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Detective Comics #821

Posted: Tuesday, July 11, 2006
By: Michael Aronson



Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: J. H. Williams III

Publisher: DC Comics


Batmanís got a new playmate Ė or rather, three new playmates. Creators Dini and Williams introduce Bats to new rogue FaÁade in a new era of Book-goodness. Itís a bit of a slow start to this new era, though not as a fault of the story itself.

Itís a one-shot mystery that manages to feature both Batman and Bruce doing what both do best and throws Robin into the mix later on. The use of all three identities in one story has been a rarity in the past few years, as Batman and Robin havenít properly worked together since No Manís Land, and Bruce Wayne hasnít done any significant hobnobbing since he landed in jail . . . and that wasnít exactly a socialite festivity. Point is, the mystery of newcomer FaÁade gives him a mystery with which to keep himself occupied.

At the same time, while every piece of the issueís plot works like clockwork, this isnít what I want from a Batman book. This would be perfectly fine as a fill-in between longer mysteries and arcs, but it doesnít feel particularly consequential. Moreover, Diniís been handed the set up from "Face the Face" that puts Tim in Bruceís care and Gordon back as Gotham City commissioner, but if thereís any point to such a steady status quo other than keeping a reader-friendly status quo (and somewhat evocative of the status quo of the animated series), itís yet to be explored.

Now, Iím not asking for story arcs either. I hate how everyone wants to break up stories into five and six issue conclusive arcs. There was a day not too long ago when titles could simply feature ongoing plots and subplots with little climactic peaks along the way. Thatís what Iím hoping for here, and I know Dini has the chops. In fact, I expect so much from this creative team that I consider to be somewhat of a disappointment. Though Dini never really featured an ongoing plot/subplot throughout his animated series, other than later seasons of Justice League, I donít think itís beyond his ability.

Like many others, I think I found myself surprised in saying that Williams might be too good of an artist for this series. Of course, I firmly believe the core Batman books deserve to look the best, but having read Promethea, I consider Williams an art god, and Iím not used to seeing such beautiful and innovative layouts and storytelling techniques in a mainstream superhero book. Itís a coup for DC and the Batman editors, but Iíd much rather see him draw something that really tests his imaginative limits, like Green Lantern or even (though itís too late) as the layout artist of 52. I hope his eventual time off to complete Seven Soldiers will give the editors more time to consider the possibilities.

While this issue is promising, thereís no last panel twist or mystery subplot to hook me in. Iíll come back based on the strength of the creative team and the overall solid quality of this issue, but while solid is reassuring, itís not dynamic.



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