with the color palette. Perhaps seeing the iconic nature of the opening, Kalisz leaves the areas of impact black and white; possibly to mimic the brief flashes of light one would sometimes see when Batman hit thugs on Batman the Animated Series. Kalisz makes the scenes with Bruce ferreting through the upper-class' habitat different shades of one color and creates a sepia affect, though not one confined by solely brown hues. When Batman meets with Gordon or meets with Robin in the Cave, the colors saturate as darker and more true to life. When Batman contends against the villain in the dénouement, the color styles fuse for a mélange of aesthetic sensory explosions.

The entire creative team deserves accolades, for they force me to do something I never thought I would do. I'm putting a Batman book back on my subscription list. I will stay with the title until Dini leaves.

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