“E.Nigma, Consulting Detective”
Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Don Kramer (p), Wayne Faucher (i), John Kalisz (colours)
Publisher: DC Comics
With Detective Comics, writer Paul Dini is taking a very different route than Grant Morrison’s flagship Batman title is currently offering. Whereas Morrison is having fun playing up the colourful, superheroic side of the character, Dini is offering a far more structured and purposeful detective story with each issue, and this month’s self-contained tale introduces the novel conceit of The Riddler as rival detective rather than an insane super-villain foil for our hero.
The story is a straightforward enough mystery – a whodunnit that could quite easily be mapped onto any detective character – but it’s a well-executed, logical plot which frees Dini up to have some fun with the smaller, idiosyncratic details that mark the issue out as a Batman story. The sudden reversal of the Riddler’s character to an apparent good-guy who doesn’t know Batman’s secret identity is a little convenient, but it sets the stage for a fun battle of wits which shows how the disciplined, unshowy methods of the Batman trump the colourful, over-confident showboating of the admittedly intelligent Edward Nigma. A sprinkling of action scenes makes the most of the shadowy, scary form of Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego (one particular interrogation seems to pay homage to Miller’s Dark Knight Returns particularly heavily), and Dini is clearly enjoying the chance to play with a Batman who is a lot more well-balanced and playful than the psychopath we’ve come to know in recent years. Enjoyable lighter touches like Batman’s friendly familiarity with the hostess of a local bondage club or his run-in with a celebrity impersonator who happens to be carrying a batsuit in his bag are offset by the darker, more serious crime elements and the strong sense of atmosphere which is provided by the art.
Whilst Don Kramer’s linework is perfectly serviceable, it’s the colouring that really makes the visuals work. John Kalisz effects an intangible yet keenly felt change of mood on a scene-to-scene basis, whether it’s the dark reds of a sex club, the electronic green of the Batmobile’s glowing computer, or the moody blues of Gotham City at night, dotted with yellow and orange splashes of light. Of course, some credit must also be given to Simon Bianchi for his excellent Black-and-White covers, which really work to give the book a sense of identity on the shop shelf.
DC is being very canny in offering its Bat-fans a choice of stories in this book and Batman, and between the two takes, there’s bound to be something that’s to your taste. If your penchant is for more cerebral, nourish crime thrillers instead of a supervillain-of-the-month joyrider, then Detective Comics is definitely the batbook for you.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!